The other day my niece, Imani, looked at me and said: “Uncle Ben, your hair is turning white. You look like a little old man with earrings”, as she let out her classic giggle. While I’m only a few weeks shy of 38, it’s definitely true that I’ve got some gray going on. However, my gray reminds me of one thing: I was lucky enough to be a part of a generation who still had a lot of cool bands.
Aerosmith has always been one of my favorites. I remember in high school they played a concert not far from where I lived that was outside in a ball park, so I took my younger sister to hang out by the fence and catch a free show from a distance… it was one of those fun summer nights I’ll probably always remember. Every time I hear Janie’s Got A Gun I think back to that night, peering through the fence to catch a glimpse of Steven Tyler.
I was recently listening to one of my favorite Aerosmith songs of all time– Jaded– and it got me thinking about us. Jaded strikes me as being about a relationship with lots of potential, yet consumed by a vacillating love/hate whirlwind of emotions that often come with a relationship that can be wonderful and strained all at the same time.
This song, Jaded, makes me think about my relationship with American Evangelicalism. It’s a relationship with great potential, but on any given day can swing from the extremes of love and hate, to anything in between. From getting to know so many of you and your stories, it seems that you could probably identify.
Worn out. Tired. Hurt…. fill in the blank.
This aspect of being jaded is something that reminds me of what one of my bosses told me when I was still working in corporate America. I had taken over a program that was full of problems and mismanagement, and things were a mess. As we surveyed the situation, my boss said something that struck me as being useful wisdom for a variety of life circumstances. He simply reminded me:
“This isn’t your fault, but it is your problem.”
Such is the case with our jadedness. While it’s not our fault, it most certainly is our problem. Like it or not, we are the only ones who can make the decision as to how we will respond to it. In my mind, we have two major ways we can deal with it: sit back and criticize (which ultimately accomplishes nothing more than accentuating jadedness) or, we can critique broken aspects of evangelical culture while also working to reconstruct and contribute to the current reformation– with hopes for a better future.
As Steven Tyler sings in Jaded:
“In all it’s misery
It will always be what I love and hated
And maybe take a ride to the other side
We’re thinkin’ of”
Truer words about how I feel about evangelical Christianity have never been spoken. For all the misery I’ve experienced, it will always be what I’ve both “loved and hated”— and my goal is to use my jadedness to get us to the “other side”.
There is an “other side” coming, like it or not. As the old guard slowly fades into history, new expressions of Christianity in America will continue to emerge. The question becomes: will we contribute? Will we use our brokenness, our jadedness, our wounds– along with our aspirations, our hopes, and our dreams, to create a better expression of Christianity in America?
This is what I aim to do, and I hope that you’ll be continuing to join me in this journey.
Regardless of what I have experienced in Christian culture, I still believe that the story of Jesus is the greatest story ever told. I believe the Good News– a story of liberation, freedom, healing and restoration– is still the best news I’ve ever heard. And, until my last day on this earth, I’m going to be inviting others to experience the reality of this crazy story that came from Nazareth.
May we, the wounded children of evangelicalism, fight the Aerosmith factor. May we not give into our jadedness and allow it to make us people who simply sit back and criticize for the purpose of criticizing, but may we use it to critique, deconstruct, reconstruct, and working in love with one another… build a brighter future for American Christianity.
Your jadedness isn’t your fault, but it is your problem. Only you can decide what you’re going to do with yours, and only I can decide what I’ll do with mine.
I pray that instead of allowing it to slowly eat away and destroy you, you’ll join in with me on a journey that allows these wounds to spur us onto something more beautiful.
Making beauty from ashes has always been the story.
Healing wounds, has always been the story.
Liberating from emotional prisons, has always been the story.
The story, my friends, truly good news. However, to make this good news an ultimate reality in our lives, we need to fight the Aerosmith factor by allowing our jadedness to become a force for good, instead of a force for our own emotional destruction.
I know what my choice is, and I hope you’ll be joining me.