Yes, ladies and gentlemen, as Christian media is apt to do, a very bad knock-off of another mainstream film has been made. This time, the victim is Sunday School Musical, made in 2008 (hence the photo). High School Musical was pretty bad to begin with, so one might well imagine the lame plot, bad acting, and poor writing in this "Jesus-fied" version.
Seriously, is it too much to ask that Christian actors hone their craft? Or that writers actually develop original, organic storylines…?
Stories… hmmm… while beefing off about the sad state of Christian media could be fun, that's not what I'm putting forth today. In Sunday School Musical, as the name suggests, the youth involved are involved in… everything: Sunday School, choir, morning services.
More and more I have been having some amazing conversations with young people born and raised in the church who believe that they have no story of significance to tell. None. Nada.
They accepted Jesus when they were 5, prayed the "Sinner's Prayer" (ummm… another blog), attended Sunday School, Awana's, King's Kids, Pioneer Girls, catechism, confirmation classes, Bible Study, choir, worship teams, Sunday morning services, Sunday EVENING services, youth group, leadership teams, missions' trips, and…
Nothing to show for it. Or so it seems to them.
The same narrative keeps threading its way through these troubled conversations: "I've known God all my life. I'm the good kid. I know He's saved me from something but… He hasn't DONE anything with me. I'm not like that bad kids who came back."
So I put out a question to you all — youth and leaders alike: do we (those of us raised and saturated in the church) feel the deep need to create our own story just to make it seem like God has forgiven us for something? Do we self-destruct, hurt, rebel, become angry or walk away because we desparately need to somehow feel that sense of being pursued by God who brings us back from the pits?
My sense is yes. We do. Not all of us. But certainly a good number of us, and if the increase in this type of conversation with youth holds true, more of us.
I'm not saying that raising our children in godly environments is at all bad. In fact, it is a beautiful charge given to parents from God. I do sometimes question the amount of programming we stick our kids in, thus preventing any out-of-church activity. Kids become so insulated that they have absolutely no room to fail, no room to truly experience grace, and no room to charge head-on into God on His terms. It's more on the church's terms.
Am I saying: "Go forth and sin?"
What I am saying is that many youth feel that by being good all of the time without any exposure to the outside world feel an uprising within. They see others who have been 'bad', the struggles they have faced, and the transformation they have experienced through Jesus. The "church-ey" kids see all of this, and wish they could have that too.
But no… they accepted Jesus when they were 5. Why should God take any notice of them now?
The flawed thinking/feeling continues. If the 'bad' kids experienced such radical transformation, then… being 'bad'=transformation.
The narrative thickens.
"If God won't give me a story to tell about what He's done in my life, I'll create my own."
Enter: cutting, partying, promiscuity, addictions, rebellion… we all know the list. Anything a kid can do to be 'bad', not always with the intent to walk away from the church, he or she will do just so they can share in the like transformation of their 'bad' peers.
Now, many of you parents and leaders are thinking: "That's just stupid!"
Well think about it… when all those angels are rejoicing over one sinner who repents, when the thief on the cross does his death-cross confession (wasn't a bed, that's for sure), and when Jesus talks about the worst of sinners loving more because they have been forgiven more, what's a kid to think?
Haven't any of you acted out just to get someone's attention?
Doesn't it make sense that when the message is perpetually stoned into our heads that 'the bad people will be forgiven much, thus love much', it will carve out some other consequences?
Of course youth want to create their own stories! When they see no sin in their lives (no sin that visibly shows God's working anyway), when they seemingly have done everything right, when they have been obedient, when they have been kind, when they have attended every single church event, but sense no love from God or others… but see the 'bad' being loved… who's attention will they go to any lengths to get?
It may not be 'right'. It may not make sense. And certainly, with God, it doesn't have to. But it is most certainly real.
When it doesn't seem like we have a story to tell that shares the redemptive work of God, humanity will sometimes crave that narrative so deeply as to create its own. I believe many youth are in that place right now.
What to do? Do we take it awayn from them? Straighten up and fly right?
Do we listen?