Sunday, February 26, 2006

Gen Xers Adrift

Alan Creech offers an apt description of where a lot of young Catholics, especially Catholic Gen Xers like him and myself, find themselves in relation to the Church. I know, because I've been there (and still am to a certain extent):

So, can there be fundamentalist Catholics? Sure there can. There are. There can be fundamentalist anything. That word strict and the other one, literal - they would be key. They dredge up pictures of other words: harsh, cold, unbending, legalistic, etc. I have known both Protestants and Catholics who are like this. And both were in a bad place if you ask me. It feels very right to hold a tight line. It feels secure you know. It makes you feel very safe and right. This is a dangerous feeling.

I was closer to being a fundamentalist Catholic than I ever have been anything that anyone would refer to as Protestant. I still don't consider myself a protestant. You can consider me whatever you like I suppose. Have fun. I am not mounting an organized protest against Catholicism. I have more good to say about that Church than many inside it as far as I know. If I play favorites in any way, it's probably in favor of the Roman Catholic Church. I probably shouldn't. I have a soft spot, sue me. I figure "she" gets enough grief from people - doesn't need any from me. At this point, though, I am no fundamentalist - not in the estimation of anyone who knows what it means and who knows me at all. I'm conservative to some and liberal to others. Some would condemn me as too Catholic, others as a schismatic Protestant. I sort of like this ground, at least for now.

Are there things to hold a hard line about? There certainly are. To not be a fundamentalist does not mean you are noncommittal. It doesn't for me anyway. I'm quite committal about several things. There is Truth. There is a common Christian orthodoxy. Sure, we don't become wishy-washy, anything goes kind of theologians or Christians as a reaction against fundamentalism. I don't think that's the answer. I see it happening, but that, to me, is just as unhealthy as the harsh alternative.

How do we go about inviting the many young people who find themselves in such place to participate in the Church in a way that makes them feel welcome? How do we get past the "love it or leave it" attitude that characterizes much of the rhetoric of those that call themselves "orthodox" or "faithful" Catholics? How do we get past the demands for "openness" and "tolerance" which "progressive" Catholics demand for just about anybody except those that disagree with them? These are the attitudes that have led to the alienation of many Gen Xers from the Church in the first place.

As we start to place our hopes in the millenial generation, I think a fundamental choice is beginning to come into view: We can write off Generation X as too complicated, and set our sights on converting millenials to our various fundamentalisms. Or we can embrace the challenge that Gen Xers offer us as a chance to build up the Church, to build up the Kingdom in a new way that transcends the tired battles and prejudices of the past.

Read Alan's words and ask the question: Where do we see there the opportunity to invite, to celebrate and to build up in a way that will bring us closer to the unity that Christ prayed for?


Blogger + Alan said...

Thanks Mark. Good words. Hope someone will listen to the question and honestly deal with it. Pax vobiscum.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Jonathan St.Andre, T.O.R. said...

Thanks for your post. As a fellow Gen X'er I thought it was insightful and balanced. We can't just give up on our generation, we have to struggle through this together.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous A said...

Thanks for reposting this to a wider audience Mark. There are issues here for many people that need to be addressed and dealt with.
Peace to you

2:29 PM  
Anonymous "omis" said...

Good post, Mark.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Gashwin said...

Thanks for that link to a most insightful article. At a conference I attended last year there was a workshop on "Fundamentalism vs. Fidelity" (or something similar), basically about the difference between being fundamentalist and being a faithful Catholic. It was most interesting and educational -- anyway, you've generated some thoughts that I'll probably blog about tonight ...

8:29 AM  
Blogger mamagiglio said...

Mark, some thoughts on my page.

8:52 AM  

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