“That may be all right for other people, but that is not who we are. We are people of faith.” I know, it sounds like something our mom told us, which made us groan. Nevertheless, I am convinced that our willingness to utter words like these to our young and espouse them ourselves will be key to the future of the Christian faith.
But, for the sake of argument, let us say that our children are now adolescents. If there is one thing that teens dislike, it is being different from everyone else, especially from those they perceive as “cool”. This means that we must articulate the “differentness” of following Christ in winsome and attractive ways. It means we might consider the angle of “counter-cultural cool”, cutting against the grain of where everyone else is headed, becoming an individual made from a mold unlike others and being a honest leader instead of another lemming in designer clothes.
How can we articulate this in positive and winning ways? University of California psychologist Robert Emmons promotes what he calls “spiritual intelligence”, much akin to what others will call “emotional intelligence.” Emmons talks like this:
- A capacity for self-transcendence. What if the world we see isn’t the only world? What if it is not even the most important world? What if there are other compelling, determinative realities beyond our daily routine? Isn’t that what drives interest in movies like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings? As Christians, we believe the verdicts of this world don’t have final say; that life is meant to be lived out before the God who made and saves us; that in belonging to our generous, gracious God, our lives are not our own.
- An ability to sanctify everyday experience. For us God is not an idea or abstraction. God’s will is personal and God’s ways intersect our daily life at every turn. Being baptized means that our life story is richer and broader than the sum of individual experiences. At every turn, in the midst of our daily schedules, with its bumps and grinds, we are invited to see things differently, and trust that the ultimate triumph is in God’s hands. That is what Easter means: letting our life become caught up in what God has completed, letting each moment become saturated with healing grace.
- An ability to experience heightened states of consciousness. In a society constantly toying with altered states of consciousness, we look elsewhere for our high. I never work harder than in the weeks and days leading up to Easter, but I always look forward to it. Why? Because of the high it gives me: telling Passion and Easter stories, smelling the flowers memorializing your loved ones, immersing myself in glorious music, hearing the eternal claim, ‘Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!’ Does it get any better than that?
- An ability to utilize spiritual resources to solve problems. So often people say, “What do others do who are without a church?” They will say it in the depths of loss and when still flushed with joy after “mountaintop” worship. Others who have come to depend on God and one another through prayer feel much the same way: what do people do who do not avail themselves of this access that God has given us to him for comfort and guidance?