If there is anything that makes me sad about millennial Christians, it's that there is a hesitancy to celebrate denominations or traditions. While that is slowly changing, I'm here to argue that it's actually good to find a tradition or denomination to hitch your wagon to - and I'll start with an absurd true story about a joke taken too far.
Seven years ago, I binge-watched Firefly for the first time. I was blown away.
I went to the college cafeteria to talk about it. I couldn't shut up.
Josiah, the victim in this story, spoke up and said: "I thought it was just okay."
And then I asked, "Why do you hate it so much?"
"I DON'T HATE IT STOP LYING!" he raised his hands up and down.
My eyes widened. I saw the opportunity for chaos, and I seized it.
And from that point forward, I spread around a rumor that Josiah hated Firefly strictly because his exasperation was hilarious.
Everywhere Josiah went for seven years, he was haunted by this joke. He did refugee work in Europe, a human rights delegation in Colombia, some work in Mexico, and travelled several states - and everywhere he went, this joke followed him.
Once, when I posted on his wall, his mom pretended (?) to publicly disown him over it.
The reason why this joke haunted him?
I'm a terrible person, and we both have Quaker roots.
The world I'm in, broad Anabaptist, is tight and close-knit. If you notice the details in that story, there is a culture of service, travel, and social justice within our world that's normative. Our Christian experience is deeply tied to living out our faith in a unique way that puts others first. Whenever I tell someone within my world I went to Iraqi Kurdistan with CPT, it's treated as almost an expected thing to do. On the outside, people treat it very differently - as if it's something only crazy people do. In fact, no one within my tradition's world tried to talk me out of it.
That's why whenever someone tries to sell me on non-denominational churches, I can't really do it - and it's because there's a lack of cultural expectation to live out my faith. I can easily be invisible in many cases, and there's a temptation to get away with only sticking to the do-nots of faith to the exclusion of what I should be doing.
I'm not saying my tradition are the only ones doing this correctly. What I am saying is that it's nice to know that, wherever I go, there is a larger family waiting for me. My kids are some day going to grow up in a church that puts Christ at their center and emphasizes love for God and for our world. They're going to have a healthy vision of Jesus that will look different from other places, and that'll be okay.
A part of my gift to them is that they know, wherever they go, a piece of home will always be there for them through that tradition.
Traditions aren't there to hold us down, but to open us up to a world where God is uniquely celebrated. No one has the corner on truth, but that doesn't mean we should silence all the voices and start new. It means we should celebrate and observe each other's differences and traditions.
Besides, as Tim Hawkins once observed, nondenominational churches are just Baptists with a cool website. Might as well commit all the way and proudly wear the label, even if you hang around your church still.
Or become Anabaptist/Quaker. The water's fine over here, I promise.
As long as you like Firefly.