Two disclaimers are in order before I start this post: First, I’ve never read any vampire stories, don’t know anything about vampire mythology, or the history of vampire (or werewolf) literature. Therefore, this post contain a lay perspective on those parts of the Twilight series. But then again, neither does most of our youth have these kinds of insights, so maybe my viewing do correlate to a “popular perspective” in that sense. Two, I watched the movies with the intend of seeing how adolescent relations are being constructed, for no other reasons, and carries that bias into my viewing. I owe this to Katie Douglas’ podcast on Twilight.

Confession session: I watched the first three Twilight movies in the past 24 hours. Next confession: I didn’t hate it. It wasn’t so gripping that I didn’t sit and work on other stuff at times, but it was a completely watchable movie. But I watched it with my youth ministry hat on, and I was extremely uncomfortable with what I saw.

I’ve scanned some blogposts from youth ministers on Twilight. Seems like you generally have three types of critique (yes, I know there is a lot of appreciation from youth ministers as well, I’ll refer to this at times, add a few positive elements of my own, but mostly I’m providing a critical perspective, so this is where I’ll focus).

As with Harry Potter 10 years ago or so, there is the obvious religious response to the fact that the film portrayed Vampires and Werewolfs in a generally positive manner. The idea that we are somehow exposing kids to the “occult”. I’m not that worried about it really. Strange vampire saga that frowns upon the killing of humans, actually outright rejects the killing of humans (although it’s accepted as a kind of “necessity”). I guess this is just a default position, but since I’m really not concerned about “vampires” in reality, I don’t think using these myths in stories are problematic purely because vampires are mentioned. I suspect that if I were to study vampire movies generally I might be strongly opposed to the portrayal of violence, but that’s on a different level. Anyhow, the violence scenes in the Twilight series can be described as “mild” to say the most, so except if you chose the road of total rejection of any portrayal of violence  (and then I’ll have to include much of our violent sports), I wouldn’t worry about this too much either as a youth minister. The only scene that is bugging me, concerning violence, is links to “cutting” in Twilight 3, where Bella cuts herself to save Edward. But I guess it’s debatable whether the link can be made to teen cutting. Oh, that and maybe the senseless killing in Seattle by the gang of “newborns”.

The second response some writing from youth ministry has to the films is the portrayal of sensuality and sexuality. A couple of kissing scenes. Again some complain, but except if you are doing a total clamp-down on any portrayals of teen sexuality this shouldn’t concern you too much. On the contrary, if going purely by physical intimacy portrayed in these teen relationships I would say this isn’t even problematic given the age at which characters are portrayed (taking Edward as 17 instead of 109 obviously). Obviously there is the fact that these values are blatantly described as “old-school”, and portrayed as the values of a romantic bygone era that needn’t exist anymore, it is quite remarkable that you have a teen best-seller making any case at all against sex-before-marriage).

I’ll add one more positive to the last paragraph, not concerning teen sexuality, but linking to typical portrayals of teenage relationships. Bella has an abnormally good relationships with her parents. On a first-level analysis quite nice to have this really. I bet most parents in our congregations would love to have this kind of nice and friendly relationship with their parents. Now obviously we must add that parents are portrayed as people who have no understanding of the life their kids are going through and wouldn’t be able to handle it if they did, but hey, parents are portrayer as really caring for their teens, and teens as loving their parents. So lets give recognition where it’s possible, and open up conversations with teens where those opportunities do appear.

However, I want to take on from the arguments on sexuality to get to the point I’d like to make. The film really has very little explicit sexual portrayals. However, the whole thing burns with sexual tension like little I’ve seen before. Maybe the author (apparently a Mormon) heard some of the popular phrases from teen sex education (or Christian high school youth cultures). You know, those saying that you should leave something to imagination, and those saying that you somehow get more “passion” if you let things develop without going into overly sexual experiences too early. Because this film with very little sexual scenes really has you smelling the sexuality every minute of it.

My guess however, is that it’s not the physical stuff that points to this, but the way the relationships is portrayed. From very early on you have this kind-of-typical teenage television relationships where each will do “anything” for the other (even go to high-school together admitting their feelings in front of all the judging eyes). Throw into this a “big story” and a few supernatural elements just to heighten it up. By the end of Twilight 1 you have this kind of super-charged I’ll-do-anything-for-you teenage relationship, where I’ll do anything for you goes somewhat above the normal, but I guess wouldn’t require anything more than a “reality check” if this is to become a model for teenage relationships. Some in youth ministry take issue with any form of commitment in teenage relations, I’m not sure this is bad however, definitely hyperbolic, but that I find an acceptable literary as well as cinematographic strategy. I guess the youth minister in me just have to remind teens that these relations actually happening and being positive at that age is extremely rare.

