The Jesus Gap

Derek Penwell, at [D]mergent writes on the emerging generations and what he calls the “Jesus gap” – the disconnect between Jesus a generally portrayed in US culture and Jesus of the Gospels:

an excerpt

In my work with Millennials and Gen-Xers, among those who’ve dropped out of church, I regularly run into the assumption that Christianity is primarily about saving your own spiritual bacon.

“Screw the planet! Screw everyone else! As long as I get my own heavenly bus pass stamped, I’ve done what Jesus asked me to do.”

Now, whether that’s a fair characterization is another argument. That it is common, however, means the church, if it is to have any hope of connecting with these young people, is going to have to address it. “It,” in this case, is what I call “The Jesus Gap.”

The Jesus Gap

“If you follow Jesus and don’t end up dead, it appears you have some explaining to do.” ~Terry Eagleton, Reason, Faith, and Revolution

There’s a gap. I’m convinced of it. A gap—a Jesus gap.

There is a growing dissatisfaction with the traditional view of the church among Millennials and Gen-Xers. This dissatisfaction has any number of causes, which the disaffected would name as anti-institutionalism, hypocrisy, judgmentalism, etc. But there’s one area of vexation that always seems to come up: The Jesus Gap.

People, especially young people, are having trouble squaring the Jesus they read about in the Gospels with the infinitely malleable Jesus they see placed on offer by popular Christianity—Jesus as personal genie, Jesus as chief security guard at the courthouse of private morality, Jesus as a cheerleader for free-market capitalism, etc.

In my work with Millennials and Gen-Xers we often return to the same complaint: “The Jesus I read about in the Gospels doesn’t look like the Jesus I hear about in church.” Whether it’s Jesus as a clearinghouse for heavenly bus passes or Jesus as Affirmer-in-Chief whose primary function revolves around endorsing middle-class American values, emerging generations are having a difficult time making the connection between Jesus-as-he-appears-in-the-bible and Jesus-as-he’s-portrayed-by-his-most-vocal-supporters.

And that’s a horrible shame. Because Jesus, stripped of the layers of religious spackling used to domesticate him, is irremediably subversive.

Subversive. That appeals to me. Of course, I’d like to continue writing clinically, about the religious climate shift underway at the hands of restless “young people,” fed up with a tame Jesus. I’d like to make it sound as though I’m just a disinterested observer of religious trends. But the truth is that I too find myself growing dissatisfied with that image of Jesus.

After all these years of a Jesus who I thought would help make me _______ (holier? kinder? more spiritual? more self-actualized?), I’ve come to believe that Jesus has a more cosmic, more interesting agenda in mind than super-tuning my soul

Read it all here.

Past Posts