What is it? Does it separate Christians from those around them? Is it necessary to learn the lingo, the vocabulary of Christianese in order to be identified with the group? Is it unnecessarily alienating to those outside (and even those inside)?
Consider the following accounts (all real encounters).
1. A Christian teen on a bus equates homosexuality to adults having sex with children. He reasons: "If it could be shown that there was no damaging effect on the child, what would prevent society from ruling that sex with children ought to be legal?" The kids on the bus who were not from a conservative evangelical background responded: "Kids can't consent to sex. Minors are protected by the law. And what's that got to do with being gay?" The Christian responds: "The Bible is clear. Homosexuality is wrong just like sex with minors. We have to obey the Bible." Who is the "we" in this statement?
2. A Christian college student explained that she and her roommate had prayed for the last year that non-Christian students would feel welcome in their dorm room. When two non-Christian boys spent an evening with them in that dorm room, they considered it a triumph of faith. You have to wonder: why would two attractive, nice college girls feel concerned that guys in their dorm wouldn't want to spend time with them? What is it about being a Christian that even Christians know they are naturally alienating and need special help from God to simply "hang out" with other people who aren't Christians? Do non-Christian kids worry about whether or not other dorm-mates will feel comfortable with them?
3. One high school group in a church I know has divided into the homeschooled and the public schooled. Kids who are in the homeschooled group are the ones who go to the mall on the weekends sharing the 4 Spiritual Laws. The public schooled kids are playing sports (and therefore seen as less committed). Even among pastors, there is division based on home educated versus public schooled. Should teen activities be ranked according to devotion to the faith? Do kids pick up parental values and then use them to rank themselves among themselves?
4. Why are high school students and college kids pushed into leadership positions? I remember in college I had barely converted to the faith and was already "discipling" two new Christians. I knew little more than they did about the Bible, yet it was considered necessary to my growth to lead right away. I actually taught what would have been heresy according to Campus Crusade had they paid attention to my Bible reading so new was I to the faith. Worse, so many kids are measured according to their "leadership" qualities. Why? What is this drive to be sure "everyone is a leader" of someone else?
I know one wonderful 20-something kid who is literally burning himself out with worry over his Bible study group. There are cliques, there is competition, there are those who turn prayer request hour into therapy sessions. You have to wonder: would life be easier on some level if everyone chilled out at Buffalo Wild Wings and watched sports over beer? Why create relational stress in your life for the sake of "leading"?
5. Barna shows that this next generation is unimpressed with the baggage associated with the terms Christian and evangelical. Some people have opted to call themselves "Jesus Followers." Does changing the name make any difference? One of the criticisms is that this cadre of Christians is known more for what they oppose than what they are for. How do Christians reverse that trend and get known for what they are for?