“What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”
Tertullian’s classic question asks us to consider the relationship between Greek thought and philosophy and its counterpart, Christianity and biblical heritage. Or, in simpler terms, the relationship between the secular and the sacred.
There are many secular rites of passage. Consider, for example:
- A Birth Certificate with footprints and handprints
- First day of school pictures
- A Driver’s License
- Purchasing a first drink at 21
- The exchange of rings and vows
- The first colonoscopy
- An AARP Card in the mail
Today in the U.S. is another: Tax Day.
But for all of its downsides, one’s first 1040 Statement is an important right of passage that marks the beginning of a journey from dependent to independent. It indicates a move toward self-sufficiency and should be celebrated by the Republic. Another citizen has accepted their responsibility for giving back in exchange for what they have received.The government should celebrate and positively reinforce every adolescents first Tax Return. Click To Tweet
We shouldn’t be too tough on the U.S. Government though, the Church by-and-large fails to adequately celebrate adolescent rites of passage as well. Some churches celebrate Confirmation, many churches celebrate graduation, but few offer anything in between.
I often wonder if our modern faith crisis is mostly due to our lack of challenging, encouraging, and celebrating movement across spiritual milestones.
Is our faith weak because we have lost our rites of passage?
I think so.
When the Early Church was faced with a highly secularized culture and weak faith within Christ-followers, they implemented broadly creative (and hugely effective) rites of passage to help move people toward deeper faith and celebrate that same movement. Many of our modern church seasons, programs, and events have their genesis in these ancient rites of passage. Sadly, they are but a shadow of their former selves.
Much has changed over the centuries. Many churches focus heavily on the proclamation of the Word, conversions, or other metrics. Even a heavy focus on discipleship and depth can sometimes become an idol that gets in the way of ensuring that those who are far from God are moved toward full and abundant life in Christ.
It’s easy to see why the government fails to take time to celebrate newly minted tax payers, there are just too many other things to worry about.
It’s easy to see why churches don’t spend more time emphasizing and celebrating spiritual rites of passage, there are just too many other things to worry about.
It is also easy to see why people stop working and paying taxes, especially when the government provides little incentive or celebration for so doing.
In that respect, it is also easy to see why so few adolescents (or others, for that matter) maintain a vibrant and growing faith… the church has provided little incentive or celebration for doing so.
PRACTICE: Imagine one Rite of Passage which could be implemented in your home or church to celebrate and encourage spiritual growth.