If you wanted to change the world, who would be the best people group to convince of your cause? The answer might surprise you: teenagers! Hitler knew this well, and used it to fuel his regime of insanity and violence. He sought to spread Nazism throughout the world by indoctrinating and mobilizing middle school boys. Young people are capable, idealistic and passionate. They really believe that they can change the world.
Throughout history, young people have been a powerful force of change in political climates, whether in China’s Tiananmen Square or on the University of California at Berkeley campus. Even today young people across the world are standing up for what they believe. In Egypt, tens of thousands of young people recently demonstrated to overthrow authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak.
What about in America? What are our teens doing? Playing video games, uploading pictures to Instagram, and viewing the most popular Youtube videos? They appear to be apathetic and disengaged when it comes to political ideas, in sharp contrast to youth in other parts of the world. But this is not entirely their fault. Low expectations and the lack of a strong Christian worldview are the roots of the problem, and there has never been a more pivotal time in our country to awaken our youth. We are spiraling toward becoming a Godless nation, and the answer might just lie in the untapped passion of our young people.
We need to expect, as Hitler did, that young people have incredible potential to grab hold of an idea. Hitler’s ideology was, of course, catastrophically twisted. But what if the cause was true, just and fortified with the education of history in light of the Christian worldview? That would create a powerful force for change that could get our country back on track as a Christian nation.
Homeschooled twin brothers Alex and Brett Harris, believe society’s expectations for teens are far too low. At age 16, the brothers interned at the Alabama Supreme Court. At 17, they directed four grassroots statewide political campaigns, and at 19 they wrote a book entitled Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations. The book strongly confronts the idea of the teen years being a wasteland of rebellion and narcissism. In it, the Harris brothers argue that the word “teenager” did not even exist until the early nineteenth century: “Until then, we had thought of people in just two stages: children and adults. And while childhood might have its tender moments, the goal of the child was to grow up as promptly as possible in order to enjoy the opportunities and shoulder the responsibilities of an adult. The girl became the woman, the boy became the man. It was as simple and significant as that.” It is not the word teenager that bothers the Harris boys; it is the lack of expectation that has been attached to it. “The myth of adolescence encourages young people to remain childish for much longer than necessary. It holds us back from what we could do, from what God made us to do, and even from what we would want to do if we got out from under society’s low expectations,” the Harris brothers explain.
We have to believe that our children are capable of understanding the substance behind their faith. In the postmodern culture in which we live it is not enough to send our kids off into the world with just the faith of their parents. They need to not only understand the incredible body of information that supports their faith, but they also need to be able to articulately defend it. Sadly, while many Americans claim to be Christians, only four percent have a biblical worldview according to the Barna Research Group. A Christian biblical worldview is what lays the foundation for right decisions regarding today’s divisive issues — abortion, same- sex marriage, stem cell research and cloning. (It is also what keeps young people from abandoning their faith as adults!)
Four percent is a dismal number, but the pendulum is quickly swinging in the opposite direction. Many individuals and organizations have dedicated themselves to turning the tide on this very topic. The movie Monumental, which was directed by Kirk Cameron, was probably the most recent and notable answer to this dilemma. Although it spent just a brief time in the box office, the 90-minute documentary is designed to educate families on the accurate history of America’s origins. The Truth Project DVD series is another great resource. This series was produced by Focus on the Family and was created to teach teenagers a Christian worldview. Loads of valuable educational resources for every age can also be found on heritagebuilders.com.
There are a growing number of movements seeking to educate and empower young people. Classical Christian curriculums have become wildly popular in Christian schools, as well as with homeschoolers. Classical Christian education insists elementary students memorize the history timeline that begins with Creation, and intertwines important Bible events with other historical landmarks. The timeline is foundational to the progression of the stages that ends with high school students being able to research, write and debate any topic in light of a Christian worldview. Check out veritaspress.com for timeline cards and online classes or visit classicalconversations.com.
Teenpact is a national hands-on leadership school for Christian students. Fittingly, their motto is, “Changing lives to change the world.” Four-day Student Leadership Conferences are held in the capitals of 39 states, including Tallahassee. Their mission is to train youth to understand the political process, value their liberty, defend their Christian faith and engage the culture at a time in their lives when, typically, they do not care about such things.
There is no greater endeavor than to invest in the life of a young person, while they still have the faith of a child. Our youth are the future but our investment in them is the predictor of what the future will look like.