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.

Identity

Who am I?

I’m a gentile woman, born outside the ancient covenant Yahweh made with the Hebrew nation. As an outsider, I was opposed by God’s people for thousands of years. As a woman, I was silenced by countless governments, countless societies.

But glory be, for God wanted me too. Glory be, for God put on skin and walked among us. God came down and said that the Hebrews got it wrong, that his covenant people had fallen so far from his Good Intent for humanity. God said,

“No, I want the Samaritan. I want the gentile” (John 4:1-26; 3:16).

God said,

“No, I want the weak ones whose voices have been silenced. I want the children. I want the women. I want the leper” (Matthew 19:14; Mark 16:1-10; Luke 17:11-14).

God came down and honored his mother. God came down and pitied the sick, wept with the grieving. God came down and his heart broke for Jerusalem, the city that was supposed to be a light…the city that stoned its prophets, exploited its widows, rejected the embrace of LORD, and had become buried under ashen regulations and heartless sacrifices.

God said,

ENOUGH.

God loved, and healed, and refused to capitulate to the “religion” of his people. God was arrested, convicted, and killed. God took upon the sins of his children – all of his children, from every corner of the world, and died. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit did something amazing and God the Son came back to life in a New Body, a Resurrection Kind of Body, a body that can pass through walls, and he said, “Peace, be with you.”

God taught some more, healed some more, loved some more.

Then God said, go, and tell this good news.

Not old news.

Not animal blood, levitical law, the death penalty, and the yawning mouth of Sheol.

{good news.}

That Christ’s blood has been spilled, and that is enough.

That every letter of the old law was to point to loving God, and loving our neighbor. That the separation from Jew and Gentile created by the old law has been broken, and God is drawing ALL MEN to himself now.

That Sheol cannot defeat the Resurrection. That Christ overcomes, and God is stronger than death.

Before his ascension, Christ didn’t say, “Go, and make Jews of all nations.”

Thank God, no. Thank God, God was turning the page.

“Go and make disciples,” he said. (Teach them the words I have taught you. As you were my disciples, teach to them what you learned from me.)

“Baptize them,” he said. (Don’t cut them, like your fathers and forefathers. This new covenant requires no more blood, no more flesh. I have paid that in full. This covenant is a washing and a cleansing. This covenant is about making new. This covenant is burying the old man under the floodwaters, and raising the new man full of my breath and my spirit)

God did those things!
God said those things!

In that kind of God, I find my identity.

(washed, loved, renewed, worth dying for)

What a mighty, mighty God I serve.

I Don’t Believe You

“But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).

I think every church I’ve ever attended for any considerable length of time has made the claim (through a pastor, leader, or pamphlet):

“remember, the church is not a building.”

I would venture to say that it’s possible every single church has had that phrase uttered inside its walls, at some point or another. We are reminded that the church is a gathering of believers. We are reminded that the church is where Christ’s hands and feet are moving. We are reminded that the church cannot be contained. We are reminded, mostly, “the church is not a building.” And for my my whole life, I believed those people who said that. I nodded and agreed. For my whole life, I met with other believers in a contemporary, western church-building, my family tithed, and I was actively involved in church events and volunteering. And as I did those things, I heard hundreds and hundreds of times,

“remember, the church is not a building.”

But here’s the thing.

I don’t believe you anymore.

Let me straightaway clarify: I know perfectly well that the church is not a building. But I no longer believe that you believe that, when you say that to me. I don’t believe it anymore, because my life circumstances have changed. Because now I’m on the “outside,” even after always being told there was no “outside.”

Only a year ago I re-located back home after graduating college, where I’d been for two years. During my college time I visited churches regularly, but never settled down and claimed a church as “mine.” I had no car. I had no plans of staying in the area. I welcomed times of worship, prayer, scripture, meditation, and post-sermon conversations with friends. But I put down no roots; I did not seek a long-term church family – other than the one that formed naturally around me through my community of schoolmates and teachers.

When I moved back home, I came back to an awkward situation. I had never intended to come back permanently to the church I had been attending before moving to school. I felt a peace about attending there for a season while I attended community college and worked at the restaurant, in large part because I was an active volunteer. That was a situation of being blessed and of being a blessing, but I never planned to stay there. In fact, since my family moved states when I was almost twelve, I have never felt “at home” in a church I’ve attended consistently.

At least, not a church that was considered a “real” church.

Over the years I’ve participated in many things that were church, for me. I’ve met weekly, sometimes daily, with a strong and uplifting peer group of theatre students, where the concept of drama was absolutely second to concepts of Christ, fellowship, worship, and love.

I participated in a longstanding bible study, a gathering of friends and acquaintances, that was saturated in the Scripture and committed to constant prayer.

During those years, where the “regular” church I attended felt distant and the small home gatherings felt like church, I wondered so many things about biblical church. About how the first Christians really worked, and about how Christ told us to interact with each other. I read a book about home churches. I examined the modern standard of tithing 10% as an accepted rule in church. I thought about how people always said, “church is not a building” and how the Bible says “do not give up gathering with other believers” and many other things.

