Weird Christians

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Weird Christians

By Dr Christine Wood, Director of the Office of Evangelisation & Catechesis

In a post-modern world, it is not surprising to see a new movement, playfully called “Weird Christians”, described with fascination in the media. According to a recent opinion piece in The New York Times, these mostly young Christians are united in their flight from the “political binaries, economic uncertainties and spiritual emptiness” of the modern West.

Tara Isabella Burton writes, “What we have in common is that we see a return to old-school forms of worship as a way of escaping from the crisis of modernity and the liberal-capitalist faith in individualism.”

Adherents are not fleeing from liberal-capitalism towards socialist political systems, or a Christianity forged upon a social justice foundation. Rather, their flight is towards the rich liturgical, spiritual, and communal traditions of Christianity.

Burton reports, “Weird Christians reject as overly accommodationist those churches, primarily mainline Protestant denominations like Episcopalianism and Lutheranism, that have watered down the stranger and more supernatural elements of the faith (like miracles, say, or the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ).”

The phenomenon has found favour in Australia. Writing for the ABC, Siobhan Hegarty reported on a local version of “Weird Christians”, saying, “Australian places of worship are also attracting younger congregants through their history and ‘mystery’.”

So what are we to make of this movement of young believers towards more traditional Christianity? What is the allure?

Clearly, they are attracted to a sense of mystery. Hegarty reports that they “don't have to explain away miracles or fit them into a modern scientific system, but actually embrace the strangeness of those ideas.” Yes, they are open to belief in miracles! They accept the existence of a realm that transcends the scientifically verifiable.

Young people have a “genuine desire to enter into silence, mystery, music and ritual” which they discover in the old-school forms of worship. Liturgies celebrated with solemnity, beauty, and moments of silence, attract many young people, giving them a sense of community and purpose.

Beautiful liturgies transcend the centuries horizontally, incorporating the prayers and music of the faithful who have gone before us, and lift the soul vertically, towards our heavenly home.

“Weird Christians” are fleeing from the individualism of modern culture. We see young Christians seeking community with other like-minded believers. This is particularly evident in the baptism of young adults, who seek to be part of something greater than their individual lives. Through baptism, they become one with Christ, and assume their new role as a member of the whole Body of Christ.

If we all desire unity and something transcendent, perhaps these young people are not so “weird” after all.