Things just aren't like they used to be, are they? That's a lamentable fact in some ways. But maybe there's something to be said for the freshening up of long-held points of view.
Did you know that watching videos of other people playing video games is a serious pastime? It is. Really. People invest large amounts of time watching gamer videos on YouTube. Some video creators have thousands of followers and their videos get tens of millions of views. Truth is, right now instead of reading this, you could be watching other people have fun playing video games. (But don’t click away just yet!)
The reason I know anything at all about YouTube gaming videos is due to my son. He is one of the YouTube watchers. He’s invested many hours in watching others game it up. He loves it… and I don’t get it.
I’ve tried. I’ve sat in the same room, in front of the same television, watching the same video as him. And while he’s chuckling away at the onscreen action and verbal reactions of the video posters, my thoughts turn to discreetly cracking my skull with a ball-peen hammer.
Before you dismiss me as an old crank and click away to see what CaptainSparklez has uploaded, let me admit that I’m sure I did the same thing to my parents. I’ve grown up in the MTV generation. Through most of my childhood, MTV aired nothing but music videos, and I consumed all of them… hours upon hours. It probably seemed like nonsense to my parents that I could happily spend so much time watching vague video representations of popular music. But I did. And I liked it.
My parents may have cast their own parents into similar confusion over Beatles’ records and top-40 radio.
Here’s the point: we have a general tendency to get set in our ways and become a bit close-minded. In my mind, playing a video game is entertaining (so is watching Journey hang around the warehouse district for 3 and half minutes). But watching other people play video games is an exercise in tedium. In my mindset, gamer videos aren’t supposed to be entertaining.
You may disagree. My son certainly disagrees with me. You and he may very well see something that I do not. And while it’s arguable as to whether or not I’m missing some hidden beauty in the world without being able to appreciate gamer videos, I think we can agree that I suffer from a bit of close-mindedness. I might benefit from seeing my son and his videos with a set of fresh eyes.
I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it. (Mark 10:15, CEB)
Jesus talked about approaching faith like a child. His teaching implies innocence and acceptance. It implies a sense of wonder and awe. It implies a certain amount of whimsy. It also implies a degree of freshness and newness.
Does your faith feel fresh and new?
Maybe it doesn’t and hasn’t for a while. Maybe it does now… but you’re confident that it won’t always feel this way (because, well, it won’t). Maybe your faith became so stagnant that you’ve all but left it behind. Maybe the fact that I even brought up faith is inspiring sudden urges for YouTube videos or ball-peen hammers…
Turning the Gem
Some rabbinical teachers likened scriptures to a gem. The more you turn a gem, the more ways it refracts light. They said that as one looks at the scriptures one must turn the gem, looking at them from many different angles.
Perhaps I’ve been looking at the YouTube videos from a singular angle—and might learn to appreciate my son’s view of them if I “turned the gem” to a degree.
Perhaps our faith suffers, too, when we neglect turning the gem from time to time—when we neglect to approach it with a sense of newness, whimsy, and wonder.
The Christian faith is highly communal—we are meant to practice it together. Being in community is one of the ways in which we “turn the gem.” Having others around us to challenge, affirm, or offer perspective keeps our minds open. Simply speaking with others about what we believe and why adds freshness to our faith.
Christian faith is also steeped in tradition. With 2,000 years of history, there’s quite a bit of Christian tradition to absorb, and sometimes we can get so focused on one aspect of tradition that we actually fall into a rut. Perhaps observing the practices or teachings outside of our immediate tradition adds a sense of freshness.
For example, Rethink Church is part of the United Methodist Church. United Methodists place a heavy emphasis on the writings and life of John Wesley. What perspectives might we garner from looking at the lives of early monastics like Anthony the Great or reading The Rule of St Benedict? Perhaps we turn the gem by looking at faith through the eyes of someone outside of our direct tradition, and identifying how it relates to our own or speaks to our own experience.
Certainly there must be more ways of keeping a fresh sense attached to faith. Is there something you do? Share your perspectives with the growing community of Rethink Church through our Twitter or Facebook pages. And stay tuned for more ways we seek out a fresh sense of faith.
Ryan Dunn is still searching for more spiritual clarity. He knows a few things about Chicago Cubs baseball, Star Wars, and Christianity--there in part due to some academic training and a number of years serving as a youth pastor for United Methodist churches. He's also learning more about being a dad, husband, and minister for the Rethink Church movement.