There he was, the politician. Labored by a failing economy and an increasingly skeptical viewership, he stands up and claims to be an Outlier or one who comes from the outside of the game. Does he actually accomplish his goal? The crowd in the room where he is making his case, is rarely applauding or laughing at his jokes. But when the polls are taken the next day, the majority of those who viewed this debate from their laptops and television screens vote in overwhelming favor of the politician.
It could be that the reason why the crowd is not applauding is because they are the structure that facilitates the corruption, and the people who are watching with their families represent the quiet majority who feel like they finally have a voice: a politician who is not part of the structure. These people could care less how many standing ovations this candidate gains, because they realize that the power belongs to them.
Or, perhaps we can no longer speak to favor the response of the crowd, and must immediately assert things for the sake of posterity, which the internet allows us to be more than any other generation before us?
What is wrong with the political landscape in America? None of these individuals are the Messiah. Now, why would I open an essay on winning people for Christ with a politician in the debate ring? It is simple:
The candidate I speak of is a type and shadow of the type of attitude that our country is increasingly adopting, predominantly amongst Millennials, which is: The true voice is not in the structure but on the ground level.
With the advent of the internet, there has come alongside it an increased skepticism of structures and a personal critique of people in authority. If there is a submission to authority, it is primarily for the purpose of utility. What do I mean? Listening to the teacher is for the grade, not for the innate rewards. Voting for a candidate who can get the most done, not voting because it simply matters and makes good use for the democratic society.
Let me tell you a story.
We were sitting in a moral issues class and one of the students next to me began to complain about a certain thinker we had explored and how stupid this person was. I interjected and said, “How can you say such a thing? The person you are calling ‘stupid’ graduated from Yale and is one of the premier public intellectuals in America today.” The student sat there, somewhat deflated, and sheepishly uttered these words: “Well…I guess it is just a controversial position she is taking and we need to be more open.”
The search for truth is probably not possible under such restraints. How can we discover even a sliver of reality where we can not tolerate tension and uncomfortability? My generation values comfort above all else. Why? We came into the world during the Clinton years, watched as a President openly confessed to oral sex with a woman other than his wife; watched as the twin towers collapsed by a people group we weren’t familiar with; an economic collapse with Wall street banks and the mortgage crisis; sent our older siblings off to a war they returned not believing in; And all of this has produced a certain kind of generational consciousness: skepticism.
How else can we revere thinkers such as Richard Dawkins, a thinker who is most famous for opinions that stretch well beyond his actual field of expertise?
Let me tell you a second story.
Jese was an atheist I met in my journey in the world of Philosophy. After a few minutes of conversation, he tells me that before he became an atheist he was a practicing Jew, and before that a strong evangelical christian. As we agree to meet for coffee the following week, he laughs 30 minutes into the conversation and says, “Jon, my best friend is into christian apologetics. We talk about ethics and all of the things that go along with those kinds of discussions. The funny thing is that we never get to this part.” I sit up in my chair and ask, “Which part?” “Oh, you know…” he continues, “the part where we talk about Jesus.”
How do we win this generation? Obviously, I do not have the full answer but if you pay attention to what is going on in society today, there is rampant mistrust and skepticism (as I said earlier!).
So then, what is faith? Simple. It is trust. It requires no adherence to a set of substantive claims to fit in or make up the proper christian. It is simply to enter into the mystery while we cling to the blood-soaked garment of the crucified Savior, Jesus Christ.
We must become more open to questions and doubt in the life of the church if this is to work. My research may be off, but if you were to question most evangelicals of the previous generation, the ideas they have about evangelism, church-life or discipleship rarely escape the ideas and culture of the time in which they were radically encountered by God; whether through an initial conversion experience or reading the authors that those around them were reading. Unfortunately, to remain in this mode for a lifetime is not enough to win the next generation, nor is it enough to cultivate a life of repentance.
If repentance is more than feeling sorry for yourself (an older conception) and has more to do with the opening of the mind and heart, then a lifestyle of repentance is best facilitated in the constant shaping of the life in Christ by constant questioning, interacting and listening required of such a life.