Is the Church Failing Young People? Pt VI

No Doubt

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Okay, we’re in the home stretch and starting our last topic from the Barna study: “The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt”. This is, perhaps, a good time to make the point that not all churches are hostile to doubt and questions. But, somewhere along the line, we went off the tracks and doubt has become a curse word. I’m not sure when it happened and, to be honest, I’m not even sure it matters. Regardless of why, there exists the idea that doubt and faith diametrically opposed. The truth is that doubt is a normal, healthy part of our faith. To quote Paul Tillich, “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith”. Pastor and blogger John Frye, (author of ”Jesus, The Radical Pastor) puts it nicely, saying

“Doubters have their place in announcing and practicing the unexpectedly loving reign of God. Old, stale thinking pitted doubt against faith (as Scot McKnight points out). More discerning thinking sees doubt as an ally to faith.
A skewed triumphalist Christianity erased doubt as a legitimate aspect of the Christian journey. In its heated sense of victory, it boiled doubt away as some sort of sin. As a matter of fact, a serious sin: unbelief. This only caused doubters to go underground and live with the agony in their souls. Who wants to be branded a pagan unbeliever in the tight-assed evangelical community? Those who live constipated Christian lives don’t want any uncertainty to be voiced at all…ever. They don’t really trust in the Christ of the cross and resurrection; they trust a system of belief that keeps their tidy little self-centered worlds together.
This is the time for doubters to arise. Take your place in the Great Commission task of the church. Voice your doubts. Ask your questions. Carry your honest inquiries into the communities where you live.
For God’s sake, doubters, upset the apple cart!”

I’ll admit struggle with doubt; all Christians do. But, doubt isn’t welcome in many churches and neither are those who express that doubt. Young people are exposed to more and more things that question the  validity of certain beliefs. When they start asking those questions, their elders, some of whom are scared to death by the very idea of doubt and are willing do anything so they won’t have to confront it, often react badly. They go on the attack, questioning the faith of the young adult looking for help. This is, to put it mildly, not productive and it needs to stop.

To close out this series, I want to go back to the excerpt from John Frye’s blog. In it, he uses the phrase, “A skewed triumphalist Christianity”. Those four words may just the  root of the whole problem with the church and the Christian faith. To use an old saying from the South, we’ve gotten “above our raisin”. Now, some of you New Jersey-Americans (insert any other non-southern state as needed) probably don’t know what that means. To “get above your raisin” means you’ve forsaken your family, your community and your roots while striving for success. Christians have forgotten our family, our community, our roots are found in an occupied, oppressed, dirt-poor people who desperately needed hope. As Shane Claiborne said ““Christianity is at its best when it is peculiar, marginalized, suffering, and it is at its worst when it is popular, credible, triumphal, and powerful.” We’d do well to remember that.