Friday, February 25, 2005

Just a story

When I was in high school, my family attended a church that had a pretty good youth group. The youth pastor lived an hour and a half away, and his wife had a tendency to keep him home (and he had a tendency to let her), but we had some volunteer adults who lived very close to the church and were very open with their homes and their time, so that really helped.

But that's another story for another time.

While there, I got into a group of friends that included a girl we'll call Denise (we'll call her that because that's not her real name). We all had a great time, skateboarding and playing D&D together, going to the park on Wednesday nights in the summer, etc.

In the fullness of time (?), we all graduated and went our semi-separate ways, but we stayed in touch with Denise and with a small group of folks that seemed to always be around. This group expanded, and eventually became what we call the "Denise Sphere." (We actually call it something else, because, as previously mentioned, Denise is not her real name; but let's pretend, shall we?)

There was nothing insidious about it; we were all just a bunch of people who had common friendships and who would, several times a year, gather for cookouts or, increasingly, wedding showers.

The group was defined by several characteristics:
1. We all knew Denise
2. Most of them were artsy (I was not; I may have been the token square; one never knows)
3. Most of us had grown up as Christians

About the time we all turned 21, most of us were Reformed in our theology to some degree or another (some of the folks went Orthodox for a while - Greek, not Jewish - but that didn't pan out). So about the time the law allowed us to do pretty much anything, we were discovering that The Law would allow us to do pretty much anything without any fears of "backsliding".

It's a difficult point, but you probably know where this is going.

All of a sudden, everyone was smoking cigars, drinking obscure microbrews, and (oddly) cussing like sailors. Why?

I think for 2 reasons:
1. because they thought it would make them cool
2. because they could

Here's a group of folks who, as individuals, had been "good kids" growing up. We didn't do drugs, didn't get pregnant in high school, or any of the "fun" stuff that the cool kids did. All of a sudden, legality opens up the opportunity to do a lot of things that are still not bad (in a damnation, lose your salvation sense), but that are things that will tweak the noses of other Christians.

There may have been some sense of getting back at the people (or religion) that they felt had held them to just the brink of coolness for so many years. Sure, you can be a great artist or musician, but if you're not going to the orgy after the show, how cool can you be?

It was sad to watch, honestly.

Look, there's nothing wrong with smoking a cigar. In and of itself, I think it's value-neutral. But the attitude that went with it (and I'm talking specifically about the way these folks went about it) was very arrogant. It allowed them to feel superior to two different groups of people: those narrow-minded Christians who did feel that smoking was wrong, and those shlubs who smoked menthols.

Same with microbrews. We're better than non-drinkers (because we're interpreting the Bible correctly, so we're also smarter than them, nya-nya), we're better than alcoholics who progress from hard liquor to lysterine, and we're also better than the rednecks who drink Bud. Hat trick!

(Obligatory don't-write-me-a-letter statement: this doesn't mean that everyone who smokes cigars and drinks uber-expensive beer is like this. These were just the attitudes I saw with this particular group. I'm sure you have perfectly good reasons for cussing in front of your parents.)

After a few years (and, honestly, a few kids) everyone calmed down. I think most of them saw down the road and realized that they were never going to be ready to do the really bad things that would be required to get them into the really cool group. Driving fast is fun, even in a station wagon, but at some point you're going to get passed by some kid in a sports car, and then you realize you've got kids in the back, and you slow the station wagon down.

What's the point? I have only the slightest idea.


At 9:44 AM, Blogger Becki said...

Guess what? I understand completely. I think that's why we ended up going to a "blue jean" church - 'cause we were just so much smarter than our parents and their traditional churches. Well, everybody rebels, then we grow up (if we're "lucky" or blessed) into our maturity in Christ where we don't need that anymore. I think that was what Paul was talking about. I'm glad to see you're one of the "lucky"/blessed ones :) Mom.

At 11:27 AM, Blogger Dignan said...

I think I know that crew. :)


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