No Virgins please, we're Christian
Jan: Trevor, a friend, responds to Interpreting Virgins with some thoughts on issues the church really has to come to terms with if it is to survive beyond the current generation. The use of the word "slut" may not be common in congregations of the church, but the word's condemnatory attitude towards younger, and non "churched", people is there all the same. Trevor sees "Generation X" so often maligned by the church with different eyes. With his permission I have quoted from a couple of emails.
Trevor: .... I just read your "Interpreting Virgins" essay. So if you don't mind, I'll inflict some of my thinking out loud on you.
I have a problem with the ideas
that (1) a woman who has a child outside of marriage is a slut (remembering that the word slut has become a highly derogatory and demeaning word, in the class of words such as boong and kaffir, and has also been hijacked by pornographers in their usual demeaning way) and
that (2) Australia is in social decay.
My problem is that what I see about me doesn't support those ideas.
Jan: This is the key point Trevor makes. The churches live in self satisfied ghettos which morally condemn many outside of them, and yet as he says, what you see does not support the condemnation! It's not like we churches say it is!
Trevor: On this side of the country, we experience periodic episodes of letter writing to the local daily newspaper in which the thrust of the letters is that Australia is in a state of moral decay and the country needs to return to its Christian heritage to correct things. Things such as the rejection of marriage and the many children born outside of marriage (and Muslim women wearing hijab) are presented as signs of this moral and social decay.
My problem is that I look at the main group which this criticism is aimed at, i.e.. the younger baby boomers and the gen Xers, and I query their state of "moral decay". Sure, the majority of gen Xers that we know (including the majority of our past and present employees) live in non-marital relationships, some with children. But they don't steal, they don't murder, they don't rape, they don't fuck in the streets, they get angry about social inequality and injustice, they get very angry about environmental destruction in the name of profit, many of them get angry about the treatment of asylum seekers.
I'd class them as ethical, moral and principled. Indeed, apart from the facts that they live outside of marriage and that they don't attend church, one could say they display the morals and behaviour expected of contemporary Christians.
Jan: Two sayings of Jesus come to mind: "If they are not against us they are for us," and "You will know them by their fruits." What is more righteous, to verbally affirm some creed or confession (which you may practically ignore,) or to live ethically, morally, and according to principles?
Trevor: What the letter writers and the worriers about the increasing irrelevance of marriage seem to miss is that the "living in sin" gen Xers haven't rejected marriage, for the simple reason that no one has put the case to them for marriage. Similarly, gen Xers haven't rejected Christianity or organized religion for the simple reason that no one has put Christianity or religion to them (at least not in terms and language which they can comprehend). Women who have children outside of marriage aren't promiscuous - it's simply that they don't see the relevance of marriage to their loving relationships and commitments.
Jan: I reckon it's a moot point as to whether they've a) rejected Christianity or b) never seen it. Certainly most of them have never seen a Christianity that relates to them or their world. They do see something claiming to be Christianity in the media, (and sometimes some very unfair media presentations.) They rightly reject the dodgy churches the media sometimes show, and also the plain stupidity of things like believing in literal interpretations of Genesis. This of course is almost the same as saying "no one has put Christianity or religion to them (at least not in terms and language which they can comprehend). "
Trevor: If there is one group which has rejected institutional religion, it is probably us baby boomers. As I see it, most Australian boomers grew up in the 50s, 60s and early 70s, when kids were bundled off to Sunday School regardless of whether the parents were church goers or not, and when kids at school had to endure a half hour religious instruction lesson each week, often at the hands of some well-meaning but poorly communicating volunteer from one of the local churches. What it meant was that most baby boomers got some background in the Christian religion, even if they rejected it once they got into their later teens and early adulthood. Baby boomers have become the great rejecters of institutions - a reaction to or consequence of the 60s and 70s? I question if they have become rejecters of religion. Perhaps they fail to see the link between religion and what goes on in organised Christianity.
However, gen Xers have generally had no exposure to organised religion whatsoever. It's not that they have rejected religion and marriage - they've never been told about it.
Jan: In a later note, Trevor made a couple of comments about Gen Xers that ought to be heard by the church. They are a telling criticism of the church's self satisfaction with its theology and morals. We ought to be far more skeptical of ourselves:
Trevor: I like the gen Xers, although indeed they have their own problems. I see in them the post-modern skepticism about things that older generations had regarded as absolute fact ("what we thought was hard fact turns out to be somebody's propaganda" - Tom Wright). They are in your face honest. I suspect history will not be kind to the baby boomers. We started out in the late 60s and early 70s as the rejecters of institutions and cant, as the generation that wanted to change things and make the world better - no more wars, equality etc. But we seem to be ending up as the sell-out generation. After all, it's the boomers who have given the world HIH, One.Tel, Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen, and George Bush (John Howard's not a boomer - he came to adulthood in the 50s, when social conservatism, reds under the bed and White Australia were basic foundations of Australian society, and that's his problem - he keeps looking back to the golden age of his youth, which was Australia in the 50s, not the turbulent and changing Australia of the 60s and 70s in which many baby boomers grew up).
© Jan Thomas, Trevor M.