My discomfort starts after the breakup. Two facts might hide the deeply problematic structure for teen relations being portrayed. There is the obvious fact that this concerns vampires and werewolfs, and therefore shouldn’t be “normal”, and here the fact that I don’t know the myths might cloud my interpretation, since there might be long explanations from vampire mythology from what I’m about to say. However, our teens don’t come to the film with degrees in mythology, and not even with having read the books, so hear me out fans (give me the explanations if you want, but just see the links I’m seeing if you can). The second thing clouding our interpretation is that this is a movie and things end well, and we therefore are told that all the decisions made were good (although the speech at graduation might hint that the decisions weren’t good, but that late adolescence should be a time for making mistakes, so therefore again all’s well that ends well.

But I watch Bella in the months after the breakup, and I see teenage girls. The hunk which she believe to be the love of her life leaves her with some corny excuse about how it’s “better for her” if he leaves, and she goes into a depression. This is portrayed as totally disconnecting from all other relations, sitting doing nothing, and combined with the kind of nightmarish experience which if you do find this in teenage girls (I’m sticking to the films constructions of gender roles, but this can probably be applied to teenage boys as well) 6 months after a breakup you might want to get professional help for the teen. Even for a lay person in vampire stories the hidden idea that there must be some “supernatural” reason for this jumped out, but the film doesn’t portray this as far as I could see. All you know is that Bella experiences this hole in her sole which cause these extreme reactions where she can’t work through the end of the relationship in a healthy way. Worst part: it’s portrayed as a positive thing, since she is clinging to some kind of truth even though she doesn’t know it.

Then comes the adrenaline. Where the boy she lost becomes more important than life. Where just one more glimpse of him is worth risking life. This should not be confused with the idea of giving your life for the ones you love (which I think is a tradition we might not want to forget in this individualistic culture), Bella is risking her life for the romantic ideal. Edward, as the character willing to “sacrifice the relationships because of his love for Bella” is another conversation, and one which I’ll skip for the moment, so let’s continue with Bella and youth ministry. Bella remind me of the caricature of the teenage girl coming into the counselling office, not crying anymore, but determined to do anything for the guy she loves, although she has no idea why he is rejecting her. Sex. Alcohol and drugs. Rejection of family. This is the reality which I find connection with in the life of Bella. And this is portrayed as positive. Clinging to this romantic ideal in spite of all evidence to the contrary, going to the extreme “for the relationship”. We even have the “other guy”, the “best friend” whom she will use in any way necessary just to get “one more glimpse”.

All this might be responsible for the feel of extreme sexual tension I find in the film. I think youth ministers and parents can kind of skip over the vampires and werewolfs of the films, I find it just a continuation of the recent upsurge of fantasy (simply because we now have the technology to make really cool fantasy films?), one which we’ve debated in youth ministry since Harry Potter, and I think, at least in typical mainline and progressive environments, accepted as quite positive contributions to contemporary imagination, and hopefully helping along reading ability (which for Protestants should be a good thing). Explicit sexuality and violence I think we might also skip over. Our teens need to learn how to reflect on displays of sexuality which does not reflect reality (one of the biggest problems of pornography), but I don’t think these films provide the greatest challenge facing this.

But as youth ministers we would have to think about the way in which the romantic ideal in teenage relations are begin constructed. Specifically the role of women in these relations. If Edward is interpreted as the “older guy” it might become even more problematic. The scenes from much of Twilight 2 has shocking reflections of what happens to some teen girls after certain breakups, and we have to provide healthier ways of reflecting on this (Twilight 3 will fare somewhat better in my opinion, but I’m getting to 2000 words, so let’s end this for the moment).

The romantic ideal of Western relations are being pointed out as the cause for a lot of relational issues in our society, and the way in which this ideal it rooted in the construction of adolescence today cannot be denied. This I think is deeply problematic within a film which otherwise portray quite ‘conservative’ values of families and teenage sexuality, and even hints at a few counter-cultural (maybe too strong a word, but there is a hint) values (such as anti-consumerism in Bella’s approach to shopping and critique on the high school culture in her approach to prom).

