This blog is a response to A Full Table for Empty People written by my friend Steve Wiechman of Breathe Life Ministries. You really should go read that and then come back here…
Anyone who came of age in a Culture of Certainty, say, before November 22, 1963 (the day JFK was assassinated), can sometimes find it difficult to doubt the media, the experts, or the Church. I think, in general, politics and email scams have beaten the best parts of that naïveté out of our culture, but it feels really risky to doubt your theology or your pastor or your church; and if you actually aren’t completely certain all the time, you can’t dare to doubt it at all.
Anyone born in 1972 or later (that’s the start of the Watergate scandal and toward the end of the ongoing, escalating crisis in Vietnam that had started way back in 1955)–anyone born post-Vietnam, post-Watergate grew up in a Culture of Skepticism and can find it unreasonable to trust the media, the experts, or the Church.
Steve and I were both born in 1972.
I think Steve is right on, and I love the way he leads with his own vulnerability and struggle while still clinging to faith and hope. That makes him a reliable witness to someone like me. And if we are going to reach real people in an ongoing Culture of Skepticism, I think we will have to lead by combining authentic vulnerability, struggle, and doubt with authentic trust, delight, and dependence on Jesus.
Steve, I am on board; sign me and my baggage up for the adventure.
AND I just want to point out that people raised in a Culture of Certainty may find this adventure almost incomprehensible: why in the world would you want to share your uncertainty? You are supposed to get rid of or hide any doubt, aren’t you? You are making our witness weak!
At the same time, people raised in a Culture of Skepticism will find the “just believe it” attitude of Certainty to be inauthentic and damaging to the faith: why in the world would you want to hide your uncertainty? You can’t get rid of your questions by hiding them, only by bringing them into the light! You are making our witness weak!
I believe what Steve says in his blog applies to everyone, not just people born after 1972. As Certainty continues to erode, more and more people who grew up with a cultural knee-jerk to trust will find the world less and less reliable. Even my dear old dad doesn’t download free software or send money to African princes anymore, and hardly any of his friends wire him money when he sends an emergency email from a jail in the Philippines…
But even though I believe a humble faith posture is the only viable one moving forward, I want to notice how we are likely to have different reactions to that truth depending on how we were brought up. So there has to be room at the table even for people who think faith and life should be way more certain than they currently are, who love and long for the comfort that comes with confidence AND room for those who are burdened by the standard of certainty and confidence and who are doing the best they can just to cling to hope.
We might sit at different ends of the table, but we have to figure out how to pass the mashed potatoes. And not condemn the people at the other end who never really cared for the cranberry sauce.
I love you, Steve. I am with you in this. Let’s go be broken for Jesus! And please pass the potatoes…