Sunday, March 13, 2005Last weekend I visited my parents for the weekend. On Saturday, my mother and father were out of the house for a while, leaving me with the responsibility of preparing dinner. Barbecued ribs. All five of us - the parents, the siblings and yours truly - were looking forward to the meal. My dad gave me some instructions and save for one crucial detail, I followed them to perfection. As it turned out, my mistake was correctable and we ended up having a pretty decent meal. My BBQ skills have lots of room for improvement, but I'm learning. When my father joined me in inspecting the goods on the grill, he joked that I need to take a class on how to grill. I pointed out that I had never before prepared ribs, and such knowledge is not organic in the American male. We had a nice laugh, but it caused me coalesce my thinking on the way my generation is learning to deal with being adults.
(As an edit, I should point that I am slightly ashamed, as a Southerner, of my inability to properly grill a slab of ribs. It's a problem I need to fix.)
Last fall - like a lot of other Christian bloggers - I read Al Mohler's comments on marriage. (See Part 1 and Part 2) My initial reaction was mixed. On one hand, I was thankful that a prominent Evangelical leader was questioning the notion that marriage was something to be delayed until we all had six-figure salaries and a massive 401K. On the other hand, I felt that Mohler was somewhat out of touch with reality. I continue to hold this dual opinion. Readers will notice that Mohler's columns are based upon a speech he gave to one of Josh Harris's conference. On dating. It seems as though Mohler's audience was primed for such a message. I wonder if his comments would be so well-recieved if given at any random Campus Crusade or RUF meeting on the campus of a major university like the Universities of Texas, Alabama, Georgia or Virginia.
A few weeks ago, Michael Spencer addressed some of his issues with Mohler's statements. Spencer's words provide a nice compliment to Mohler's. I think some marriage (no pun intended) of the two ideas would be quite fruitful. But let me chime in with the opinion of a twenty-somthing male, a voice that I don't hear much of in the blogsophere (at least as evangelicals are concerned). See the comments to Spencer's post and you'll see readers, and Spencer himself, noting that Mohler all but ignores the socio-economic factors affecting young people today. As I said before in my pieces concerning the Twixters phenomenon(follow thinks here and here), education lasts a lot longer than in previous years. Many, many students remain in undergraduate programs for five years, to say nothing of post-undergraduate education. It's disappointing that a prominent evangelical leader puts forth such an uncritical analysis of a major issue.
Equally disappointing is Mohler's failure to look in the mirror. Not as an individual, but as an evangelical. Where in the evangelical community is there a serious body of believers raising mature teenagers? I'm not talking about nice, clean-cut, cookie-cutter kids with good grades and a shelf full of CCM. Nor am I addressing the growing but still small number of bloggers who are clearly raising families in a traditional context that goes against the grain of our consumerist culture. I am talking about mature, reasonably adjusted young people who are equipped to handle some level of mature relationships. To call the message concerning dating and marriage within the evangelical culture mixed would be to speak too highly of a state of confusion. We're told to kiss dating goodbye. We're told to "court." We're told to only date someone we're willing to marry. We're told hang out in groups. We're told to not get married until after college. Your average evangelical youth group will here a plethora of messages about dating and marriage and sex from all of the camps and conferences it attends, to say nothing of the words from parents and pastors and youth leaders. It should come as no surprised that a great many Christians in their 20s and 30s just don't know what they're doing. With all due respect, Mohler would be well-served to leave the seminary campus and spend some time on the campus of a state university. He might understand what life is like for the rest of us.
Simply put, my generation has not, whether by community, school or church, been prepared for the kind of life that Mohler attacks. It's not that he's wrong so much in his conclusion as he is wrong in his assumptions. This kind of maturity is not organic. We are not consciously turning away from a life of marriage and family. To join with the changes in socio-economic conditions, we have not and are not being raised to live the kind of life that Mohler advocates. For the singly thirty-something, the ball is in their court. But for the rest of America's Christians, the ball is in the court of parents and churches. Change must be brought about from the outside; children, teenagers and college students must have the support of their churches and families. We cannot be allowed to live as clean-cut hedonists through high school and college and then have people like Mohler expect us to be married and birthin' babies before we turn twenty-five. Growing up physically is natural; emotional and spiritual maturity must be supported by those around us.