Is the Church Overprotective? Young Adults Who Wander (You Lost Me 6)

A few years back I was talking to someone about what I do as a campus minister and I made a comment along the lines of how I don’t really listen to Christian music.  The person was kind of surprised, thinking I listened to such holy music so I could recommend it to my students.  I joked that that is what youth ministers have to do, we who work on campus are a different breed.

But really, I am not a huge music guy.  I mean, I enjoy music…but if I worked for a church or ever got interviewed for a magazine and one question was, “what’s on your iPod?” my answer might would be some Hardcore History podcasts, Sandra Boynton kids music and the Les Mis soundtrack.

When I do listen to music nowadays I listen to country.  This is kind of funny, because I never listened to country growing up.  In the early 90s I listened to early 90s rock/alternative music like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Live.  Eventually I “got serious” about  my faith which meant giving up much of that “sinful” music and listening to “Christian” music: Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys and the like.  At the time that music was very meaningful and encouraging to me.  But over the years I got bored with it and kind of slid into a “listen to everything” attitude: anything from country to classic rock and when I’m feeling different kinds of nostalgic I’ll go back to the rock/alternative or the CCM (contemporary Christian music) of my youth.

Trading in my secular music for Christian music simply meant putting the CDs in a shoebox somewhere.  But I remember friends of mine talking about literally burning their secular CDs.  A clear line was drawn in the sand: to be a Christian is to only listen to Christian music.  Thankfully, we could trek on down to the local Christian bookstore where they had a huge chart that told you if you like such and such secular band then you will like this or that Christian band (they sound the same, but they mention Jesus!).

This is not a post on the pros and cons of contemporary Christian music, such posts and articles can be found if so desired.  I recall those days of my youth when there seemed so much pressure to only listen to “approved” music.  Bible verses were tossed about to remind us the importance of not being corrupted by the world.  Music was the main part of it, but there were also “Christian” movies and books, shirts and much more.  The goal seemed to be to keep us kids safe from the evil and scary world around us.  In other words, the goal was protection.  To some degree, this is not a bad thing.  But too easily protection would slip into a sheltering, “we’re good and they’re evil” sort of overprotection.

In the second part of You Lost Me, David Kinnaman examines various reasons why young adults wander from the faith.  The first reason he gives is that the church i soverprotective (the rest are that the church is shallow, antiscience, repressive, exclusive and doubtless).  I will spend one post on each reason, beginning with the problem that Christians are overprotective:

Is it possible that our cultural fixation on safety and protectiveness has also had a profound effect on the church’s ability to disciple the next generation of Christians? Are we preparing them for a life of risk, adventure, and service to God—a God who asks that they lay down their lives for his kingdom? Or are we churning out safe, compliant Christian kids who are either chomping at the bit to get free or huddling in the basement playing World of Warcraft for hours on end, terrified to step out of doors? Here are some of the criticisms that young Christians and former Christians level at the church:

Christians demonize everything outside of the church

Christians are afraid of pop culture, especially its movies and music.

Christians maintain a false separation of sacred and secular.

Christians do not want to deal with the complexity or reality of the world

Kinnaman, David (2011-04-01). You Lost Me (Kindle Locations 1533-1538). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.

This reminds me of the recent story I read about a group of Christian bookstores pulling The Blindside from their shelves because a pastor complained about the language in the movie.  Such a story makes Kinnaman’s point: much of the Christian culture is over-protective.  We want to shelter kids from practically everything, creating a safe and sanitized world for them to live in, almost in parallel to the real world out there.

It is almost like we want children to become hermits, fleeing from the evils of the world.

The cure to being overprotective is not to shun any sort of boundaries at all.  There are still many things in the wider culture that we probably should protect our kids from.   It makes me think of Jesus’ words, calling his followers to be in the world but not of it.  But whatever this protection looks like, we need to remember that there is a lot of beauty and goodness in the world around us.  And such beauty and goodness is not always found in the “Christian” bookstore with the “Christian” label assuring us it is safe for the whole family.

Young people want to break out of this sacred/secular dualism that places “Christian” in one arena and everything else in the other. Kinnaman notes that younger Christians desire mainstream influence.  They do not just want to have successful “Christian” bands that play on “Christian” radio or to be “Christian” professors in “Christian” universities.  Instead they desire to create good music on the radio, to become professors at universities…in other words to heed God’s call in their lives to serve in whatever area they are placed (the word for this is vocation).  Kinnaman sees hope in this: “Could it be that the growing desire for mainstream influence among the younger generation is the work of God—preparing them to bring restoration and renewal to our culture? I believe so” (Kinnaman, David (2011-04-01). You Lost Me (Kindle Locations 1657-1659). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition).

Christians can have a better influence on the world around us not when we retreat into our safe places but when we go out in the name of Jesus and be the best at whatever calling we have.  Or as Kinnaman says, “gaining credibility for its own sake is vanity; gaining credibility to participate in God’s work to redeem his world is a mission” (Kinnaman, David (2011-04-01). You Lost Me (Kindle Locations 1662-1663). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition).

I believe Christians should be the best at what we do.  Christians artists should create beautiful music and art and film, not worrying whether it achieves a “Christian” label.  Christians should search for truth in all things, portraits of truth may be found in “Christian” movies like Courageous but may also be found in Gran Torino and The Artist.

More than that, as we attempt to cease being overprotective we give young Christians the space they need to hear from the Holy Spirit and be shaped into the people God created them to be in the crucible of the world.

2 thoughts on “Is the Church Overprotective? Young Adults Who Wander (You Lost Me 6)

  1. When I read his thoughts on this, my first thought was that I completely agreed with him. The temptation for any serious parent, I think, is to overprotect.
    However, most parents I know have thought this through as carefully as possible and are making decisions based on what they think their kids can really handle (rather than conforming to some kind of church expectation). We felt, for instance, that our kids could handle public school and our goal was for them to impact those schools for Christ, rather than thinking that they would be led astray by a secular environment. In other words, we felt that the best defense was a good offense.
    Some parents judge that their kids will be more likely to be “influencees” than “influencers” and they might be right. Sometimes holding kids back until they mature to the point that they can handle the pressure would be wise. My concern in those situations is, “What are you doing to mature your kids?” In other words, opposition (facing and overcoming temptation) is what tends to grow us as spiritual people. And honestly, failure is probably the best teacher of all. A question for parents at this point is, “Would you rather have your kids face these challenges while they are at home and you are there, or face them when they get to college or the workplace when they won’t be coming back to your home every night?”

    1. Good points Shelley!

      Like you said, is it better to only watch “Christian” movies so that the first time the kid watches anything else is at a friend’s house or in college OR is it better to watch movies with your kids (obviously still some movies are out of bounds) and teach them to think Christian about them. I think entertainment is a big one because many Christians just turn their brain off and consume the entertainment when we ought to search for truth and love God with our minds.

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