The Great Scythe Hanging Over the Head of the Church, by Ashley Ariel

Part of ongoing series: How Millennials Who Gave up  on Church are Re-engaging Community and Redefining Faith

These doubts and desperate graspings have snowballed into a certain terrible urgency ready to sweep away an entire generation into nihilistic despair. Utterly convinced that this world, this church and this God simply cannot be moved to care.

by 

“Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

-Alfred Lord Tennyson, Ulysses

I have wandering feet. I was born in Orange County, California, but have lived in New England, New York and Minnesota and have traveled through at least forty of the fifty states. Washed up in France once and got air sick all over Bolivia on my sixteenth birthday. Mexico and Canada have been in the mix and to my eyes, the world in its gloriously, mysterious vastness is up next.

I think part of my inclination toward continual movement is because before I turned ten I lived in seven different houses. My track record continued into high school where I attended four different schools and then, finally didn’t graduate from any of them. (The GED is a beautiful thing.)

You might say that wanderlust has been imprinted into my bones, but these movements and bittersweet goodbyes are only a part of my restlessness. The vast majority of my discontent is that ephemeral longing for things yet unseen.

This disconnect grumbles and growls around me, simmering in my soul as I strive to hold in tension the beauty and the pain of this world. A great deal of which was brought about by none other than ding-ding-ding: you guessed it! The church.

But I am being unkind. (I often am). I think it’s an easy excuse to dismiss God on the merit of his people. Which is perhaps untrue and most certainly unfair and yet my history of stepping into the ring with the eternal has not shown me a good God reflected in his people. In fact, I think it is this rumbling, grumblingly tenacious fact that leaves me wrestling with God and holding his church at arm’s length.

I have seen both beautiful and horrible things done in the name of God.  And so much evil precipitated by those claiming to be his people that my natural inclination is to go running in the opposite direction. If God is shown through his people then we are doing a right horrible job of it. Myself included.

I know anger at the church and anger at God is nothing groundbreaking, but it is such a theme in our culture that in my mind it is the continual, piercing shriek of a kettle left too long on the stove and it feels liable to explode at any moment in my thoughts, in my actions and in the swelling dissatisfaction echoing around this great big place called Earth. This is the issue of our generation. This is our sticking point. How the church deals with this anger combined with that creeping, restless, wandering disconnect of so many in our culture is the great scythe hanging over the head of the church.

These issues are hardly new. But in our high-tech, “always on,” manically streaming world that has the capacity to create such joy and such shattering loneliness these niggling worries and doubts and desperate graspings have snowballed into a certain terrible urgency ready to sweep away an entire generation into nihilistic despair. Utterly convinced that this world, this church and this God simply cannot be moved to care.

Where is God in all of this? What is God? Is He the song that bursts into your mind at an opportune moment? Is He the words that spring from your lips in a moment of clarity? Is He the joy set free to dance, skimming along the page when you set pen to paper (or fingers to keys) to pursue creativity? Or is He the hand that helps you up after you’ve fallen down a flight of stairs in the miserable, drizzling rain of a Southern California afternoon after you have undone three surgeries worth of knee injuries? Is He the nonsensical word that you receive from prophets when you go to receive prayer? Or is He in the blank faces inquiring if, “It’s ten percent better,” when you go to get healing? Where is God in all of this? That is the ultimate question, is it not?

Somehow I keep getting pushed back into faith, into churches and steeples and good Christian peoples. I find myself back in Christian institutions that move me into questions and tensions and beauties and heartaches and mouthed niceties and breathed obscenities that make up my bizarre relationship with the human. And yet, it is from these very institutions that claim to represent the risen Lord that I have been dealt the swiftest blows of greatest unkindness. Where is God in all that? I’m afraid I’m not sure what questions I’m even asking anymore or if there are any answers out there to find. Life is a deliriously beautiful struggle and most days it is only the most unflinching, bulldog tenacity that pulls my faith and me over the broken shards of these doubts, clutching with desperate fingers at the razor-tipped edges of my faith…

Continue reading: The Church as the Image of the Invisible 

Author’s Bio: Not quite young and not quite bold. Such unkempt glory roils my soul. I wrestle with art and I wrestle with life. I walk with a theological glint in my eye. These stories are my journey.  Me, alone, throwing darts into the abyss. Here I go, shadow-dancing with the eternal, please join me if you dare.  I am the the Wild/Restless.