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I sat in church one morning as the preacher was sharing a story about Shane Claiborne. Suddenly a mass of thoughts kicked in which sprang from this one insight: this preacher doesn’t really want me to follow Claiborne! Why would the preacher propagate the example of Claiborne, Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Madiba… (Jesus?) and various radical voices if I shouldn’t follow in there footsteps? This is the post I’ve been meaning to write for many months. The one I maybe never should have written.

Youth ministry has a way of becoming a kind of barometer for what is cooking within the church. Here is the very simple test: In the church we like telling stories of Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Shane Claiborne (whom I mention because a story about him started this reflection in many ways) and many radicals. But what would the middle-class church do when we take these examples seriously? If we make them normative for youth ministry? What if youth ministry become a place where we tell children that they shouldn’t worry about getting a job and good education, but rather give up money and possessions in order to live among the poorest of the poor. And what if the children of the congregation would follow through on this. What if they were to literalize our examples, understanding our sermons and the examples we use as something which should actually be followed through?

Reinhold Niebuhr wasn’t the world’s greatest fan of the Mennonites and other radical church-based ethics. But maybe he can help us in understanding this fascination with the radicals. In the classic Christ and Culture Niebuhr himself have to acknowledge that there is a certain fascination with these approaches where what they say and what they do actually come together. When we find these voices embodying a radical non-violence, actually living with the poor, we have a certain kind of respect for them. Niebuhr himself didn’t seem to consider the Christ Against Culture approach, where he would list the examples of Mennonites and other radicals, to be really helpful, and most mainline voices would probably be more comfortable with some of Niebuhr’s other approaches. Our continued use of example of radicals might therefore be out of respect, but I’m thinking something more sinister is at work here.

In line with liberation theology 101 we should begin to be skeptical when we see how these radical voices is being used. The overused quote from Dom Helder Camara enlighten us on this topic: “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” In the middle-class church we seem to like telling stories about the saints. But then the saints from Camara’s quote. Religious people. Those who give food to the poor. Those who practice Christianity in applaudable ways. We ignore the fact that these voices are calling into question the very existence of the churches in which we are quoting them! Because all of them, Claiborne, Theresa, Ghandi, Madiba (I have to add him at this point because of the frenzy running at the moment), Jesus, were not only the saints from Camara’s quote, but also the communists from Camara’s quote. They all called into question the middle-class white Western status quo (except for Jesus obviously, although it was another white Western middle-class that he was challenging). So maybe we like quoting saints. Not even the radicals from Niebuhr, those putting action into words, but those who participate in high-profile acts of compassion. But maybe something more sinister is at work here.

This obviously bring me to Peter Rollins (well maybe not so obviously, but is does). In one of Rollins’ parables (32 min into the conversation), he tells the story about the business man who lost his faith thanks to the preacher who prayed for him. This business man was using religion to define his being, while his material reality was that of being a corrupt business man. We could continue with hes corrupt ways because of the religion of which he was part, which he could use as lie to tell himself that actually his corrupt ways doesn’t define him.

But let me go somewhat deeper, into an argument which I believe might underlie Rollins’ story. In Zizek’s A Plea for Fundamentalism (at 25 minutes) he shares the insight of Agnes Scheller. Scheller was in a concentration camp in the 2nd World War, and observed that the largest group of people became a kind of “living dead”. They lost life, not even fighting for existence. Another group however resorted to a kind of egotistical life or death struggle. Everything was allowed in order to continue living. Lie. Steal. Fight for life in the most ruthless ways. But among this second group there was always (emphasize always) the idea that there is someone somewhere in the concentration camps that were able to remain a moral person. Should they however find that this doesn’t exist, they would become part of the living dead. The paradox he states: In order to be this total egotist, you had to believe that there is someone who hasn’t become this egotist which you are.

Zizek continue to talk about how religion keep capitalism in place. But at this point I want to move away from him, since the example he use is of religion that advocates a disconnect from the material reality which help us to fully participate in the capitalism reality (which is beautifully illustrated in Rollins’ parable). But in some mainline liberal environments the examples we use is exactly those who critique the same things Zizek critiques, who might agree completely with Zizek. We use these examples, the radicals actually living that which they say (or at least we believe that they are living what they are believing), but with the understanding that these examples are not to be followed.

