Friday, April 11, 2008
The questions of our young people
Click image to enlarge. Courtesy of "The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus"
For our youth these are the normal questions of their age. I grow increasingly worried about how we are failing in our job in helping them answer those questions.
I see two major reasons for our failure:
We Want To Tell Them the Answers - We know who you are and where you should go! So just do as you're told and all will be well. That hasn't worked for several generations now so I'm amazed that some folks insist on trying it. We do it through badly done teaching styles where to goal is to impart knowledge/wisdom/tradition rather than share in an exploration of them.
We Want Them to Find Out For Themselves - Here's the deal. I'm going to drop you into the middle of someplace you've never been and have no referents for. You don't really understand what's going on, if you ask for help people will tell you to figure it out for yourself and you'll be entirely on your own. Do this where the language is kinda strange to you and with your perceptions changing very quickly of yourself and everyone else. The concept is idiotic but we're trying this one as well.
Is there a didactic portion to what we must do? Yes but we must guard zealously against pedantry(def. -a narrow, often ostentatious concern for book learning and formal rules). We must allow our young people to question and to search, to even take the lead in that exploration. But we must also be there with them, prepared when asked to help them find the right direction.
This method of faith sharing is harder. It requires us allowing them to make decisions that will turn out to be wrong, to explore paths that have already been tried and found wanting. It means shutting up sometimes, waiting to be asked, walking next to them rather than leading them. Unless we do that we will share with them a faith that is not intrinsically theirs. It will be a shallow, thin veneer that will peel away under the least of stress. We must teach by how we live, how we make decisions, how we treat them and each other. It's always fascinated me that in one of the epistles the greatest burden, the greatest penalty for failure is placed on the teacher.
How we choose to answer those questions above is important not only for our young friends but for ourselves as well.