It is very easy to fall into the habit of treating everybody alike. After all, all elderly women are grandmothers and all elderly men are grandfathers. All middle-aged men and women are empty-nesters. All women and men younger than them have teenagers, unless they’re much younger in which case they have babies and toddlers. Anybody younger than them must have just graduated or are about to graduate high school or college, leaving everyone else to be the high school, middle school, and elementary school age students. They all live in the same town (they were all born and raised there and have never left the state; not even once.) They have all had the same life experiences, the same ethnicity. So that’s why many people worry about the ones that aren’t there and forget the ones that are.
Reading at the various books – they tell us what’s missing – adventure for the adventure seekers, apologetics for the logic-driven individual, services for this, that, and the other. It’s just, I have the feeling that there’s not a lot of acknowledging the people who are there.
Some books would say that “men thrive on adventure and challenge …” Does the author mean to say that the men who currently go to church are less manly than the men who do not? That they’re flawed for not being thrilled with adventure and who would rather a different sort of challenge? Some books would say that “millenials are disenfranchised by the hatred and hypocrisy they see in church.” I’m one of the millenials that still goes to church – partially to be a voice trying to change things from the inside – I guess I must not be a true-blue millennial. People from all walks of life still attend church: men and women, old and young, all races, some married, some divorced, some single, and yet so many news stories tend to gloss over them and complain about who isn’t there. The people aren’t there are also all like and they are also all different from the ones that are there.
It’s not a problem to talk about who isn’t there – but it’s a problem to ignore those who are there. We could very easily create an adventure based church, where everyone who doesn’t like adventure could go somewhere else. We could very easily create an outdoors-man and outdoors-woman based church, where everyone who doesn’t like hunting or fishing could go somewhere else. We could very easily create an arts and crafts based church, where everyone who doesn’t like art or crafts can go somewhere else. You see the problem here?
We can’t please everyone all the time. What we can do is to use a trial and error method to reach out to as many different types of people as possible and as for everyone else – create a program or group from which they can benefit – sort of like Paul:
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31-33
We also have to stop treating everyone as if they are all alike and the same. Christianity is filled with all sort of people, different kinds of men and women, at different ages and stages in life, with different maturity levels and interests when it comes to Scripture. So let’s encourage people to be curious and to seek out answers to their questions. That means letting people be at different pages in the same book – and let’s help them really get everything Scripture has to say.
A blatant example of where we have to change how we interpret scripture is the story of Deborah. I’ve been told that she was a Judge because it was a punishment over all the men of Israel because not one of them could be found to do the job. All of the other Judges were male because they were all faithful enough, good enough, wise enough, and obedient enough to lead. That was not the case in Deborah’s time. None one man could be found to be faithful, good, wise, or obedient enough so God punished them by installing a woman as a leader over them. That’s backed up Isaiah 3:12: “Youths oppress my people,
women rule over them.
My people, your guides lead you astray;
they turn you from the path.”
That’s our interpretation – but that’s not spelled out in Scripture. The rest of Isaiah 3 doesn’t really fit the events in Judges 4 & 5. That’s a problem for me. If you’re going to point to verse 12 – then doesn’t the rest of the verses have to match in order for the interpretation to be valid? So what if it’s not punishment, but exactly what the doctor ordered? What if God wanted Deborah to be in charge because she was the best person (male or female) for the job? Such interpretations happen all the time.
We can’t just read verses and explain away the incredible women as always exceptions to the rules and hold up amazing men as normal examples of what one can do when he (or she) follows God. We just can’t interpret Scripture without taking into account how the original hearers would have understood it differently because they live in an honor/shame society and we do not. We have to teach the basics starting with history and culture and custom to give us a full picture of what’s being said and taught – otherwise we’ll always have a picture with missing pieces – and worst of all, we won’t even know it.