In a recent World Magazine interview, Jeff Meyers, president of Summit Ministries (which trains Christian students to think and act biblically) provided generational guidance for those in positions of leadership. Meyers explained that the younger generation has “trigger warnings” because they’re unable to cope with many ideas that are contrary to their belief systems or that make them feel uncomfortable.
What’s a Trigger Warning?
According to Psychology Today, a “trigger” is something that affects those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It viscerally reminds them of a past traumatic experience. A “trigger warning” meant to reduce distress by warning them about possible ways in which they could be “triggered” by content that could remind them of their traumatic experience. The warning ostensibly allows them to mentally prepare for the challenge of confronting potentially triggering material, or to avoid the prospective trigger altogether.
Safety: The New Virtue
In this vein, some college campuses issue trigger warnings to students, i.e., alerts about the potentially “triggering” content of written work, films, lectures, and other presentations. Likewise, colleges have turned classrooms and lecture halls into “safe spaces” where students are protected from words and ideas they might find upsetting. One can understand why churches that preach the Bible as the Word of God are increasingly seen as unsafe.
Such a state is heart-breaking to me as a pastor because I know our church is a safe place where anyone and all are welcome. But having said that, I must define what I mean by “safe.” Our church is safe in that those who come are loved and respected. We recognize every human being is a person made in the image of God and of immeasurable worth. We also freely admit that all of us are flawed individuals in need of grace.
For me, church being a safe place doesn’t mean truth is sacrificed for the sake of one’s personal feelings. Those who come to Faith Family Church will not be fed a diet of pablum and platitudes that make them feel good about themselves. This new safety being extolled is anything but safe. For example, it’s not safe to shun truth because it exposes some sin in your life. If you hear a sermon that exposes the evil of pornography, and you turn it off because it upsets your lifestyle, you’re putting your life and soul in jeopardy. That’s never safe.
A “safe space” doesn’t mean truth is sacrificed for the sake of one’s personal feelings.
This present generation’s love affair with safety—to the exclusion of truth—is a result of cultural conditioning that’s taken over rational thought. Secularism is quickly gaining a stranglehold that silences any truth deemed unacceptable to their worldview. God and the Bible have been jettisoned as offensive and harmful to society. It’s gotten so bad that if a preacher dares to name sin, he’s imposing behavioral norms that have become obsolete and no longer relevant. Thus, church has become a place to be avoided as “unsafe.”
God is Not Safe
One of my favorite parts of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is when Susan asks Mr. Beaver if the lion Aslan was quite safe? “Safe?" said Mr. Beaver, "who said anything about safe? Course he isn't safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Dear younger generation, that’s a beautiful depiction of God. He’s not safe, but he is good. He is the King. In Christianity, you must come to grips with the worst news in the world about yourself, while at the same time, embrace the best news in the world: Christ freely offers you salvation from eternal punishment. He’s the only one who can bring peace to that heart of yours.