Saturday, August 3, 2013

Nudists and Methodists

Yes, here is the post you have been waiting for.  Here is the post where I compare Methodists and Nudists.  Because we are basically in the same boat. 

NBC News posted this very interesting article with a few almost NSFW photos and a few shocking sentences - I mean, it's about nudists ... so ... read with caution, I guess.

For those who don't have the time to read a whole article or who are too afraid to click on a link about nudists while still at the church office - here are the opening paragraphs:

Traditional nudist Methodist groups are trying to re-brand their wrinkled public image by swapping out some of the older faces in online marketing pictures and replacing them with fresher looks. Yet their numbers are shrinking as former flower children slip into senior years. Since 2008, membership in the American Association for Nude Recreation United Methodist Church (AANRUMC) has dwindled from 50,000 to 35,000, says spokesman Tom Mulhall.


Some say the decline may be partly because some clubs and resorts in the gray end of the movement are inept at using social media to replenish lost members. But young nudists Methodists also say they don't always feel welcomed by the old-timers at traditional clubs churches - and many, frankly, just can't afford to patronize cushy clothing-optional resorts catered dinners and fellowship outings, so they stick to shedding their threads spending time with friends for free at open-air venues: beaches, hiking trails, remote lakes, small ponds. 

Do you see what I did there?  With these simple changes, doesn't this feel like an article that could grace the pages of any United Methodist publication trying to address the very serious issue of denominational decline and fleeing young people? 

This article continues with a formula that has become too routine for this reader:

  • complaints by young people in the organization about the lack of social media savvy
  • evidence of attempts to seem more hip
  • comparisons to similar organizations that attract younger audiences
  • reflective thoughts on the nature of the organization
  • a quote by an optimistic - but not entirely idealistic -young person who believes in the cause
Does this rundown seem familiar to you, too?  I've read a few too many articles about the decline in my beloved denomination. 

But here's the other thing that connects nudists and Methodists - we're not going away. 

It's not like young people don't think about being nude anymore.  Sixteen year olds are sexting suggestive pics to one another, so obviously exhibitionism is huge for these generations.  The reality is membership in an organization is sliding. 

In my generation, I find no lack of interest in issues of faith.  But, I sense quite deeply the utter disinterest in membership and organizations that my generation feels.  I don't blame them. 

The article about nudists touches on the idea of a loss of rights and power.  This theme is often hinted at in articles about denominational decline.  As the United Methodist church recedes, we lose the level of power and influence that we once held.  How sad that we think this matters.  What an indictment against us and against our future that we think this is important. 

We are Christians.  We follow Jesus the Christ who laid aside every scrap of power he deserved, knelt at the feet of his disciples, and then hung on the cross to die the most humiliating death imaginable. 

We cannot save a denomination for the sake of saving a denomination.  We must set aside the inherent power of being the denomination of politicians, businessmen, judges, and doctors.  We must strive for downward mobility, to scrape the very bottom of the barrel with people who desperately need to hear the good news.  We must save this denomination because we really believe in the good it has done for the world by the disciples it has formed - and because we have the resources and connectivity to do so much more.

There are many great articles floating around right now about the church and millennials.  Many stress the importance of authenticity, and this is absolutely correct.  

We must strive to become a church of nudists.  We must work to be a church that is open and honest. "Warts and all," as they say.  When we can put all of our "dirty laundry" out in the open and own up to our mistakes and failures we will become the authentic church that my generation craves.     

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