"There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church, which is of course, quite a different thing."
-Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
I just began my new job as Director of Youth Ministry at a parish in suburban Minneapolis a month ago.
So last weekend, I was manning my first middle school dance. These dances are fairly popular among the 12-14 year olds of the area, and I soon found out why. Sandwiched between the "Hoedown Throwdown" (which they played twice) were every explicit and sexual song from "You Spin Me Round" by Flo Rida to "If You Seek Amy" by Britney (which has an entirely different phoenetic meaning).
This all brings up my own ministerial and moral dilemma: how far are we willing to go to meet youth where they are for the sake of the Gospel? Being relatable is one thing, but changing timeless truths is another thing entirely.
My fiancé and I just hung out with a great priest friend, and we talked about this exact issue. The way he put it was, "What's the difference between bringing youth to the Faith, and bringing Faith to the youth?" He's hitting at a major issue in youth ministry, and a major sacrifice that too many ministers and churches make - sacrificing the truth of the Gospel for the sake of being "cool" or "relatable."
This is where we get "awesome" youth groups with rock bands and iPod shaped crosses. This is where we get megachurches that preach the "prosperity gospel" and tell people that if you're not rich, you're not praying hard enough (see: Joel Osteen). This is where we get denominations with moral teachings that change with the majority party in Congress. All these things lead people into an entertaining but terribly shallow version of "Christianity" that's focused on (at best) "being nice" and trusting God to grow your 401k or (at worst) dangerous, overly-literal interpretations of obscure verses from 2 Chronicles. I'm not saying that Jesus t-shirts are a stupid idea, but where do we draw the line? At what point are we watering down the teachings of Christ for the sake of being modern and relevant? And aren't the youth of today (or any day) attracted to truth when it's spoken clearly and consistently, no matter how counter-cultural it is?
P.S. I just ate the ears and head off my chocolate Easter bunny tonight. It's the most delicious part of a chocolate rabbit.
Now playing: Dave Matthews Band - Why I Am