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Jenna Murphy
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As someone who is currently a young adult in our church I find it odd that I stand on the opposite (or seemingly so) side of that spectrum. The kids I knew growing up in school and in our church, some of whom I knew more closely than others, have all had very different faith experiences, haven’t we all? The funny thing is that while I find myself between youth and adulthood, I've noticed something about my experiences that sets me apart from the youth in (and out) of church. That thing, is that my life experience, while not always so different from the typical Warwick-ian kid's adolescence, has brought me closer to the church and accepting Christianity as a positive force in the world than it seems to have in the lives of other teens/young adults. I once had a friend who helped disillusion me at the raw age of 12 to the horrors of conservative politics, the dangers of forcing one's religion down another's throat (unless it was a cool Pagan one), the evil that was President George W. Bush, and the spiritual freedom that somehow came from not going to church and instead, fortifying your beliefs with an a la carte selection of various tenants of eastern religions, Wicca and "new-age" Communism (or whatever). I respected my friend for his independence, liberated myself from my old Republican ways and left the Catholic church, finding myself becoming friends with more and more like-minded teens. But at some point, I hit 17 and realized that nothing fulfulling came from lying to my parents about going to "church" (read: the town park/burger king)on Sundays. I realized that even though my politics and world view had changed, my belief in Jesus had not. Instead of letting my bad experience in a "religious institution that brainwashes people and believes everyone else goes to hell", I chose to find the type of Christians I thought I was, someone who believed that actual fellowship and genuine love was more important than "evangelizing", that you didn't have to be "Catholic in good standing" to take communion, that being a woman didn't make you less of a person and that being gay was not some kind of sin or disease. I sought Vision out, and I think this is where my story trails away from the stories of other youth in Vision. I needed Vision because I felt a need to surround myself with people who believed in the same Jesus I did. Not the Jesus who people used as a reason for violence or intolerance. I had been through depression, I had been through the "brain-washing", and I demanded better for myself. I knew that Christ's role in my life wasn't going to just die at 17. But I can't speak for the youth of our church. I don't know that they've had the same experience. We've all been through some of the same ups and downs and seen the same images over and over of a world broken by violence, much of which done in the name of our God. We all have family, neighbors and old 'friends' who to this day cast us disparaging looks and judgmental quips about how 'lost' we must be. It feels much more comfortable to take refuge in the arms of our "non-conformist" friends and admittedly, it can be overwhelming to tackle the idea of your own spiritual calling, I know. But I also think that making that tackle and realizing that you don't have to sacrifice your individuality for God, that He loves you even if you are a liberal bisexual interracial feminist girl (or whoever you are), makes rising to that challenge far more rewarding than running away from it. I think, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe many of our youth come to Vision with their parents and have been doing so since infancy. Of the 5 years I’ve been coming to Vision, I’ve managed to “drag” my mother with me twice. My grandfather has never come with me. I imagine they resist it just like I began to resist being dragged to a Catholic church and I suspect our youth sometimes feel as though they are being dragged along too. Some of our friends have flat out stopped themselves from being dragged and no longer go to Vision. The truth is, I can’t blame my parents for not wanting to be dragged along any more than I hated being dragged, because we all have very different ways of worshipping the same God. I think many of our teens feel the same way, still trying to decide who they are and how they worship, if they worship. For many of them, I doubt that they will have all the answers by 17, I sure didn’t. I still don’t. But I don’t think you’re alone Don, in wanting the youth to find Jesus the way you found Him, loving and accepting. I want very much to share that same sentiment with all the young people of my generation and at times, felt that same sense of ‘perhaps I’ve been naïve’ about this. I don’t “pity” those who have chosen to leave Vision or stop going to church. I can’t having been one of them once myself. Jesus didn’t teach me how to have a pity party, but believing in Him did teach me to be there when they walked away and to be there when they came back.
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Apr 28, 2011