In youth ministry one of our major goals is to help kids learn how to think, not spoon feed them what to think from a particular theological, political, and philosophical viewpoint. We get the privilege of showing them how big and wide and generous orthodoxy really is. We reveal that there are many legitimate perspectives and a humble posture in life is super key. Though all things are not equal, there is room for them and their voice in the faith. But this is a very messy way to do Church and it gets really difficult, especially when cultural issues come booming onto the main stream. Our students, and their leaders, have to try and navigate a very divided world. Our world isn't very good at seeing the other side. Heck, neither are our churches. But it is critical that we help our students exercise that muscle - learning how to spot truth wherever they see it.
But then there are times when a side actually does need to be HUMBLY chosen. A good example of this is the Black Lives Matter movement. A friend of mine posted on Facebook how she felt that this movement wasn't a legitimate movement and how it's grounded in false assumptions. She stated a study that showed how only 31% of people killed by police officers are black. That there really isn't a racial problem, since more white people are killed by police officers (around 49% of the police killings). She made an argument, an argument that had compassion and understanding for the police officers.
Now, I need to hear her, I do need to have compassion for the police officers - to understand that they are desperately trying to get home safely to their families everyday. I totally get that. But I also need to understand that she left out the other side of the coin - the fact that black people only make up 13% of the population while white people remain the majority at around 62% of the population - and she didn't mention the harassment that many blacks experience by cops on a daily basis that leads to their running from or not complying with the police. There is an entire segment of our population that feel powerless, alone, marginalized, abused, and defenseless. See, what we have here are two sides of a story. It's a very divisive topic - just bring it up and see what happens - or...
maybe you shouldn't =) By the way, there are plenty of people who have done the math, so don't just listen to what I say.
As I've tried to navigate through some of the hot button issues in the world today and help our students see both sides of so many of these things (including theology and religion), I've been challenged personally in immense ways. So what is true? What side should I argue from or should I argue at all? What's my responsibility? Where do I stand? What am I modeling to our very diverse youth group?
For me, I try to always look to Jesus. He always seems to be on the side of the weak, vulnerable, and the outcast. Oh, he could have argued from the side of the religious. They had a legitimate side. They were trying to keep God's people holy. They longed for the Messiah to come - to free them from oppression. Jesus wants his people holy and free and he could have easily argued from their side of the coin - it would have made sense for him to. But he didn't. He chose a different way. He chose a more encompassing and whole way.
When I'm in doubt, I choose Jesus. As youth workers in a very complex and toxic world, we must show kids the heart of Jesus.
Full of Hope
its slow to speak, quick to Listen
full of Faith
and its laced in Self-control
That is some good stuff, but it's difficult and it requires guts. Guts not to create more division. Guts to choose love instead of hate. Guts to choose to listen rather than to speak. Guts to choose hope instead of fear. Guts to be a peace maker - to stand and see the whole and to be a part of what God is longing to see happen - bringing heaven to the whole of the earth.
These are not easy times for sure - So, may our lives be marked by prayer and communion with God and may his Spirit animate us to be his perspective to a world that is dying for a better way. And may our students join this movement of Jesus with us. May those who feel unheard be heard. May those who feel powerless, may we rise up to support and join them. May we be light in very dark days!