By Brian Kirk
I'll admit it. I'm as guilty as the next youth pastor. It is so easy to get preoccupied with the latest teen hot topics—Sex! Drugs! Rock-n-roll! Facebook!—that we sometimes forget the broader world that exists beyond the walls of the high school cafeteria and our cozy youth rooms. Truthfully, sometimes it's just easier to ignore what's happening in the world, particularly when some current events and issues have the potential to alter how our youth see the life of faith. Case in point: the revolution in Egypt in the past several weeks.
I wonder how many youth were paying real attention to the protests that unfolded in Egypt that so quickly brought down the often violent leader who held that country in a suspended "state of emergency" for the past thirty years. I wonder how many of our teens watched as young people flooded into the streets and stood together peacefully, demanding transformation and justice for their country. I wonder if our youth reacted with some sense of awe as in seventeen days this group of ordinary, banner-waving, chanting Egyptian citizens somehow managed to topple a powerful leader without use of violent overthrow, assassination, or military coup. I wonder what the events in Egypt might tell us about the power of non-violence to transform the human tendency to use coercive power. What I really wonder: might this example of the truth of non-violence be dangerous for our youth?
Think about it. What happens if teens discover that the pacifist life of Jesus that we often idealize and couch in metaphors turns out to be an actual possibility for a way to be in the world? The question of non-violence has never been an easy one for the Christian Church. Our history together has often been bloody and there are events of the Church's past that we'd just as soon forget. Historians assure us that the earliest followers of the way of Jesus were a pacifist movement, though that quickly changed as the Church became institutionalized and gained political power. Our teens today are probably much more familiar with the institutional Church that tends to see war as a necessary way to fight evil in the world rather than the Church that followed a Jewish peasant who was willing to go to his death rather than raise a fist in violent resistance. In many ways, the American church seems to have resigned itself to the notion that non-violence sounds good in principle but all too often feels it has to fight fire with fire.
Read the rest of this article at Patheos here.
Rev. Brian Kirk is an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and currently serves an inner-city church in St. Louis, Missouri. He also teaches as adjunct faculty at Eden Theological Seminary, and co-writes the blog rethinkingyouthministry.com. Kirk's column, "Rethinking Youth Ministry," is published every other Tuesday on the Mainline Protestant portal.