Editor’s Note: New Christian Woman is happy to welcome Tykah Echols to our management team. We’ve partnered with the Religion Department at Bryn Athyn College of the New Church to create an internship for young women. Tykah, now a freshman, started writing for us on a volunteer basis in high school and we are excited to have her step into this far more involved role of intern. On top of writing articles, she will be managing the Facebook page, helping with promotion, updating and managing the back-end of the blog, and who knows what else.
For this week’s article, We’ve asked Tykah to give us her impression of how her peers are relating to the New Christianity.
It would seem that my destiny is to marry a minister. I come from a long line of minister’s daughters who married a minister and based on the track record of my five older sisters it doesn’t look like our generation is going to be the one to end that streak. Out of the six of us girls, the four who are married are married to ministers while my two brothers pursued other forms of use than the clergy. It would seem that this religious gene is passed through the female line. So now it falls to myself and my other unmarried sister.
Even though this sounds like some sort of curse, I wouldn’t be half surprised if it turned out to be true. Religion and the New Church are something that is very important to me and has been all my life. I have always liked the teachings of New Christianity and all that it stood for. One of my favorite things about this religion that set it apart from the rest is the teaching of correspondences. I love the idea that there are many layers to life and that connections between them can be seen in little hints. Even the secular world is not unfamiliar with the idea of correspondences. Metaphors and symbolism use a similar idea, but the correspondences of New Christianity show the universal nature of these symbols. Correspondences not only connect the natural and spiritual but mean that one text from the bible can have so many different meanings that everyone can find something meaningful to them. They serve as a very real connection to our understanding of the Lord and spirituality.
From my first memories I remember loving to go to church, sing hymns and learn lessons from the Word. Growing up as the daughter of a minister and as part of a very religious family got me interested in the church from the beginning.
I was homeschooled until fifth grade when I came to live in Bryn Athyn to attend the Bryn Athyn Church Elementary School. I then went to the Academy of the New Church across the street, and now go to Bryn Athyn College right next door. Coming to the college was a bit of a no brainer since I knew what I was looking for: A New Church education alongside my New Church peers.
My first few weeks at the college were rather disillusioning. I realized that Bryn Athyn College has changed a lot since the days of my siblings, who all came here for at least part of their college careers. I knew, leaving high school, that many of my Academy class mates were not going to join me at Bryn Athyn College but I had hoped that I would arrive to find lots more New Church fellows. This was far from reality. I am fortunate enough to have a few close friends that care about religion and the church as much as I do but we are definitely in the minority. In the Freshman dorms I only know of a handful of people who came to this college for its religious focus.
My experience is not all that surprising when you realize that there just are not that many young people who are active in the church. I’m sure that there are many reasons for this and I have my own theories but regardless of why we are so scarce, I think it is more important to focus on how to change it.
I think the main issue is that religion isn’t “cool”. Things like spirituality and regeneration aren’t traits the youth are looking for in each other. Going to church isn’t a way to be social and have fun. If you go at all, it’s a chore that your parents or schools make you do. Being openly religious makes you a bit of a weirdo.
In our culture today that is full of messages like: “Follow your heart”, and “be true to yourself no matter what”, religion feels like this condemning organization that is tell you that you are evil and wrong and you have to repent. Being afraid to commit “sin” isn’t something people worry about these days.
As a positive of my generation, I have heard that older generations are amazed with how accepting our generation is. That we can love other despite differences in race, gender, sexuality, and beliefs and I think this is true. We are responding to all the hate of the past by working to accept everyone just the way they are. However, this accepting nature leads to a decrease in motivation to change: “Since we love everything about ourselves and each other, why bother trying to become a better human being? Who is really to say what a better human being is anyway? After all, I was born this way. This is natural. If God made me like this, why should I have to change anything about myself?”
My generation may not be quick to judge but we have forgotten how important judgement is. We are struggling with the balance between loving the neighbor by accepting them and loving the neighbor by helping them grow as a person.
Of course this is a generalization from my own experience. I went to a private high school and am now going to a very small college. This means that my experience is limited to the “Bryn Athyn bubble” and the small amount of social media that I participate in. Still I feel confident in saying that religion has been labeled, in the eyes of my peers, as something that is based on condemnation, bigotry, and persecution.
My wish is for my peers to realize that religion and New Christianity are not about hate, but about love and community. Church is a place for fellow humans to gather and support each other on their way to their goal of loving the Lord and loving the neighbor. It is about fighting our evil tendencies and finding a way to rise above the natural world and find something better. To discover a better existence and find our place in the Lord’s Church.