The Big Picture 72: Do Older Christians Really Need to “Knock it Off”?

The Big Picture 72: Do Older Christians Really Need to “Knock it Off”? April 22, 2016

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I’m over 45 and I scare your children. Does my age disqualify me from speaking up about politics and culture? Do I really need to ‘knock it off!’? Andy Stanley says so. I’m Joel Fieri, and welcome to “The Big Picture’ podcast, where we seek to begin and hopefully sustain a conversation about current trends, ideas and issues in the Church and greater society.

Pastor Andy Stanley has gone viral lately with a couple Internet videos, one regarding political fear mongering and the other regarding large vs. small church selfishness. Today and next week I’d like to tackle the first, and then for part three I’ll put my two cents in on the latter.

In case you haven’t heard, here’s the portion of a larger sermon Pastor Stanley gave back in January:

Pretty stern stuff directed at a very specific group of people. Assuming the ‘over 45s’ in his congregation are no different than the rest of us aging Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, and since it’s been posted it on the internet for the world to see, rather than being kept an in-house, local church body issue as the Bible instructs (which is another issue for another time), I assume he is also speaking to me. So let’s also assume for a minute that Pastor Stanley had come to me, an ‘over 45-er’, for advice before he preached this sermon and posted it on the internet. In typical Internet open-letter fashion, here’s what I would have told him:

Pastor Stanley, I’m not for recklessly scaring children, and I’ll agree that anyone saying ‘We need a particular politician or party in office or it’s the end of the world’ is badly misguided. And I would absolutely agree that Jesus is our hope and salvation, and that we need to focus on Him, not politics or even culture. Good words, and timely. What I take issue with is your seemingly casual dismissal of the very real possibility of losing our ‘religious liberty’. Granted, if we do lose our religious liberties, Jesus will still be our hope, as long as we keep our eyes on Him. But those liberties were bought with blood, and those of us ‘over 45’ have parents who fought monstrous evils to protect those liberties. We can also vividly remember half the world under the Godless tyranny of Communism. The political ideology that is prevailing now harkens back to those days in some very real ways. It portends a hellish future that very well should ‘scare the children’, because they’re not ready for it.

Lately we’ve seen the world thoroughly salt the church, not vice-versa. Folks who’ve walked longer with God are rightly concerned about the consequences for a society, and a Church, that turns its back on Him, calling what’s evil, good and what’s good, evil. We’re taking our eyes off of Jesus, all right. Not the gentle, intimate Jesus that we sing love songs to in dimly lit warehouses with foggy atmosphere. We see Him all the time. No, we’re taking our eyes off of Jesus the coming King and Righteous Judge who promised to return in judgment. Our worry is this; when He does return, will He find His people faithful in the midst of a very crooked and perverse generation?

Concerns about the current state of our youth and culture go way beyond the stereotypical older curmudgeons bemoaning ‘today’s young people’.

Pastor Stanley, maybe you can help us out with a little guidance in handling cultural changes that are happening so fast it spins our graying heads.

They say politics is downstream from culture, and it’s becoming clear to me that faith is, too. How do we compete with the shock-and-awe assaults on the faith we’re called upon to pass down to our children and grandchildren? It didn’t take long for the acceptance of gay marriage to further plunge us into the redefinition of male and female (or, really, the obliteration of that definition). What do we say to a younger generation (Christians included) that has accepted not only a complete redefinition of marriage, but is now rapidly questioning their identity as male and female? Can we teach our children to ‘focus our eyes on Jesus ‘ if they don’t even accept that they are created in the image of God as male and female? Is there an answer to the mass media and education onslaught that tells us we’re hateful for opposing ideas like same sex restrooms? Can we ‘keep our eyes on Jesus’ and still stand by as men with deep psychological problems share restrooms with our wives and daughters? And what of the ‘under 45’ Christian voices leading our children towards a collectivist and socialist ideology that, at its very core, rejects the existence of God and even an afterlife? Can we ‘keep our eyes on Jesus ‘ and tiptoe around Karl Marx at the same time?

Even ten years ago these questions would have seemed absurd and alarmist.

They’re not now.

Image: Nancy J Ondra
Image: Nancy J Ondra

Awhile back, Pastor Stanley, you also publicly called for Evangelicals to ‘take a break from the culture wars’. Maybe that was called for, maybe not. But is all this really happening because of our transgressions as evangelicals in fighting ‘the culture wars’? Were these cultural seismic shifts lying dormant, like Godzilla, only to be awakened by the nuclear sins of the Moral Majority and some really bad Kirk Cameron movies? Or were they long anticipated and purposeful Satanic attacks on the Church and the very Biblical foundations of Western Civilization?

I go with option two.

So Pastor Stanley, and all those who have been ‘liking’ and ‘amen-ing’ his sermon, that’s why we older folks speak out. Frankly, we’re a little scared ourselves. If you can reassure us that the Church, local and universal, is staying strong and faithful through these assaults, that Christians young and old really are ‘fixing their eyes on Jesus’ and not on the progressive wave of compromise, I think we’ll be reassured. If you can’t, then, while I accept your concerns as valid, I don’t think I can or will ‘knock it off’, And please don’t tell me to. It sounds too much like ‘shut up!’.

Now, finally let me say this; for all I know pastor Stanley has addressed all my worries to those ‘under 45’ in his congregation. I’ve been searching the internet in vain for the rest of his sermon, where he promises to address a second group of people, which I’m assuming are the ‘under 45s’ (if anyone can point me to it in the comments section, please do so). Absent that knowledge, I offer these unsolicited thoughts to Andy Stanley and the online world. I hope it brings clarity and a little balance.

Next week I’ll be addressing the question of just who ‘the children’ we’re scaring really are and why they should be scared, or at least on guard and spiritually armored up, And in part 3 I’ll be giving yet more unsolicited input as to where I feel Pastor Stanley went wrong in his call for parents to abandon their selfishness and attend large churches, while forsaking small ones. It might just surprise you (unless you’ve listened to The Big Picture before). Until then, thanks for listening to the Big Picture.

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