...And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognisable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was...

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Buddy Christ

I don't know about you, but I think the best way to get kids into the whole Jesus thang is to suggest to them that loving God is just like hanging out with the cool kids in school, only totally better, because, like, hellooo, this is Jesus we're talking about here, and if Jesus is your BFF, then you are sooooo going to be invited to all the cool parties. Just don't hang out with that nerd Satan. He probably wears a pocket protector, plays D&D, and -- shudder -- reads books for fun.

Look, I'm no paragon of piety. I'm a practicing Catholic. I go to mass regularly, and I try to live my life, and teach my children, according to Jesus's commandments. I fail often. I don't wish to derogate the depth of other people's religious commitment, but . . . come on. This "let them eat cake" philosophy of religious education that Professor Mondo deplores really is worth deploring.

Adolescents crave rites of passage; they seek challenges and initiations; they long to find a path into the adult world that they have for so long speculated and wondered about. Attempting to strengthen an adolescent's faith by telling him that Jesus is his best buddy, by grafting some anodyne notion of God onto the smug social hierarchies of teendom, is about the worst way I can imagine of engaging a teenager's mind and spirit. Adolescents don't really want to be told that Jesus is their pal any more than they want to call their teachers or parents by their first names. They want to he told something like this: "Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me." That's hard. It's not comfortable or fun or reassuring. But doesn't the path to adulthood involve learning to feel sustained without feeling reassured?

UPDATE: I forget to mention that these photos show T-shirts on display at a local Christian homeschooling supply store.

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