When I came home from school, it took my David and me some time to figure out where we stood about church, and what exactly we were going to do about it. We visited a few churches. I went sometimes with my family to one or the other church service. {And my, were my parents concerned.}

After a little while, we came together with some local young people in similar life situations (transitional, seeking, hungry, sometimes jaded, sometimes eager, sometimes doubting) and made a community. This community meets once a week, prays with and for each other, often eats together, worships when we can get our few instrumentalists organized on music, and participates in the Lord’s Supper every so often. We don’t have a building – just our respective living rooms. We don’t have a pastor – we take turns sharing what the Lord is teaching us, or sometimes we meet to pray and open ourselves to the spirit without a message prepared beforehand. Sometimes we dedicate nights to checking in with each other, or interceding for difficult situations.

That’s my church right now, mostly. Those are the believers I meet with, mostly. Not exclusively, by any means. But you get the idea.

And even when people know about this group, even when my parents found out we were starting this group, there’s that obvious hesitation. You see, we didn’t (and don’t) call it “church” amongst ourselves. We have given the group a name, Vessel, and refer to it as such. I often refer to it as a “small group” and some call it a “Bible study.” And so many people then proceed to ask,

“Oh, well, where do you go to church right now?”

Innocently, to be sure. But it’s there – the acknowledgment that something we call “small groups” are on a lower spiritual notch than something we call “church.”

Because those words are all about a shared jargon, really. I call it a “small group” to people because we’re not a 501c3 and we meet in apartment living rooms and there’s no pastor and no collection of offering. When we heard the word “church,” today in modern America, we picture: steeple, pews, hear a sermon, say “good morning!” or “peace be with you!” to a lot of people we don’t know and then pile our family back into the car and go home.

The thing is, that’s never seemed, nor felt, much like Church to me. This is Church:

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:14-16).

” They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:42-47).

No church is perfect, no matter what kind. Big or small, living room or pristine chapel. But I believe it’s about being a body with Christ as the head, with all members giving and loving and learning to work together and know the will of God.

But many would count me among the “nones” – among the mass exodus of young millennials who are leaving the church. Many would look at my life and urge me to attend a more recognizable sort of church, and they worry for my pride and rebellion.

Thankfully, not everyone thinks that. Thankfully, I am in good company. I know this, and am grateful for it.

What about you? When you say,
“the church is not a building,”
do you truly believe that?

“Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit”

Today is draining; today is sad. Today I am grateful for the “blessed are you“s.

Four summers ago, again and again throughout rehearsals and performances, I popped up behind a man with a heart painted on his face and rainbow suspenders, suggesting, “Master! Blessed are the poor in spirit?” My palms were open, ready to receive something from my Lord. He smiled and filled my hands with his, responding enthusiastically, “For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven!”

That was a play about Jesus, a play about parables, about what the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth looks like.

I’m glad I have that memory tucked away inside me. I’m glad I have those colours, that gentleness, those songs. It’s a comfort to know that, when I am poor of spirit, the Kingdom of Heaven is still mine. Today I mourn. Today I am meek. Today I know what it feels to be persecuted, to have all manner of evil spoken about me, simply because Christ informs my words and actions. Simply because I try to be like Jesus, and do what he told me to do. He tells me to protect, affirm, defend. I am angry at unrighteousness, because he got angry at unrighteousness. He called hypocrites what they were: snakes; a brood of vipers. Because they deceived and strangled the sheep. I’m tired, so tired, of the sheep being deceived and strangled. Jesus didn’t mind his own business. Jesus did say “sheep, solve your own problems.”

He is like the shepherd, who left the 99 to find the 1. I want to be like that. I must not know how to do it – but I so badly want to mirror God in this way.

I am doing it wrong, they say. I am following the world, not Christ. But it isn’t true. I am following Christ.

Is it that I  simply misunderstand him? Or do you?

How am I to ever know?

Who Am I?

Who am I?

Where am I?

What informs me?

I am female.

I was raised in the south.

By Bible-believing, Christ-following parents.

I am the 3rd of 4 of my Mother’s children.

(2nd of 3 of my Father’s children)

(first girl)

(with seven years and twelve years, respectively, between my older brothers and myself)

I am an older sister.

I was home educated.

(my Mother dislikes math)

(and science)

I worked as a hostess in a restaurant for two years.

While taking general education courses at a community college.

My family sings.

I do theatre.

I went to a fairly charismatic, southern Christian college for my final two years.

(In large part because of their theatre program)

(Where I learned a lot about how to read the Bible)

(And how we tend to simplify complicated things, and vice versa)

In my short years, I’ve dealt with (in my family, friends, or myself): death, sickness, cancer, war, marriage, divorce, babies, changing diapers, building houses.

I’ve seen poverty and wealth.

I’ve nannied children and cleaned houses.

I watched my older brothers play video games.

And learned how to knit.

And played Texas Hold’em poker and Scrabble with my family in the evenings.

