Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fault Line: More of a Generational Shift than a Culture War

I don't usually write about politics and religion on the internet.


Because the intersection of the two topics is a quagmire section of the information superhighway frequented by those who want to shout their opinions and those who want to read their own opinions written by other people. It's most frustrating because authors continually posit themselves as experts in fields in which they have no formal training. I am all for voicing one's opinion, especially if that is a deeply-held conviction or moral. But what we're often shown are ill-constructed, poorly-written articles disguised with political jargon, semi-academic wording, or religious underpinnings ripped from their contexts.

Finding articles that espouse a well-thought-out, researched, and logical argument regarding the cross-roads of politics and religion is... well... difficult. However, when Rachel Held Evans' How to win a Culture War and Lose a Generation was pointed out to me, I had to take note.

Apparently, I wasn't alone.

Evans' article has caused all sort of backlash. From scathing criticism, to not-so-scathing criticism, to criticism veiled as rising above itself. To be frank, these articles all miss the point.

Andrew Haines' "Integral Ethics: Why 'Social Issues' are the Only Sort that Matter" is a case study in problematic internet expertise (despite the fact that he's getting said formal training). While Haines tries to  hide behind his verbosity, his inability to see how contradictory his statements are (see: cognitive dissonance) isn't lost on John "Fitz" Fitzgerald, who rightly calls Haines on the carpet.

The problem that all three response articles suffer from is that they all speak as though they represent the entirety of Christianity. They pretend that there is one voice on the issue of LGBT rights with which every sect of Christianity agrees. I know quite a few Episcopalians and Anglicans who would take issue with this idea. Which leaves Haines et al with the uneasy prospect of declaring other Christians to be not just wrongly convinced on an issue, but unChristian altogether. Fitzgerald sees this, and his closing paragraphs nail it.

The flip-side of this problem is what Evans gets right. She doesn't once state that she's speaking on behalf of one denominational sect of Christianity, let alone the whole of the Christian world. Evans is voicing what her (and my) generation are saying. The evangelical youth are surprisingly vocal about LGBT issues - and they're speaking out in contrast to what they're parents' generation is saying.

Haines snidely asks:
"As an aside: where on earth is Evans meeting young Christians that 'all' of them say these sorts of things?"
While every single one might not be saying this, I know exactly where Evans is meeting these young Christians. She's meeting them on the campuses of the top Christian colleges across America.

She's meeting them here, and here, and here, and here. And those are just four examples of a growing list of LGBT organizations at Christian colleges, which are gaining courage to speak, and momentum with their peers.

Even if we take David Sessions' smart advice to question the idea of "Culture Wars", and eliminate the idea of this being a culture war from our thinking, we are left with something monumental. We are left with a striking generational shift. We are left with, as Evans puts it "Christians over 40...celebrating. Christians under 40...mourning" when political happenings such as Amendment One occur. This generational shift has immense potential.

Potential to either reform Evangelical Protestant America, or potential to rip the American church in two - cleft right down the generational tectonic fault line.

Sessions is right - Christians should ditch the culture war paradigm. But before Christians begin to talk about some sort of "united stance" on LGBT issues, Generations V and W should figure out how they are going to deal with Generations X and Y. Because pretending like there is one solid and universal Christian view on this topic is farcical.

It is no longer acceptable - in fact, it's no longer the norm - for Christian communities to suggest that Christians feel one way about LGBT rights. It should never have been acceptable for Christianity to become equated with "anti-homosexuality" to the vast majority of American youth (as quoted by Evans). This stereotype, and the reality it is based in, need to change.

It's shaping up to look like young Christians want to change this stereotype. The question now is whether this generational shift will become accepted and embraced by "Christians over 40", or whether that generational fault line will start cracking.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Alabama, Arkansas, I Sure Love My Maw and Pa...

And so, for the first time in over four months, the post will originate from the left side of the Atlantic.

I headed home early. 

What a trip it was. What a time. 

I've only faced it a few times, but when I'm asked, I revert to the tried-and-true: "It was fantastic."



It's strange, I wasn't expecting to be unable to describe my 2012 like this.

I've gone through "re-entry", I've done this before. Besides, it'll be easier for me to recount my trip because I was partially leading it.


It's more difficult for me to describe all this than 2009 was. 

Meh. You see, that's not a big deal. Why? Because I'm home.

Entering the US again was like exhaling the largest sigh that your lungs are capable of holding. It was as though weight was being sloughed off my shoulders with every step. It's not that I disliked what I had done, or felt burdened by it at all. It was just time to come home.

Man is only capable of living out of a backpack for so long.

Beautifully, and ironically, the Wanderlust eventually turns on its head. It still says "GO!", but it just adds another word:

Go home.

Yes. Please.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Partings: Such Sweet Sorrow...

... And just like that...

It's over.

Keep breathing, that's the key.

After spending ten days in the Old City of Jerusalem - exploring its nooks, ancient and religious spots, and shops - we returned to our lodging in Bethlehem.

What is there to say about Jerusalem? The city is an enigma. There is certainly no place on earth even remotely like it.

"What's a typical Jerusalemite like?"

I'm not sure there is such a thing as a typical Jerusalemite. They one thing that I can say is that people here are convicted. Religion runs thick in the blood of the people, and leaves its marks on walls.

The three monoliths of monotheism stand tall here. So tall, in fact, it's nearly impossible to escape their shadow.

Most of the time, it's refreshing. There is nothing like being immersed in piety to jumpstart your own beliefs. Not to mention putting a landscape, a scene, or a picture to the stories.

Jerusalem syndrome is a very real thing, indeed.

Some of the time, though, Jerusalem is suffocating. Some of the time, the enveloping is all-encompassing, and this religious Adventureland is just too much.

In a word, the city is overwhelming. I am convinced that people need twice the amount of time afterwards to processa and comprehend what they experienced in the city.

All that said, there is some extreme beauty here: the smells are amazing, the sounds mesmerizing, and if you aren't pushed to tears at the majesty of the tombs or the Dome of the Rock, then you need to check your pulse.
(Note to self: see the inside of that building. Some time, some how.)


After those ten days, we spent a three-day whirlwind back in Bethlehem... and then, it ended.

Wow. What a trip. When looking back, I have an incredibly warped sense of time. It feels like ages ago that I boarded my flight to IST via LDN - but really, that was only four month. Four incredible, jam packed, solid, challenging, eye-opening, exhilarating, life-altering, paradigm-shifting, lovely, amazing months.

Man, I'm gonna miss this.

A bitter end? Maybe, but there's sweetness in the mix.


These next 7 days will be filled with joy, as my mother has come to Israel/Palestine. Her presence is so very welcome. I have been eagerly anticipating this day, and it is immeasurably good to have a tangible, breathing, loving piece of home here.

La Seigneur est très bien, mes amis, vraiment très bien.