Reaching Youth through Modern Venues – Part 1: A Paradox or History Repeating?
One of my biggest goals is to find a way to reach the youth in ways that will create a solid and meaningful connection between their lives now and the life in times to come. This is difficult, because the state of the world is increasingly not on our side. There are more ways to deviate from the path and it is almost like the faithful are being tag-teamed by both humans and the tempter himself – if the former wasn’t the prey of the latter. So how can parents have hope that their children can comfortably embrace a life in Christ, without persecution, feeling awkward or, even worse, relapsing from the pressure and suddenly opening up to the excitement of sin? This would be something like the term in psychology known as cognitive dissonance: there’s no way to justify what one sees, so one gives in so that conflict can be avoided.
For all of us, not just the youth, modern times present a real problem for the continuance of faith. With numbers declining in most church organizations (I have to stick with the belief that there is one Church without denomination), it’s no doubt that the secular becomes more of a prevalent force on the young minds of today. And it can be viewed in the opposite way: as our fast paced culture of technology and sharing of information exposes addictive forces to the naïve mind, lack of judgment easily allows a young warrior to succumb to the temptations of pleasure and greed. The forces of sin are the parasites and the old ways of the faithful, who rely on a belief of the unseen, die out and in doing so serve as a catalyst for the eventual extinction of the bridegroom of Christ.
At least, that is what it appears. But, as I have pointed out in my previous blog posts, what we see and what is real are often two very different things. That is where the true paradox exists: the opportunity is in disguise, and where you would least expect it. This opportunity resides next to every fantasy and science fiction Hollywood story that comes and goes; with every new widget and social media outlet; around every corner that the internet turns and weaves around as its arachnid like legs spread its silken web of captivation.
That’s just why I wrote my recent novel The Prophecy of the Sacred Cross, book #1 in the Parables of the 24th Elder Series. As children of today are being pushed toward a more practical learning style, with a focus more on the abstract and less on the concrete, it was no wonder to me that the obsession with fantasy, magic and the like were ideal sources for one to find new ways to express her or himself, providing the potential to envision endless possibilities that would eventually lead to the transference of entitlement and the feeling of indestructible power.
I recall a recent conversation with my wife, where the topic of the music industry came up. “Why is it that Christian musicians seem to have lengthy careers, while there are so few of them compared to the mainstream stars?” It then dawned on me. It’s due to a lack of substance. Not for the Christian musicians, but rather for the mainstream (at least, the musicians I know of in the past few decades). Our culture has created a situation where we are starving for what is new; starving for what we can cling onto in order to provide for a sense of satisfaction and empower our minds to feel free and alive. But the sugar high only lasts so long, before we realize that it was nothing more than a few carbohydrates that allow us to sustain a temporary level of energetic passion but doesn’t help us grow in the end. For the Christian musician, her or his following would seem to be more permanent, because the focus in Christ is the substance which has existed before time, during our time now and for all the future time into the eternal. “And so that was just it,” I had thought to myself. “Now that our youth is focused on the mystical realms of magic, fantasy and power, perhaps it is an opportune time to relate to them the mystical nature of God and how He, along with all He created, is really what is behind the invisible veil separating us from immortality and happiness.” Perfect. I knew I wrote the novel for a reason!
It would, however, seem a bit dangerous and unorthodox to put everything associated with evil – technology, fantasy, materialistic… I can hear some of the opposition as I am typing this – right within our youth’s reach! Shouldn’t we cover their ears and protect them behind the walls of our homes, one may rhetorically say. But don’t they already have it within an arms-length, I would respond… rhetorically. Perhaps, I would continue, desperate times would call for certain measures that are not desperate but rather worthy of praise.
To really understand what I am saying, let’s look back at history. I am going to use Orthodoxy as an example, because it is the epitome of something that should have not survived had it been anything else in this world. A beautiful keeper of the truth of the Word, the logos (I love using that word) of which Christ Himself gave to his disciples who were the fathers of our Church, the Orthodox Church is today largely unchanged but yet still evolved. It has evolved not just in our understanding of our movement toward the divine, but also in the way it was able to reach out to numerous cultures and resist the destructive forces of sin. Check back for part 2 (starting with a little history regarding World War II), where I will explain a bit of this history and then relate it to how the youth will be the next “culture” to keep faith in Christ alive… at least to some degree (within the confines of Christianity) forward toward Him in the Church rather than backward into the trenches of sin. Reach the youth through modern venues.
Until next time,