“I’ve come to believe that we expect too little of teens. We ask them in school to dissect Shakespeare; what are we asking them to do with their faith?” — Laura Leonard
This is a frustrating, difficult question. But we should still ask it. I currently teach in a small, rural high school, where a Christian walk is assumed and expected of everyone for the most part. Unless you’re one of “those” kids, that is.
I see firsthand how students wrestle with both the label and the socialized expectations of Christianity. There is often an oppressive weight in Christianized culture which seeks to shove and squeeze the soul through some kind of Play-Doh! factory. Is this just another plastic, rubbery byproduct of our consumer-oriented and mass production-driven culture? The new economy of the soul?
It’s hard for a teen when her spiritual Big Mac doesn’t look like her best friend’s spiritual Big Mac. And if it doesn’t stack up and mirror the illuminated icon on the menu, then she might return to the counter and exchange it for something else. Or maybe she will run for the border instead — and take her friends with her. Maybe she’ll conclude that a wrapped up burrito is a better, safer way for her soul to go.
I read Laura Leonard’s short book review today, and I encourage you to think through it, too.
“It’s difficult to write compelling fiction about a Christian character,” Leonard writes. “It’s easy to turn her into a caricature, to rob what defines her and every decision she makes — her relationship with God — of its richness and mystery. With young adult fiction, in particular, the temptation can be to preach, to model an example for how people should act rather than how they do act.”
She makes an important observation, yet Christian young adult fiction isn’t the last bastion of corruption. We’re guilty of this mindset in the church and in our personal lives. It’s not a new problem plaguing these modern times. It’s an echo of our enemy’s voice. Jesus heard the same reverberations in the speech patterns of the Pharisees.
The hamburger meat just stinks differently now. We’ve learned, I think, we can’t simply tell teenagers what to eat or even when and how to eat it. But I do believe they’ll take notice of how we grow our own gardens. They might be inwardly and silently suffering from a sick and bloated stomach. But they’ll notice.
They will come to the table when they’re called. Let us remember that the Holy Spirit is the Host, not us.