If you know me at all, you know that I’m an Aggie. This means I attended Texas A&M University and totally “drank the Aggie Kool-aid”. Older Aggies refer to their days in the Corps of Cadets as “Ol’ Army”. This is the idea that, the old ways were the right ways, and the “Ol’ Army days” were a time when everything was good in the world. Never mind those “New Army” rules since obviously the next generation had it much easier than we did. Did the class of ’93 even do push-ups? Unlikely.
Sadly, and perhaps like an Ol’ Ag, I have begun to relate this phenomena to my life in the Church. To clarify, I think you will understand what I’m talking about if you have ever thought something like:
“WOW! My mother would have NEVER let me run around in church like that!”
“No way my parents would have EVER let ME wear that!”
or my personal favorite,
“Gee. Can we not text all during church? Please?”
You get the point.
At what point in our lives do we look around and decide that the old ways were the BEST ways? And why exactly do the rules, as we remember them, deserve to be followed still? Today, I found myself thinking about the “nones” or the millennial generation (from about 18-30 yrs old). Our church has a handful of members in this age group. These are the kids that go off to college somewhere and who often end up refusing to claim a religious affiliation later in life; hence, the “NONE” in the box marked religious preference. There are a lot out there, and their thinking is a lot different than mine.
It then dawned on me, THIS is my kids’ generation. My own children walk among the “nones”.
I have two children in college, so this issue is dear to my heart. I have to wonder, WHY would someone search for Orthodoxy? Why would a 20-something enter into the Orthodox Church (or any other church for that matter) when there are so many easier options? Once we consider that, then what role do we older folks play in their inclusion in the Church? Do young people reject Orthodox Christianity because there are just too many “rules”? The irony is, the longer one is Orthodox, the more one begins to crave and appreciate “the rules”. Nothing the Church does is aimless, and the more mature one becomes as a Christian, the more the life of the Church becomes one’s own. But this is not something that can be forced, so how exactly can you relate that to someone who cannot understand why the Orthodox Church rejects so many of the ideas that are accepted as normal by most even while still in high school?
There is certainly some form of chronological snobbery on both sides of the aisle. Me, because I expect certain behaviors from younger people, and them, because they believe my generation is too “Ol’ Army” to be open-minded. I admit, the idea that there are no such things as “Ladies’ Rooms” at Starbucks still irks me.
There is a part of me that knows that when people are seeking truth that they will seek it until they find, well, something. When they find our little church, what will my role be? How will I receive them? Could my behavior at Greek Fest 2018 affect someone’s salvation? The answer: yes, of course it could.
My goal for this week: I need to find out what Ol’ Army ideas have value and which ones I keep simply due to my inability to adapt. I want to become more able to speak “None”. I will pray for patience and humility as I continue to realize my many imperfections and strive to love the hard to love.