In this past week’s Morrison County Record, Rev. Bob Frank of Zion Lutheran Church in Little Falls wrote an Inspirational Message in the religion section of the paper.  Rev. Frank was pondering the reasons for and lamenting the absence of “the missing middle,” potential church-goers between the ages of 20 and 40.  He said, “It seems to me that “the missing middle” does not realize that it is missing from the life of the church.”

I’ve got news for you Rev. Frank, I know that I’m missing . . . as you see it.  You may be missing me, but I’m not missing you.  Churches in general are no longer talking to today’s young adults.   Let’s expound upon the reasons why.

For one thing, there’s this crazy new invention that the U.S. President likes to call the “Internets.”  As I understand it, it’s a series of tubes.  To people 40 and over (and I’m stereotyping here), the internet and computer technology aren’t necessarily second nature.  Within the age bracket of 30 to 40, technology has been something to accept and adapt to, more so than in previous generations.  For those under 30, many of them have never known a world without instant access to information.  This access allows anyone who questions what a minister might say from a pulpit to find additional answers from innumerable faith traditions, not just the singular perspective of whatever church they happen to be sitting in.  No longer is the minister the sole religious authority.  Once people have access to information about other faith traditions, they can decide what makes sense to them in their expression of spirituality.

It’s not just that the internet has brought about change through access to information about other faith traditions, it’s also that twenty-somethings were at the genesis of diversity training in schools.  They’ve had to learn about other races and cultures in the hopes of fostering understanding among people perceived as different.  Twenty-somethings were taught to appreciate diversity.  When a person with such openness attends a church where the minister is preaching a singular perspective as the ultimate truth, he/she is more apt to question the validity of the assertions made by the minister.

One such group that is regularly singled out for condemnation by traditional mainline Christian churches is the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender (GLBT) community.  Those in the twenty-to-thirty age category are typically children of the Baby Boomers, who lived through the Stonewall riots and worked toward equal rights for all.  Gen Xers and Millennials have internalized this idea of inclusivity and acceptance.  When they hear a message of separation and division coming from the pulpit, that message tends to ring hollow, especially because, as more and more people come out of the closet, more young people have a personal connection to and relationship with those in the GLBT community.  From personal experience, they know GLBT folks are good people and they don’t buy what the minister is saying.

Another thing Gen Xers and Millennials inherited from their Boomer forebears is an “f”-the-system attitude.  They are not willing to readily acquiesce to authority.  Any minister who claims that his/her singular view of God and spirituality is the one, only and correct view is highly suspect.

So, you want the Reader’s Digest version of why I, as a thirty-to-forty something, don’t buy into most organized religion?  Lemme ‘xplain.  No, that’d take too long.  Lemme sum up.

Imagine a hundred people sitting in a circle around a multi-colored sphere.  The colors appear to run longitudinally on the sphere.  Each person around the circle has a singular perspective of the sphere and can only see, at best, fifty-percent of the totality.  No individual can see 360-degrees.  To understand the half of the sphere a person cannot see,  there must be a willingness to listen to the person who can see the other half, or to get up and walk around the sphere to experience all of it.  Imagine that the sphere represents God.  No individual, no individual faith, no individual religion, can perceive the totality of God.  It is impossible.  There has to be a willingness to listen to and understand the perspectives of other faiths.  This takes time and is not likely to happen within the walls of one church.  My journey to find a connection with the Divine has led me away from the singular authoritarian perspective of the church of my childhood and has led me down the path of diversity and inclusivity.  I’m not missing.  I know where I am in my journey.

Swimming against the stream,

Suckerlip Blenny

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