What will happen with the children of post-evangelicals?

Richard Beck has an insightful piece up on a topic that’s had me thinking. While he’s a decade older and from a different denominational background than I am, he and I have traveled a similar path from a strict conservative Christianity into a progressive post-evangelicalism. But what impact, he asks, does this have on our children?

Anyway, we were talking about how our kids now view the church. We’ve become liberal in our views and so we’ve raised our kids as liberals. We’ve preached messages of tolerance and inclusion. And we’ve been successful. Our kids don’t look on the world with judgment and suspicion. They welcome difference.

But we’ve noticed that this comes with a price. Our kids don’t have the same loyalty to the church as we do. We were raised conservatively, so going and being loyal to a local church is hardwired into us. We can’t imagine not going to church. It’s who we are. But our kids weren’t raised by conservatives, they were raised by us, post-evangelical liberals. Consequently, our kids don’t have that same loyalty toward the church.

So we were talking about this paradox in our small group, how our kids weren’t raised by our parents, they were raised by us, and how that’s made our kids unlike us. Especially when it comes to how we feel about church.

Basically, our kids aren’t post-evangelicals. They are liberals.

He goes on to say that he doesn’t mean that being a liberal is a bad thing, but that he wonders if his children will have a rootedness in a community and deep sense of belonging that he experienced growing up in a more conservative environment.

I’ve had similar questions about raising my own children. While I consider myself pretty solidly post-evangelical, as a family we have spent the last decade as committed members of a fairly conservative evangelical church. My kids attend Sunday School and youth group and get taught many of the same things I did when I was their age. Then they come home and I feel the tension keenly when we have discussions about hot topics that have come up – things like evolution, gender roles, religious tolerance, and historical and textual criticism of the Bible.

Maybe my willingness to stay committed to a conservative church gives lie to the claim that I’m post-evangelical. I guess that’s ok with me – it’s not like post-evangelicalism is a club for which I need to establish my bona fides. What I’m really hoping for my kids is that we can find a sweet spot in the middle – one that doesn’t view orthodox doctrine and social responsibility as an either/or proposition but rather a both/and, one that sees questions as a sign of a strong faith rather than a weak one about to shatter.

Maybe it’s truly the journey that has shaped my theology and Christian outlook into what it is today, but I’m holding onto hope that my children can find their path to a confident faith even through being raised by a meandering post-evangelical.

One thought on “What will happen with the children of post-evangelicals?

  1. It’s an interesting conundrum. One thing that I’ve come to realize is that community is not only found (both on a personal and a moral level) within the confines of a defined church or religious community – there are and can be communities that function at this level in other areas of life. That being said the structure and regularity of a church family isn’t easily replaced, and is one of the major challenges in trying to construct community outside of that paradigm.

    The flip side is that, depending on the church / community, that “community” can actually be a mechanism for policing and control, rather than mutual support and edification — something designed to keep people within borders / behind walls, and often succeeding in doing so by the dual tracks of inspiring fear of the “outsider” (“The Village” by M. Shyamalan hit a lot of triggers for me) and also by instilling an unhealthy self-righteousness — convincing the “insiders” that they are depraved, yes, but also that they are still better than the great unwashed outside the confines of the group.

    So… the need for community around faith / believe / love is a definite need that is going unfulfilled for a lot of post-evangelical types as well as society more broadly. But the freedom from some of the negative aspects of those types of church environments is, on balance, a good thing..

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