For years, Christian churches across the United States have expressed a sense of optimism and hope for the future. However, many of them appear to be hijacked by negativity and sour attitudes.
According to Mikah Meyer of the Huffington Post, American Christianity seemed to embrace negativity. However, he witnessed a scene of positivity expressed by young Lutheran Christians at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America National Youth Gathering in Detroit.
"They brought a wave of hopefulness too strong to avoid," Meyer wrote of the event's participants. "As a volunteer at the event, I couldn't seem to go anywhere without encountering this zeal. Every walk through downtown or along Detroit's riverfront greeted me with a multitude of teenagers raising their hands for a high-five or cheering in elation."
Niraj Warikoo of Detroit Free Press reported that 30,000 Lutherans went to the Motor City on July 17 to both volunteer their time and worship God. They volunteered in neighborhoods, built homes, painted walls, cleaned debris and conducted other efforts.
"The ELCA has a phrase, God's work, Our hands, and this is the embodiment of that phrase," 17-year-old Jimmy Sanborn of Fresno said. "We are doing God's work right here with our hands."
Sanborn also talked about the gathering of Lutheran youth for nightly services at Detroit's Ford Field. Warikoo reported that this gathering helped young people connect with each other through their Christian faith and maintain their beliefs.
"It's moving," Sanborn said of the nightly prayer services. "There are times when you think, I don't know if anyone believes the stuff I do, and it can get to be kind of daunting sometimes. It's really awesome to know there are 29,999 other people just like me yelling their heads off."
Rev. Matt Bode, a pastor at Spirit of Hope, elaborated to Warikoo on the significance of the gathering of Lutheran youth.
"The Lutheran Church wants to be in places where they can speak about and learn about justice, and what it means to be God's people in relationship to justice and love," Bode said. "The gathering is amazing, a way to worship together, to have fun, and experience Detroit ...We're also doing lessons about racism and classism and sexism, and how our values as Christians push against that to seek justice."
Lutheran adult Julie Werfelmann of Fresno commented on how the youth cared "so deeply for other people" during their time in Detroit.
"They want to alleviate injustice. They want to be part of a group that changes things and makes a difference," Werfelmann said.
Based on that sentiment, Meyer wondered why American Christians have largely failed to embrace and express the positivity generated by the Lutheran youth gathering in Detroit.
"A quick search of recent news proves this, as a faith meant to be characterized by its 'good news' has become known not by what it's for, but by what it's against," Meyer wrote. "Christians in America are now best recognized by their feigned religious persecution, anti-Muslim sentiments, or their unwillingness to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding."
Meyer wondered why Christianity in the United States became "known for the pain it causes."
"Why aren't we known as the faith that seeks to feed the hungry, shelter the needy, and comfort the sick?" Meyer asked. "Why aren't we investing our resources in activities that cause people to say, "You are bringing so much joy!"?
Meyer challenged Christians across the United States to let the world know about "our love" instead of being "a faith focused on what we're against." He cited the "love that radiated from 30,000 youth in Detroit" as a good place to start.
"Instead of us teaching the children animus, maybe we need to let them lead the way," Meyer said. "Let them guide America away from a church hijacked by negativity to a place where we are known by our Gospel."