Is it not that we share these stories to tell each other that “there is someone who was able to actually live the Christian life, and my identity is determined by being a Christian, not by what I am busy with daily”. Ghandi we obviously use in the church as a kind of Jesus-follower, ignoring his Hindu background and focusing on the fact that he liked the sermon on the mount. We call in these people and name them examples for how we are supposed to live, but there is a collective understanding that these examples shouldn’t be taken too seriously, although they should be considered part of the tradition which we are part of, they are Christian, we are Christian, and therefore we are part of those who actually live this radical life (although our very existence as middle-class church are shouting against this idea).

My fear is therefore that the sinister reality is that we call in people as examples in order that we can continue never to follow these examples. When do they move from being an example to becoming the soothing voice telling us that it is OK to continue on the path that we are on, since they have lived the radical path on our behalf.

On a side note I have to clarify why I have Nelson Mandela on this list next to Mother Theresa: Isn’t our reactions to health of Madiba a reminder that we have used him as a soothing voice for our own non-commitment to reconciliation? If Madiba was truly the inspiration we claim, then we should be able to let him go in peace, since a whole country would have taken over that which he claimed to stand for. Is the idea that Madiba shouldn’t die not the ultimate reminder that when we loose this icon of reconciliation, we (and I’m speaking primarily from the white community) would have to face the reality that we have not commited ourselves to reconciliation? (In similar fashion to Rollins’ parable and Zizek’s example from the concentration camp).

And then we need to go to the end of the list. Jesus. When Nolan writes:

“On the whole we don’t take Jesus seriously – whether we call ourselves Christian or not. There are some remarkable exceptions, but by and large we don’t love our enemies, we don’t turn the other cheek, we don’t forgive seventy times seven times, we don’t bless those who curse us, we don’t share what we have with the poor, and we don’t put all our hope and trust in God”

Why then do we call Jesus in as example? Is it because we think he should be followed?

I’m not against Mother Therese, Ghandi or Jesus. But if we use them to keep in place that which they were fighting against, then the faithful act might be to reject them.

I find the expectations we have of youth in our congregations more and more interesting. In a congregation where the average member will attend church every second Sunday or so, the expectation remain that our youth should attend church, Sunday School, as well as one more “youth event” during the week. Add to this some Christian youth group at school during a break. Yet, we continue to bemoan the fact that their is a “crisis with our youth” on the one hand, and talking about how the next generation will transform the church or Christianity or moral life (I pointed to some example concerning gospel music and the reference to “‘n Nuwe Generasie” (Afrikaans) as well as youth and racial issues)

Maybe these are connected: our continued enforcement of religious activities on youth at a rate which few members of our congregations are willing or able to keep up with, as well as the continued insistence that the “next generation” will be the ones making all the difference. But this always remind me of that scene from Keeping the Faith where Brian and Jacob tells each other that Catholics and Jews want their Priests and Rabbi’s to be the Catholics and Jews that they could never be. Is this what we are doing with our children? Requiring them to be the Christians that we could never be? Asking of them to build the church that we could never build? If it is, then maybe we are using our youth to mediate salvation to us. If we can say that although we couldn’t do something (get over our racism, go to church 4 times a week, or whatever), as least we could create a next generation that could do this, then their might be some experience of salvation to be found in that. Youth then become Priests, where they perform some “sacrament” on our behalf, or at least provide the promise of performing on our behalf sometime in the future.

At the same time their are limits to what we would find acceptable in their act of taking Christian life to a deeper commitment. If, for example, this would mean that they become a voice of critique against the church that we have sold out (be it to ideologies of race, consumerism, private religion), but critique which not simply chastise us for our sins in a way we would expect of something like a medieval purgatory (thus providing some pain, and afterwards eternal pleasure), but rather in a way which would portray our deep betrayal of the vision of Jesus, or which would require us to actually change the way live life, challenge that which we never even think about (thus becoming a form of critique of ideology), I think our reactions would be somewhat different. No longer are they the Christians that we could never be, but suddenly they become idealistic and rebellious. When they become prophets rather than priests, when they call for change, rather than mediate salvation to us who didn’t change, then I wonder whether we would still talk about the wonders of the “next generation”.

The two are similar in the sense that we assume that a next generation would be closer to where we should be (if nothing else, at least a sign of hope, a form of eschatology in a sense, where the future calls us closer to some divinely inspired hope of what we might become), but where the first seek to strictly guide youth into becoming the Christians that we could never be, the second would require us to change ourselves, to open up spaces where we can be changes by the radical critique which a next generation always carry into the conversation (if we allow them).

I use the plural “we” to in a way write from the perspective of congregations as I experience them, also because I’m not so sure I’m not guilty of what I describe.

