In Defense of Outspoken Young People

I am an Outspoken Young Person, I guess.

By no means do I always speak when I think – but often I do. I’m not a secretive person. I enjoy, and learn a lot from, open dialogue. I think that when done with a respectful spirit, honest discussion and even disagreement truly makes the world a better place.

And there’s a subtle weapon used against Outspoken Young People like me, which is starting to disturb me quite a bit. No, perhaps “weapon” is too strong of a word. Most of the time I don’t believe it’s brandished offensively. Rather, often it tends to be used defensively. Perhaps I should call it a “tactic” or better yet, simply an assumption. I’m seeing a certain assumption made about Outspoken Young People, and I believe it to be dangerous.

I am noticing that if an Outspoken Young Person brings to light an annoyance or a complaint on facebook about a larger issue – an assumption is made that said young person only deals with this issue on the realm of the internet. A jab or quip will be made about “getting off facebook and doing something about it” or “it’s easy to complain,” or “I’ll leave you to your Internet argument and actually go do something about it.”

I am noticing that sometimes when issues are raised by Outspoken Young People, people will respond by vowing to work on their own hearts, their own defects, and encouraging said Outspoken Young People to step back and to the same. The assumption is that Outspoken Young People are ignoring their own faults and obsessing over the faults of others. I’m not sure how many circles this assumption invades, but it’s certainly prevalent in Christian circles, and often accompanied by an admonition to focus on the plank in one’s own eye before examining the speck in another’s.

I hope the point I’m about to make is not surprising…

I hope this makes sense…

Why are people making these assumptions?

Why, as an Outspoken Young Person who interacts regularly with her community via social media, does my outspoken Internet voice necessitate that my physical, “real” life is passive and lazy and inactive?

Why does my critique of Christian leaders, government leaders, or otherwise public figures necessitate that I am ignoring or even ignorant of my own flaws?

It shouldn’t be mind blowing, but many of us Outspoken Young Persons are so outspoken and such a constant Internet presence because we care about these issues with every aspect of our lives.

Sometimes I speak passionately about caring for the poor and handling our money loosely, living as stewards of God’s property and not our own. And guess what? I also give food to homeless people and one of the largest categories on my family’s budget goes to helping people in our community who are in need financially because of job loss, car issues, or whatever else. When I talk about how important it is, it’s because I believe it, and I live it, and I want to grow in it – and I want others to grow in it too. I know I’m not perfect. Money decisions are hard. But it is not hypocritical of me to say I believe Christians don’t give enough to the poor, because I live a fairly simple life with very few luxuries. I sacrifice many things so I can honestly live what I believe about Christian money management.

Sometimes I critique public figures – specifically Christian public figures – for behaving in ways or speaking words that I believe misrepresent Christ. In no way does this mean I think I have it all figured out.

But you know what? I do some things better than Mark Driscoll does. Like knowing how to correctly, contextually interpret 1 Timothy 5:8. I do that better than he does. Maybe Christians aren’t supposed to say this (*shrug?*) but some of us are better at things and some of us are better at other things. Mark Driscoll is a powerful leader and figurehead – he strikes chords with people, especially, I hear, floundering men who need to get their acts together. But that doesn’t mean I think he should be shepherding, writing books, or using poor exegesis to tell people erroneous things about Christ and the Bible. Because he chooses to do all of those things, and also regularly claim to speak for the God I worship, I feel no reservation about critiquing his ministry and letting other people know my deep concerns about what he says.

Do I do it perfectly? No! He makes me too angry and emotional. But, if we’re being brutally honest, that’s because (in his own words) “there’s a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus” and there are ministries devoted solely to helping ex-Mars Hill members heal from the brokenness they experienced from the teaching (and sometimes actual person) of Mark Driscoll.

I care about broken people. Ergo, Mark Driscoll upsets me.

Moving on.

So I don’t just complain about Mark Driscoll. I read and study and care so much about properly representing my faith. I open myself up to learning from those around me. I am willing to sacrifice anything to the guillotine of truth. If I’m not willing to, how can I truly call myself a disciple of Christ? I may come to different conclusions than many, but I’m doing it in sincere passion and devotion to the God of the Universe, and I work daily to humble myself and listen to his truth, no matter who’s speaking it.

And again, I’m not good at everything. I never ever have pretended to be. So while I point out specks, please be aware that my own logs are not being neglected.

I know the logs are there.

But that doesn’t mean other people don’t have them. That doesn’t mean I pretend other people’s specks and logs don’t exist.

So my petition is, don’t assume you know about my life and the things I do or don’t do because of what ideals I hold, what arguments I participate in, and which leaders I criticize. If you’d like to know about those things, I’d be more than willing to share them with you.

Iron can only sharpen iron by clashing and making sparks. That’s what so many of us Outspoken Young Persons are trying to do: sharpen ourselves, sharpen others, and cause some sparks that maybe (if we’re lucky) burn up some choking weeds, card houses, prisons or facades.

The gold will be fine – our sparks won’t bother anything of worth or value or strength.

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“A Disgraceful and Dangerous Thing”

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.

Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.

If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

St. Augustine, from “The Literal Meaning of Genesis”

“It’s the Church’s Job”

Have you ever heard, or said, these words?

“Of course we should be taking care of the poor. But that’s the church’s job, not the government’s. And besides, he government is horribly inefficient.”

I’ve heard them. I’ve said them.

And of course that’s true.

But guess why our (their, any) government is trying to take over the specific duty of caring for the poor? Because the church is failing.

If every christian family, if every church, in the entire United States of America, did everything it possibly could to help the poor in its midst, at its doors, maybe the government wouldn’t need to have such massive food stamps programs or pass legislation like the Affordable Care Act.

Why do we spend so much energy saying “it’s the church’s job!” instead of just doing our jobs?

For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason (Romans 13:4).

The government will wield the sword, make no mistake. It’s easy to apply that verse to matters of capital punishment. But, maybe, in this time and day and place, just maybe the sword is for our wallets and our overstuffed bellies.

If I’m tired of my neighbor taking “my hard earned tax dollars” for food stamps to stay alive, maybe it’s time to forego my daily Starbucks trip and and start buying them lunch so they don’t need the tax dollars quite so much.

I’m going to be brutally honest. I applaud efforts at giving I see in my community and family, but I don’t exempt anyone from this: we suck at giving. We really, really suck at giving.

Our megapastors buy mega-houses and drive mega-cars.

We fritter away thousands of dollars sending our indecisive freshmen kids to expensive, private Christian colleges when they don’t even know what they want to do yet, and who are perfectly capable of taking Bio 101, Comp 101, and College Algebra at the local community college while they figure it out.

We pay hundreds of thousands of dollars so doctors can do fancy things to our eggs and sperm, because we simply can’t bear the thought of missing out on the glorious pregnancy experience, and holding a baby that looks like me is more important than taking in a foster kid, adopting an older child, or starting a trust fund for a niece or nephew to get an education or, I don’t know….. have food for the rest of forever.

I have always, ever since I can remember, felt this ache in my heart about money. I am blessed and rich and privileged, even if it doesn’t feel like it most of the time. And in this middle-class American suburban culture (the only culture I’ve ever known) – we’re just obsessed with spending money on things we don’t need.

So guess what? Politicians are always going to fight for bills we think are crazy. The government is going to govern too much, and we’re going to be grumpy about it all. That’s a fact. I don’t like it any more than you do.

But please, please, the next time we fidget and find ourselves wanting to say, “it’s the church’s job…”

-do it. Do that job. You’re the church. You’re holding Christ’s emblem. If you want the government to stop doing the church’s job, then the church better get it done right.