Thirty years ago the grocery store cashier would ask a simple question, “Paper or plastic?” A major public relations campaign was waged to make shoppers feel guilty if they refused the offer of plastic. A choice to refuse plastic was a choice to destroy the environment, one tree at a time.
Times have changed.
The California legislature recently had a contentious debate about whether to ban plastic bags. The reasoning behind the proposed ban? Plastic bags pose a risk to the environment. We are left asking, “What were we thinking? How could we ever have thought plastic bags were the answer?”
Thirty years ago my wife walked into a church for the first time wearing pants and carrying a NIV Bible. But before we got out of the car, she wondered aloud, “Do you think I will be struck by lightning?” She had been taught by well-meaning people that women wore dresses–not pants–to church. In fact, she was taught that it was sinful for women to wear pants to church. She had been taught that the KJV or ASV were the only reliable Bible translations. In fact, she was told that it was sinful to use other translations. Looking back, it is hard to fathom we ever believed that stuff.
In reflecting on my grocery store experiences with paper and plastic and my church experiences with dress and translations, I find myself pondering the future. What practices, beliefs, or restrictions are we currently holding to in our churches that we will look back on in 30 years and ask, “How could we ever have done that? How could we possibly have believed that? How could we ever have had rules against that?”
Recently Lourene and I had an opportunity to share the story of our spiritual journey over the last 30 plus years. We wondered aloud how we could have ever accepted the restrictions we did. And we wondered about our children. In 30 years when they are telling the story of their spiritual journey, on what will they look back with disbelief? I think I can predict some of the changes that will take place in their lifetime, but others will probably be total surprises to me.
It is easy for me to vilify the previous generation for the choices they made and the way they led the church. As my children look back over their church life and see inconsistencies and absurdities, I hope they will be more gracious to me than I have been to the previous generation.