American Christians are stuck in the age of adolescence? Thoughts for Palm Sunday

photo via Author Thomas Bergler

Adolescence- prior to the 20th century, we really didn’t have a stage of life called adolescence. In most countries, throughout the history of the world, kids went from being kids to becoming adults, with some kind of rite of passage, right in the middle. But, somewhere in the middle of the 20th century, you had a group of psychiatrists that looked at transitional developments and decided that there was a stage of life, called adolescence.  Adolescence was supposed to be a transitional stage: from being a kid, to being an adolescent, to being an adult- transition stage from about the age of 13 to about the age of 18. The National Academy of Sciences today actually puts the stage of adolescence, as the stage of life between the ages of 11 and 30 (what???????????). We have this whole new phenomenon, called the Peter Pan syndrome- failure to launch. In other words, kids are becoming adolescents even at an earlier age, but, they’re not leaving adolescence ‘til a later age. Thomas Bergler’s thesis is that christianity is trapped in that adolescence. What are some of the characteristics of adolescence?

  1. a sense of entitlement that God owes me something, not that I’m supposed to really give. Sociologist christian Smith has called this Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. 
  2. very closely tied with consumerism– we see all of life as a shopping experience. So, everything we experience, whether it’s the mall, or TV, or the church, we see as consumers: I give of my time and my money, and I expect a good experience and a good speaker, and a great worship set in return.
  3. highly emotional– often times, how I feel is more important than how I think, or how I live as a Christian. When asked when they felt most close to God, they point back to an experience or an event where the music was rockin’. You don’t feel that they were close to Jesus when they walked with someone through deep suffering or when they spent time giving of themselves to someone else.

The question is, if the Gospel we embrace is one of emotionalism with events and a lot of noise, is it big enough to walk through the next generation of challenges that we’re gonna face as christians? We know that the faith we have is fun and emotive. But, what if it gets really difficult? The biggest faith helps us even through the mundane faith, where we just have to show up to community, show up to service.

There’s an incident that reminds me of the Triumphal Entry, and when Jesus goes and heals Lazarus. And Jesus was kind of a hidden secret, but not after that, when Lazarus proclaimed  what Jesus had done, and the Pharisees, not only wanted to kill Jesus, but they also wanted to kill Lazarus to shut him up. In fact, Jesus proclaims after that, „My time has come,” and He marches into Jerusalem. The people know who Jesus is, and that the Messiah will come riding on the donkey. But, those people are the same ones, who say a week later, „We have no king but Caesar.” A week later, they’re saying, „Crucify Him, crucify Him.” Why, because they expected the Messiah to do things a particular way.

They were there for the noise and the excitement. They were ready for the battle, they were ready for freedom. But, what they weren’t ready for is the freedom that Jesus was actually coming to give, which was freedom from their own sin, and from their own captivity. He’s gonna do it through peace, He’s gonna do it through suffering, He’s gonna do it through trial, and even His own disciples in Getsemane would not wait and pray with Him, for the hours that He needed them to.

A juvenile christianity is not one that can handle the hard times. And, it’s not one that can handle the mundane. But the real Gospel, the Gospel that Jesus walks through to accomplish in the Holy Week, is one that goes through the dredges of service, of persecution, of suffering, and of course of death.

ColsonCenter Do you know adult Christians who think God owes them something? Well, they might be suffering from something called the Peter Pan syndrome. John Stonestreet explores this phenomena in this week’s ReEngage.

2 comentarii (+add yours?)

  1. gabi
    mart. 23, 2013 @ 19:40:22

    that looks like an interesting book…. I will buy it. Thanks for tip

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