The Problem With Speaking for a Generation, Gender, Orientation, Race, Religion . . .

Lena DunhamAs a young twenty-something single pastor, I was asked to head up the Singles Ministry in the Presbytery because . . . I was single.  Was I interested in Singles Ministry?  Not particularly.  But “being one,” I must know “what they like.

I honestly count on gay friends to be my go-to people for gay-centric questions.  I ask Muslim friends fundamental questions about Islam as if they all believe the same thing.

Here’s the problem:  expecting individual people to be the voice of their generation, race, orientation, etc. presumes there is actually a single perspective/culture for each.

While enjoying my All Church All The Time Lifestyle, I recently asked twenty-something TBC her perspective on what it would take to shift the church in such a way that Millennials would find meaningful community.  She recoiled at the question.

I can only speak for myself, really,” she wisely responded.

I have heard and read for years that Millennials, for example, are entitled and uncommitted, but – frankly – the Millennials I know are hardworking and willing to make sacrifices to reach their goals.  It also bugs me when people of a certain generation/gender/orientation/race/religion speak for their own demographic as if they have cornered the market on the characteristics and aspirations of everyone in their cohort, whether they are real or fictional characters.

The answer to connecting with each other seems to be more about authenticity (being who we really happen to be while allowing others to be who they really happen to be) than about creating programs  “that singles will like” or planting a church “that GBLTQ people will like” or  reaching out to “young families” by making assumptions about what “they all want.”

What if we honestly connected with people by asking them about their lives, their stories, their fears?  Before we started programs, before we planted churches, before we redeveloped establish churches, what if we simply connected with people we already know and people we meet in our daily living?  What if we stopped making assumptions about each other based on age, race, religion, etc. and simply connected as individuals?

Fun exercise: read through the Gospels and list all the demographics that Jesus encountered.

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