The virtues of being out of step

A recent post by Rachel Held Evans has gotten a lot of play.

Here is a response linked to by a colleague on her Facebook page. In the spirit of dialogue, I offer it along with Evans’ link. The author ends the piece by sharing a bit of history.

Well, I’ll tell ya. I’ve been out of step before. I was a young fogey back then, with my high sacramental views and my reverence for tradition. I wanted the real thing, not the slogans and the fads. Back then, I was in step as regards sexuality and out of step as regards liturgy; nowadays, I’m more in step as regards liturgy and out of step as regards sexuality. but I haven’t changed that much: society has. And what I know is that the Church is always out of step with society, always calling people away from false values to true ones.

That means we preach against materialism and snobbery and going along to get along. We also preach against pride and lust and gluttony. Sometimes the conservatives cheer us and the liberals hiss, and sometimes it’s the other way around. But if you want REAL, Ms. Evans, it doesn’t come in a “New and Improved Just for Millennials” package. It doesn’t endorse your parents’ prejudices, but — here’s the hard thing — it doesn’t endorse your prejudices, either. It will change you, and you’ll be glad to be so changed; whereas, if you succeed in changing it, then you will feel cheated in the end. That’s REAL.

16 thoughts on “The virtues of being out of step

  1. I think the responder has missed the point; she’ s not suggesting she needs a “New and Improved Just for Millennials” package — she’s objecting, as are many, to the “New and Improved Just for Baby Boomers” version. I don’t think she means I’m sick of Jesus 2.0, give me Jesus 3.0 — she wants Jesus 1.0!

    Evans, like many of her generation (and the Xers before them) are asking for substance, for authencity, for connection with the real Jesus — not more lights and a better band.

    1. I follow you point, but my observation is that many of the points are prefaced by observations about her generation and then followed by what should be done.

      This may not be an explicit reference to a “just for Millennials” package, but I certainly see why someone would read it that way.

      I’m Gen X. My observation is that we have a generational struggle in which one generation’s preferences (baby boom) at being traded for another’s (gen y). Both generations claim they are just chasing Jesus. Both decry the other as being self-centered. Both often see themselves as more righteous than the other.

  2. Hmmm … the comment isn’t totally off-base. But the fact is that we’re hemorrhaging young people (especially as the UMC). There are some theological questions she’s asking, but I think ultimately what millennials are questioning is the substance of the Church while others think just changing appearance and atmosphere is the solution. Our times are fast moving, as are young people, but what’s lacking is true conversation.

    This is the hard work, preaching the ancient truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in an ever-changing landscape. Personally though, I think we should be excited in the UMC. We get the chance to try new stuff to reach new people! I mean, how great is that?

  3. Kiera Phyo in Great Britain has said that “Sin, repentance, blood, born again, salvation are foreign words that fail to culturally resonate leaving a generation to feel the gospel has little to do with their lives.” (Her video is at
    What concepts, what phrases have meaning to Gen X? Secondly, it Jesus had dies just last year, if we rebooted our practices & traditions, how would we worship? Would worship start with a potluck so that community identity was strengthened – and what liturgy (or any liturgy?) would we use during the gathering time?

    1. I like that video, although I’m not sure it is the words that are at fault for failing to resonate. I suppose I agree a bit with the post-liberals on this score. Christianity is always a foreign language that has to be explained to people. I don’t see how you talk about Christ without talking about “blood” or “cross” — words that seem pretty everyday to me.

  4. There sure have been a lot of condescending old people calling her a brat in my news feed today. I guess from my vantage point as someone who grew up Southern Baptist in the height of the culture wars and got away, I tend to resonate with what she writes and tend to feel a sense that young evangelicals are fed up in a way that isn’t bratty or illegitimate. Sure there’s nothing new under the sun etc. But there’s a real moment of transformation that’s occurring right now and I don’t it’s bereft of the Holy Spirit. Maybe some of the old people who know everything should do some listening.

    1. Morgan, I’m not sure it’s fair to pit “old people” against Rachel, or against millenials. I know plenty of “old people” who applaud her and plenty of young people who find her post lacking. It’s simple, as far as I’m concerned. You want substance in the church? Then be the substance. Take some personal responsibility. Stop blaming everyone else. People who are truly “longing for Jesus” will recognize this. The others will naturally wither and fall away.

      1. That’s fine Chad. But the patronizing tone in this piece seemed tailored for its own “You told her!” amen chorus and not a genuine attempt at dialogue.

    1. Very astute critique. I’m part of that Millenial generation she’s talking about as much as she is (which is to say, I’m 32 and at the very beginning of that generation), and I certainly see the value of ancient “high-church” liturgical services (I attend the high-church traditional service at my UM congregation). That said, there seems to be a lot of smoke to her arguments. You can’t say you want an end to the culture wars while still engaging it from a secularist direction, and you can’t say you’re truly longing for Jesus when you’re not willing to do what the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus tells you to do in the Bible–whether that’s divorce, adultery, fornication or homosexual behavior.

      1. I agree, Jim. I’m not sure I understand what is meant by “longing for Jesus.” Any true longing for Jesus will result in godly sorrow over sin leading to repentance. That MAY lead one to plant a community garden, but the church at her best is about transforming hearts. If all one is looking for is a place where their pet issues are being touted, where they won’t be challenged about sin, where they can just make a difference in the world, then you aren’t looking for Jesus, you’re looking for the United Way.

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