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Friday, May 29, 2020

Opinion

Youths not faithful to evangelical cause


David Delgado//The Daily Cougar

David Delgado/The Daily Cougar

A couple weeks ago, a friend and I were going to grab a lunch that had long been in the works. Hours before, she called me, wondering if it was OK if she brought a friend. “Trust me,” she added, “she’s really cool. She’s funny and super religious.”

Oh no, I thought to myself. I imagined a person who I couldn’t joke around with “off the cuff,” with whom I could never engage in an objective discourse on abortion. I pictured somebody closed-minded, uptight and indiscriminately judgmental.

I’m a religious person, and a pretty devout one at that.

It’s somewhat shocking, then, to know that a person who describes themselves as religious saw religion as something overwhelmingly judgmental, if only for a moment. Maybe she’s just going through a struggle, you might think to yourself. You might also think that I’m finally starting to come to my senses with this whole “organized religion” rubbish, depending on your own spiritual beliefs.

Maybe the way that the media perceives modern-day religion has started to affect the way that everybody views religion, especially those with a personal stake in it.

If those who are religious are starting to perceive spirituality as negative, there’s little hope for the nonreligious to ever see it as something that isn’t overly critical and condemnatory.

In an article on CNN Religion, columnist Rachel Evans summed up the major setbacks that keep religious entities away from the hearts of those they wish to reach.

“Young adults perceived evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned and unconcerned with social justice and hostile towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” Evans said. “We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.”

Electrical engineering junior Erik Van Aller expressed some reforms the church could benefit from.

“From a Christian perspective, I believe our religious leaders need to not be condemning but loving … Stop trying to start an argument with non-believers. Just show them grace and love. Be a friend to everyone you meet.”

Nowhere is there mention of the boundless love, selflessness, and forgiveness that Christianity is founded upon. The universal sentiment “Love God, love all others” doesn’t hold a candle to the inflammatory comments of a few radical outliers.

These religious outliers wind up defining organized religion as homosexual-hating, science-denying, pleasure-rejecting stoics.

With the large amount of press that contraceptives and gay marriage have gotten in recent years, our country has slowly developed a national stake in these fundamental issues.

Organized religion seems to have been portrayed as the only one opposed to these ideals. In the eyes of the media and those that are exposed to the media, religion isn’t featured in a flattering light.

What’s truly debilitating about this is the lack of acknowledgement that religious entities give to these concerns. Public proponents of religion seem to be digging themselves deeper into a hole of social ignorance.

We remember Rick Perry’s cringe-worthy campaign ad in which he cited God as his reason for not supporting gays’ right to join the military. Then there was Daniel Heimbach, senior professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, who commented on gay marriage saying, “If marriage is radically redefined as a way of just affirming loving feelings of attraction, then equality will require allowing people who love dogs to marry dogs.”

For leaders who are supposedly called to evangelism, they could not be disrespecting the masses any more horrifically.

UH Cru Ministry Leader Franklin Dowdy expressed his thoughts on the erosion of religion as a whole and how this is placing spirituality under something of a more enlightened light.

“It seems it’s cool to be spiritual, but not religious. Spiritual people are free thinkers, religious people have checklists and are hypocrites,” Dowdy said.

When asked about a potential solution, Dowdy described a different type of church for those seeking love, not judgment.

“The heart of this church breaks for those facing injustice in all parts of the world. This type of church can fundamentally disagree with people and still love them unconditionally,” Dowdy said. “This church, in all honesty, is not very religious.”

True reform isn’t about adding a coffee shop in the fellowship hall and touting your worship band’s edgy skinny jeans. It’s not about trendier camp T-shirts and hiring a young pastor who wears thick-rimmed glasses and Oxford button-ups.

If organized religion wants to see lasting reform in its methodologies, it might be time to put methodology on the back burner. Being proponents of unconditional love, tolerance and open-mindedness seems to have been shut out in lieu of discrimination. Clearly, this hasn’t served the church well in recent years.

It might be time to bring light back to what really matters.

 Senior staff columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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