Sunday, May 4, 2014

Lost boys and girls. . .

"The Church has already lost too many generations of Catholic schools students to … a very muddled and watered-down faith.”  So says one Roman Catholic priest commenting on an outcry at a Roman Catholic high school presentation of church teaching on homosexuality.  Imagine that, parents are  upset that the church's teaching were affirmed at a Roman Catholic high school.  What did they expect?

I heartily affirm the priest's judgment.  We have lost too many generations of Lutherans to the same silliness that passes off to them a watered down or non-specific version of Lutheranism in which nearly anything and everything goes.  The result is that even faithful Lutheran teens and twenty-somethings accept homosexuality as a legitimate alternative lifestyle and gay marriage as a legitimate civil right not in conflict with the Christian faith.  But that is the tip of the iceberg.  These same lost generations do not believe that Christ is present in the bread and wine, that worship is anything more than an expression of personal preference, that sins condemn us until we are redeemed, and that Christ is the inclusive Savior and the exclusive path to God and everlasting life (among other things).

Strangely enough, the younger generations are asking real questions about the kind of shallow, moralistic, and individualistic faith that has passed as Christianity.  But the boomers on down are not ready to admit defeat.  Those of my own generation continue to try to substitute subjective for objective truth, the idea that scientific truth is truer than the truth of Scripture, that faith's ultimate purpose is to equip the person for ultimate self-expression, that morality is one person deep and wide, and sincerity and good intention substitute for faithfulness.

What favor do we do to our youth by watering down or dancing around the teachings of Scripture and the articles of our Confessions?  What kind of Christianity refuses to affirm what Scripture teaches and the Church has confessed faithfully since the days of the apostles?  What legacy do we pass on to our children with a faith that is more at home in the secular than in the sacred and so private or generic that it no longer stands the Christian out of the crowd?

I am shocked that we have done such a poor job catechizing our youth over the last several generations that they reject the faithful teaching of Scripture and the tradition of the faith from the days of the apostles.  I am shocked that Christian people find Christian truth so shocking, such an affront to the accepted values and opinions of culture.  I blame the teachers of the faith who presumed that they did not need to be specific, that they did not need to teach conclusions and answers (only questions),  that they could count on the culture (deemed somewhat friendly to the faith) to fill in the blanks for them.

Clearly we must rediscover what it means to be the church militant -- the church in conflict with culture and society on another path of life and morality.  We must learn to militate against this kind of watered down Christianity but do so in love.  We must learn not only to speak what we condemn but why and to speak positively and winsomely of the mercy and grace of God even when He says "no" to what we might love or desire.  We have entertained our children in the church to their death and the death of their faith.  We have bored them with the idea that the church also exists to make them happy and then given them pale imitations of the world's idea of happiness to satisfy their honest hunger and thirst.  We have stood silent when we should have spoken and we have spoken about things as if Scripture and the Christian tradition had no definitive answers. 

The nones around us are not necessarily those who have heard the Christian message and rejected it but heard only a pale imitation of the church's faith and found it empty and irrelevant.  Who can blame them?  The worst enemies of the Christian faith are not the people outside the Church but those who dismantle the faith brick by brick by substituting prevailing opinion, personal preference, and cultural deference for the faith once delivered to the saints.  Failed catechesis does produces fake Christians and promotes a false Christianity more dangerous to the cause of Christ than the devil and all his minions.

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