And wasn’t allowed to watch Fern Gully as a child.

And talked politics with my father since I can’t remember when.

[These things inform me. These things greatly affect who I am Today]

Dear Mom & Dad

Dear Mom & Dad,

I’ve been thinking about this post for months, and I’m not even sure what to write. Should I just hop right in?

1. Thank You That This Is Not (Was Not) My Life

I have never known what it feels like to have my parents not support me. In fact, “supportive” might be the best word to describe you guys. I grew up watching you support each one of your children. Brother needed to get over his shyness so he could find music – Dad, you pushed him. He found music, he found he could lead and direct music. And that changed his life. Brother brought home girlfriends. I was too little to know what that phase of your relationship was like, but I’m sure it was tricky. Still, I don’t remember shouting matches about girls. When he was old enough to responsibly date, you allowed him that freedom and didn’t smother him. When he had his first car accident, you dealt with it and let him use the other car.

And then, Lord, there was us. We girls. You encouraged Sister in all her all her many (many) developing talents. Sewing machine. Camera. Endless supplies. More than that, though, a push to really figure out what she wanted…so you could help give it to her.

And me. Looking back, did I drive you crazy? Maybe you rue the day I discovered live theatre. Maybe not. But I had to have it. Schedule-eating, energy draining, live theatre. In the last years of high school I had to come up with brilliant arguments for participating in each new play or musical. And you conceded those arguments, because you saw my heart was there.

(and yes, I still think I needed Peter Pan)

And then there was the Guild. More theatre, more responsibility, more time taken away, more of me dedicated to this Hungry Animal. “I can direct this play,” I said. Dad, you made me prove it. You made me argue it, show it, give you my plans and back-up plans and boundaries. And then, when it was all done, you said, “Well then, I will help you in any way I can.” And you did. You went to Lowe’s with me, you bought supplies, you helped us build a fire escape. (Such a pretty fire escape) I can’t imagine what you thought I was doing….but I did it. Because you helped. Soon I sprung out and feathered a new nest of builders and supporters, with the Guild, but your initial help was never forgotten or taken for granted.

When high school drew to a close, you know I just wanted to bury my nose in The Boards and forget school. But you knew I needed it, and you told me so. It’s funny, while there was maybe a handful of the “must I attend college?” discussions, I never doubted what my major would be. (English, mais bien sûr).

(on that note, thanks for toeing me into The Community College and letting me live & eat at home while I worked at the restaurant. And springing to buy my books every so often – super appreciated)

When the time came to transfer to The University, I briefly flirted with my inner desire to declare Theatre Major, but I’m too realistic for that. I realise that may have had you panicked for a bit.

Dad, thanks for taking me places and letting me not like them. Thanks for getting my list of important things from me, and making that a priority. Thanks for not making a requirement for me to attend This or That University or-else-you-won’t-support-me. That mindset in parents still boggles the mind. Thanks for partnering with me on my choice of school. It’s cost both of us a lot of money, I know. But I’m glad I went in to debt over it, and not you. I’ve got the rest of my life to pay it back (although you and I both know I’m looking at a much shorter timeline). Thanks for letting me be an adult there and have to figure out all the application, money stuff, paperwork, loans, housing…everything. I think it prepared me for life.

You prepared me for life.

Mom, thanks for taking every possible moment to gently teach. Everything can be a life lesson. I know that because of you. I found myself emulating you a lot off at school, if someone got sick or hurt. Because mothers know, you know? They know how to deal with things. I hope I can be a shred of the woman you are, whether or not I’m ever a mother.

2. “Boy”

I am aware that Sister and I freaked you out, and that it’s possible you were even questioning that we had normal, healthy sexuality at points. I know it’s weird for daughters not to date in high school. You dealt gracefully with Sister’s forays into dating, once she got there, and gave her pretty reasonable boundaries I thought.

I’m sorry my first love flourished away from home. I know that was hard. I know it got harder once you realised how Different he was from maybe what you were expecting. How different he is from Dad in many ways…and how his similarities seem unnerving in so young a person. I know it got harder when we got engaged. But you know…you let me be my own person and live my own life. It BLOWS MY MIND when I see teenage, young adult, and straight-up-adult children whose parents try to dictate every aspect of their romantic life.

(I mean, you know this. I’ve ranted to you enough about it)

Thank you for being my friends, my support, my leaders, my encouragers.

I know I’ve gotten more jaded. I know I’ve changed my mind about things that disappoint you. But I’m just trying to become a real person, and I think you know that. I’ve gone to college, fallen in love, gotten seared and scarred by multiple bad room-mate situations, and had to provide way more leadership than I should have been expected to. It changes a person…or rather, keeps them from getting stagnant.

I’m MORE than I was four years ago. I don’t think anything’s really truly much different. I’ve always noticed my opinions, called a spade a spade, and desired to protect those I love with all my energies. That’s all still there. I’m just also a snarky editor now, who cares a lot about Christians knowing how to read the Bible correctly and stuff like that.

This post was WAY train of thought / rambly.

But anyway… thanks.