In a brilliant paper analyzing research in the behavioral sciences titled The Weirdest People in the World? (HAT-TIP to Richard Beck) it is pointed out that

(A) recent analysis of the top journals in six sub‐disciplines of Psychology from 2003‐2007 revealed that 68% of subjects came from the US, and a full 96% of subjects were from Western industrialized countries

Furthermore

In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the premier journal in social psychology—the sub‐discipline of psychology that should (arguably) be the most attentive to questions about the subjects’ backgrounds—67% of the American samples (and 80% of the samples from other countries) were composed solely of undergraduates in psychology courses. In other words, a randomly selected American undergraduate is more than 4000 times more likely to be a research participant than is a randomly selected person from outside of the West.

This group is called WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) because, not only do they point out that not all studies on this group can be universalized, but in comparative research it would seem that this group generally lie on the extreme many different aspects which research has been done on. You can find many examples in the paper.

In a growing conversation over the past years many of us have become skeptical of the easy way in which we buy into American church models and ideas. Think about our models for youth ministry, mega-churches, emerging churches etc. Think about all the times George Barna statistics is quoted, usually with a disclaimer such as “we know that this is America, but we are only a few years behind them”.

Although this article doesn’t talk about church, it does raise the suspicion concerning the effectiveness of American church models even further. It compares Westerners to non-Westerners, only to find that Westerners are somewhat weird in the world, being the extreme in different aspects of their being, and not the universal example. The Americans are compared to the rest of the Western world, just to find that in many respects Americans are the extreme with the Western world. Other comparisons are also made, and some things which do seem to be universal is also pointed out.

Reggie has been pushing me on this point over the past years, and I’m more convinced than ever that he is correct: We need to do local research on church, society and theology. This do not mean we ignore American research, we can learn a lot from the vast amount of research that is being done in America. But the findings cannot be assumed to be true for our own context. Furthermore I would suggest that it would be almost impossible to engage American dialogue partners whom are unable to recognize the contextuality of their own approaches to church and theology (and sadly many of the American books on the shelves of our Christian bookshops, and speakers we fly in to “teach” us do not seem to have the necessary skills to recognize this, although they might mention “this is how it work in my context” a few times when talking).

If their is truth in the study in behavioral sciences, and if the behavior of a group influence the forms of church which gets created (not such a far-out assumption to make), then many of the typically American models of church created speak not only to a context which is different from the context in which I need to work, but are born from a context and speak to a context which is really on the extreme of society in the world. This might be the last place where we should look to if we were to find universal ideas on church.

This is not a total rejection of American diologue partners. I have learned a lot from American voices, but just a call that we listen to Americans as Americans. A country somewhere out there which seem to be quite strange when compared to the rest of the world. I am from South Africa, and this country is also quite strange when compared to the rest of the world. So let’s find ways of engaging our own strangeness.

I’ve often heard people tell the stories of how their children have become “colour-blind”, meaning that they don’t see race, and thus they aren’t “racist”. It’s a hopeful statement, talking about a future that can be different. It’s also a confession of sorts, saying that our children are able to achieve what we (“we” being whichever generation is saying this) couldn’t. It also calls out for redemption. No matter our past, we were able to give birth to children that are no longer indebted to that past.

But the important question would be: is it true? Are we creating a generation of colour-blind children? Is it even possible to be colour-blind in 2010? Or is colour-blind a myth created by the white liberals, used to be politically correct? A trend towards ignoring race in a attempt at sidestepping forms of racism had been identified in white studies all over the world. Would this comment on our children be part of that?

Obviously there is something very problematic embedded within this statement, since stating it already recognize our own racial struggles, and the fact that we couldn’t or wouldn’t reconcile with people from other races. And it’s deeply problematic is a white person and a black person, both 50 years old, with 30 years ahead of them together in this country, leave reconciliation to a next generation.

What bothers me is the fact that I doubt whether the next generation will be “colour-blind”. Maybe in the white liberal sense of the word, meaning refuse to talk about issues of race (which creates huge problems when it comes to reconciliation), but I doubt whether “colour-blind” will be achieved in the next generation – “colour-blind” in the sense that they don’t think whites should in some why continue to have specific privileges, or in the way where the humanity of all people of all races are equally recognized, and thus the death of all people from all races equally mourned.

Maybe what bothers me most is the fact that I’m wondering whether the colour-blind children myth might not be an easy strategy to postpone the painful discussions and actions that is so long overdue. If we can convince everyone that our children will be colour-blind, then it does in a way excuse us from the difficult work of reconciliation necessary today. This idea can be an easy strategy to claim that reconciliation has been secured for the future of South Africa, and that we can take if of the agenda.

