Well I’ve got God on my side
And I’m just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love
Fear’s a dangerous thing
It’ll turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God-filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust
Springsteen’s words have been on my mind in the past few days with the current hot button issue in the church I currently worship at, at least for the next few months. The issue itself isn’t really my concern – frankly I could completely care less, and I suspect most of the people in my general area probably agree. I’ve been well beyond where the progressive group is wanting to go, and I think they’re going to be highly disappointed when they get there and realize it’s no different from where they are now, but for the moment let’s set that aside. The larger issue here, in my view, is the one raised by Bruce: What if what you do to “survive” kills the things you love?
The core motivation for the push, in my view, is for the “next generation” – our kids, if you will. I think this is, on the surface, wholly commendable. Certainly when you talk about a tradition, one of the questions that isn’t asked enough is how we can change and adapt the tradition to make it relevant to the next generation – how we as the current generation can excite and enable the generation below us to continue practicing that which we have found to be true and important, even if the specifics of that practice looks slightly different than the ones we embraced. I think in this particular case there is sincerity in the motive of those who would move things forward – they are genuinely fearful of the state of worship that will be handed to their children, and I think with good reason. Personally I would have a whole different list of concerns when it comes to worship if I were making the list, but I can certainly understand their dissatisfaction and desire to pass to their children something better than what they experience themselves.
But here’s the issue: what if what you endure to bring change ends up being more destructive than the status quo – in other words, again, if what you do to survive ends up killing the things you love. Put in the context of this specific discussion, if the transition becomes a fight, and the fight becomes nasty (which isn’t, you know, entirely out of the question when you’re dealing with things that have marked traditional social boundaries for 150 years), do your kids inherit a legacy of different worship, or do they inherit a legacy of their friend’s parents – people who called themselves Christians – saying really mean-spirited, hurtful things about their parents? In college ministry we deal often with kids who’ve come from churches which have endured painful splits, and the fallout from the deeply personal attacks that result can be dramatic, having powerful and destructive consequences for the children of those involved in the actual arguments years after the fact. If what you do to pass your children a legacy you think they’ll appreciate (which, in fact, they might not) results in driving them away from the tradition of Christianity altogether – fear is a dangerous thing.
My personal opinion is that given the current climate, it is going to be difficult for either side to come away with a victory worth having. Neither group stands to gain enough to offset the incredible level of damage that might result should either side start taking things personally. I think there may be solutions which are acceptable to both sides, but crafting something that diffuses the situation – let alone making everyone come away feeling good about it – is going to take divine guidance to say the least.