In the course of life, all human beings face issues that challenge them to the very core. I often ask myself what does it mean to be human, and what does it mean to be a Christian. For me, to be fully human means to live out my faith to its full potential each moment of each and every single day.
I work with college age people, that is the core of my ministry. The style and structure of ministry has changed dramatically in the years since I first began. Years ago, social networking was face to face, now its on Facebook . There are so many social networking sites and forums that I can not keep up. There appears to be many emerging technologies and networking interfaces, and the way people connect with each other is facing a real paradigm shift. While I enjoy technology and the benefits it brings, I think there are some latent consequences starting to appear in the lives of people. Ask yourself how long you can go without Myspace or Facebook . Does it eat at you to not be able to check it for new messages? I know sometimes I get that itch to check when I should be doing other things.
Moving on, I 've been thinking about spiritual apathy. It's the kind of apathy that only a person who has been a Christian for awhile could understand. It's the kind of apathy that sets in when you become lazy, living beneath your life's calling and separated from your purpose. Spiritually apathetic people are the ones that complain about everything and anything related to their faith. For example, they can not find a church that is as mature or on fire as they are. Or perhaps the preacher is an idiot and couldn't preach their way out of a cul-de-sac. In my own experience, spiritually apathetic people are like the character from the old SNL skit called Debbi Downer. They always have a bleak prognosis, no church or Christian is ever good enough. The funny thing is, I fail to see where they get their negotiating power. Is negativity and apathy some sort of license that gives a lethargic Christian entitlement to grumble and complain? I personally do not think so. Yet it does not stop them.
How does a Christian become spiritually apathetic? It's so easy to point out, that it's almost cliche! Much of it stems from a battery of bad habits and personal choices. Stop reading the Bible, stop praying, stop living by faith, stop fellowshipping with mature believers. All these things should guarantee that a Christian who is vulnerable to apathy, achieves it.
In my work with college students and young adults I have seen spiritual apathy, but its the kind of thing that creeps in as if they were unaware. Soon the evidence of a crime scene becomes apparent. The student is burned out on God, the church and the Christian life. I have been over this so many times in my mind and then I finally submitted it to God in prayer. While I can't say I wrestled with God or saw a burning bush I did get a real impression that it may not be God whom people are rejecting, but the church itself. How is that you may ask. Well, it's like Gandhi said, "I like your Christ, but your Christians look nothing like him." Do Christian's look like Christ any longer? It's a good question that we need to ask ourselves. Self examination is much better than public examination, no one likes to be seen naked, especially, publicly. But I do think its important to tear away the layers of religiosity and false holiness that we put on when we go to church.
Part of the appeal of social networking sites and online forums is that it gives the appearance of anonymity. That is as far from the truth as it gets, and I'm not talking about postmodern truth either. Part of the latent consequence of technology that I wrote about earlier is the isolative tendencies and the disconnection from each other that is encroaching upon our relationships with another as human beings. I could be alarmist, but I could be prophetic to. The way we relate to each often reflects the way we relate to God as well. We superimpose the relational social skills we have grown accustomed to and try to interact with divine in the same way. I have not yet seen God on Facebook. Now I'm not saying that Facebook or technology is bad, far from it. But, perhaps the next time your looking at Christians and judging God through them, take a look at yourself and extend the same judgment in equal measure.
So now that I am done preaching to myself, the message that I need to hear, does this message resonate with you?
~Chaplain Jeremy L. Evans