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What Do You Believe?

What do you believe? Christian Smith in his beast of a book Soul Searching found that most students who graduate high school cannot articulate what they believe and in many cases didn't even know what they believed. How important is it to know what you believe? Don't we just need to love God and love others and call it good? Well, even that statement--that we just need to love God and love others is a significant statement of belief. Are you sure we shouldn't hate God and hate others? Are you sure there aren't many more important things to build our lives around? Every statement we say and each moment of the day we are affirming or denying some set of beliefs. We don't even need to be cognizant of what those beliefs are for us to be living life according to them. Since we are going to be living according to some way of seeing the world wouldn't it make sense to take time to assess what that is and which way of seeing the world makes the most sense with what we experience in the world? Does anyone want to live a life that completely missed the point? I don't think anyone wants to but I think many do. These past few weeks we, the middle school community at Salem Alliance, have been on a journey of sorts exploring where and how to look for truth today and what does it tell us about the world, God, ourselves and each other? It has become apparent to me throughout this series that it is much easier to teach students what to think rather than how to think. Are we guilty of that sometimes in church? I'm afraid many of our graduating students don't have the ability to think critically in regards to issues of spiritual things as they enter a world that is increasing critical towards the church's perspective on spiritual things. This last week I was very encouraged as we explored the question of who is Jesus. I showed them the statement which was the core truth about Jesus as revealed through the New Testament but I told them that they could earn a dum-dum if they asked strong questions from the perspective of someone who didn't believe the statement. Hands shot up all around the room as kids asked incredibly insightful and thoughtful questions regarding much of the confusion and mystery of Jesus. The reality is that when they leave church they're walking in a world that predominately does not affirm the statements they do. If they never get a chance to think and ask from the perspective of many of their peers and assess the credibility of those different perspectives then their ability to stand on their own conclusions and articulate their whys and whats does down the tubes. If this proves to be too difficult I think we might just go back to telling them the answers.

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