The reality is however that our children will inherit our ideas. They will imitate the reconciliation that we embody. They will carry over the racialization that we received. Except if we work to intentionally change this. If parents, schools, society, media, and other role-players work together to slowly but surely become a mirror and a model. A mirror for our children to find out how they’ve been racialized, and a model for what might become in the future.

The myth of the colour-blind children is a hopeful myth. But even with hard work it will take more than one generation. By simply retelling the myth, without every saying: we will be reconciled with our neighbour. Us. This generation. Me. Myself. I will reconcile with someone, build a friendship with someone that is a racial other, and model the reconciliation which I hope for my children, this myth might become just another one in the line of hopeful stories which let us down.

(colour-blind is a misleading idea at this stage, and not something I propose that we make our aim).

This intro might be tough for some parents to read. Especially if you’re the church-going type (of whom I am a part), who find joy in the fact that your university-aged-children attend the local student congregation faithfully.

I remember a specific church “outreach” tour back in my undergraduate years (actually, this story was true of more than one such event). After being fed-up with the fact that for days without end the one group with whom a friend of mine was spending time with seemed to be talking about sex non-stop, he attempted to rather hang out with some of the other groups of friends in the (quite large) group. He returner a day or two later with the conclusion that it wasn’t only his own group of (mostly theological students) friend that was talking about sex non-stop, it was all students.

I guess I was reminded about that time again last night when I spent an evening with a group of students. Slightly younger than most of my friends, slightly more religious, and slightly more conservative, I was struck by the fact that they couldn’t get out of conversations with some form of sexual undertone (or simply blatant sexual references). Probably weirdest would be that the whole conversation was dotted by someone (random participants, not just one sour grape) reminding the group that they are “going too far”, or that “this should stop”, after which this same person would continue with the conversation.

In a way I have a lot of sympathy with groups like these. This are a generation that was raised with some of the most hypocritical approaches to sex. They find themselves in some tensious space between Victorianism and Hollywood. Not on the way from the one to the other, but in both at the same time. Victorianism has been full of hypocrisy since its inception, with an outward pretence of puritan moralism often covering an underlying hedonism. But these groups of young people experienced being raised on Victorian ideas, where sex was never discussed or even mentioned (and even pronouncing the word is often difficult of near-impossible for some), but at the same time raised on Hollywood, where blatant and extremely visual references to sexuality was part of the upbringing of even the most religious among them.

Neither these strong influences on their developing sexuality provided a healthy approach to talking about those things sexual. Maybe that is why there search for balance include lots of laughter about sexual practices considered “dirty” by Victorian standards and jokes about the sexuality of others within their groups of friends.

Update: After reading the post Tiaan said that I can mention that he was the friend from paragraph 2.

Are you a teacher, parent, youth mentore? Watch this TED talk. Yes go on, watch it now:

You can download it from here.

We struggle with youth ministry. And I say this not because of all the youth who are leaving the church. I say this because when I look at young adults, I see people who have been drenched with theology which are really harmful, in my humble opinion. We’ve sent our kids to 11 years of Sunday school, and if you’re in a super congregation, 11 years of whichever other youth activities, sometimes amounting to 3 events a week, and after 11 years they are stuck with theology which are really harmful. And here we are, me and you, and probably we’ve been through this process as well.

I get my confirmation class last year, and they are somewhat terrified of challenging God. But then they dig into Genesis since they have to make a sermon from it, they struggle with the narrative of Jacob fighting the man and then being told that he has fought with God (Gen 32). The theme of there sermon by the end of the year was that people may challenge God and ask God questions. And this isn’t some wild and wonderful insight. This is the tradition we’ve been in, but which we seem to be suppressing through the models we present to kids in youth ministry.

This year they get into the confirmation class, absolutely sure that God is on our side and not to be found with anyone whom ain’t a Christian. So we were reading 1 John 4. And we read it again. And we are still reading it, and then sharing what we see. And it’s challenging the popular theology that we were fed for so long in school openings, classrooms, CSA meetings, Sunday schools, and also church.

The task of youth ministry should then be to get youth to play, to fiddle, with God, or at least ideas about God, in such a way that they can grow up to have useful skills in doing theology in their daily lives – this meaning that they can bring the resources concerning God into conversation with that which face them in their lives.