“I want my heart to remain as open as a church door” – Unknown
So, this is my disclaimer. I am a 20 year old female from South Africa and I found it exceptionally difficult to think of something that was worth a read, especially for a group of older, wiser, more mature women with so much more life experience than myself. When I asked my mom to help with some direction, her response was ‘how could you possibly intrigue these women?’
Firstly, I am a very emotive writer, often with a strong sense of opinion. Secondly, as a very emotive writer, this article is not backed up by copious amounts of intense research, rather this is my viewpoint on the world and I like to think that I am open minded enough to accept that others may have different opinions.
The above mentioned quote is one that has just stuck in my heart: a string of words that one just cannot forget. I cannot tell you how I came across it or where it came from. It does not exist on the internet and I am starting to get ahead of myself as I get more comfortable with the idea that I may have coined the phrase, although I am quite sure this is not the case.
While this quote says a lot, I am more interested not in the ‘what’ but the ‘how’: how this quote gets its very simple message across. I feel in this modern day and age, the concepts of God, religion and church are under a more negative spotlight in society. Society is so quick to scrutinise and judge these concepts way before a supportive notion can even be born. Especially in ‘old-school’ churches: unless you serve top notch coffee and you have a super cool Christian rock band, your church is going to struggle to be accepted and attended.
So, back to the quote, what I love about it is how it takes the idea of church back to its conservative meaning: the idea that church is a safe haven where everyone is accepted and can seek love, guidance, and protection. It is such a beautiful notion that it is difficult to sit and not think about what happened along the way? Why did the greater society ruin this openness and dignity provided for in the church?
So, I did some ‘research’ and, with reference to my early disclaimer, I use that term loosely. I was in a relationship with a guy for three years. Into our third year of dating, he started to become more religious himself, even doing his own ‘research’. Then he started to develop problems with my religion and my beliefs. From this, religion and religious concepts were discussed on a regular basis with each other, with friends, with family, behind each other’s backs… Finally, it turned ugly and our relationship came to an end because of this conflict in belief. BUT, it gave me such an interesting insight into the youth of today: the youth do believe.
“There is a higher power.” “We are definitely here for a reason.” “There is more to life.” The youth of my generation do believe, to some degree, in a greater presence, but nobody wants to give it a name. I personally attribute it to commitment issues. That sounds really superficial, but once you start calling this presence ‘God’ or ‘Allah’ or ‘Buddha’, it shows that you accept this god and that you should start following that religion and worshipping that god and it would seem to me that nobody wants that kind of commitment in their life.
I find it amusing and disturbing that many people are quick to say how religious they are and how they believe in God, but then they do not go to church on Sundays – they “connect with God in different ways”. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that we should connect with God in all aspects of our lives, but keeping the Sabbath holy IS one of the Ten Commandments, right?
I think that religion comes across as quite scary to young people. We live in a world that is constantly trying to encourage the youth to accept the alternative. Yet, when it comes to religion, especially in conventional Christian churches, people are taught that there is only one way to get to heaven and any other way is not sufficient. Starting at a young age, the youth are taught that premarital sex is not okay, that homosexuality is not okay, that living with your partner before marriage is not okay: yet society is teaching everyone the opposite.
While I agree these are ‘not okay’, and it is imperative that, as a church, we teach such lessons, my point is that the way we approach the youth, in order to encourage them to seek God, needs to be carefully considered. The world is constantly changing, and while the Bible will always remain relevant, I feel that the way in which we approach it needs to be altered.
We need to approach the youth with an understanding of what they are facing in life today and reach out to and support them at their level; connecting with them from a position of love and empathy, and not from a position of condemnation. Life happens, and a lot of the time it is not simply enough to explain to people the ‘why’, more often than not, the ‘how’ is way more important. When change happens in one’s life, people are very quick to give advice. Whether solicited or unsolicited, the advice generally always gives the ‘why’ (to deal with a situation), but never the ‘how’ (to deal with a situation).
In conclusion, the point that I am trying to express is that the world is forever changing and before we know it, the current youth are going to become the leaders in society and, more than that, church leaders. I do not think it is enough to hope and pray that somehow someday, the majority of young adults will make their way back to their beliefs. I think that, as a church, it is imperative to invest resources into understanding and supporting our youth and learn how to connect with them on a level that is beneficial for all.