One of the early assignments I was given in my new role with Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) was to interview applicants for our intern program. Hearing these undergraduate students express their passion was a gift. I heard much more than young adult optimism eager to conquer the world. I heard a depth of conviction that left me filled with gratitude and hope.
It is inspiring to meet young adults eager for responsibility: a shared corporate responsibility for the well-being of others with a vibrant creation to sustain us all. Individual advancement seemed secondary to a yearning for the advancement of a healthy and just society where all can flourish.
As a faith-based organization, CPJ attracts individuals anchored in faith traditions. For these young adults, their devotion to God is expressed in a love for God and others.
As a former pastoral leader, I feel proud of these young leaders. I hope they are products of our faith communities. But I wonder if they are reactions to our theology of egotism; a theology that defines individual wealth as a product of God’s blessing. Such a shallow understanding of God’s passionate love for all creation seems incompatible with the depth of yearning expressed by these young adults.
Discounting the value of baby boomer faith expression is not new. Many have witnessed the rising selfish focus of faith and concluded: “If that is Christianity, I don’t want it”.
But there seems to be a deeper discernment being expressed. It is an understanding that the values expressed by Jesus are not always being adequately reflected by the church. Young adults are concluding that what they have been seeing is, in fact, not Christianity – and they don’t want it.
Yet it is not an idle rejection of faith I am seeing. Rather, it is an active reconstructing of faith – a faith that views a struggle for a healthy and just society as natural action for those who are rooted in faith.
These are young adults that view lobbying and protesting as a civic and religious responsibility. They are not protesting because they are angry. Rather, they are protesting because they love God and others, so much so that they are unwilling to accept policies and societal structures that dismiss the most vulnerable.
Unfortunately, CPJ could only offer one single internship. But I am grateful to know that there are hundreds of others who applied and will be actively seeking places to express their passion for justice.
I pray that God would lead these young leaders to places where their voice of protest would be amplified. And I pray that love for God and all creation would increase so that others would join their faithful protest.