In this series, we’ll explore the resistance and costs that youth face for following Jesus in our communities: what does that look like for teenagers around the United States, Europe, etc.? Each article will aim to develop the natural relationship between following Jesus and being resisted by the world.
My parents are American-born missionaries. I grew up all over Europe and spent the majority of junior high and high school in Scotland. While I was never beaten or anything, I was persecuted. I’m so hesitant to say it that way, when violence is committed against Christians throughout the world. However, Scotland was hostile to my Christian faith.
Scotland is a liberal bastion, often outpacing London. Scotland was first in the UK to legislate gay rights, including adoption and marriage. David Murray calls Scotland’s legislative agenda “rabidly secular” (headhearthand.org). My friends loved and followed the works of noted anti-theist Richard Dawkins. Religious discussions often took on a poisonous tone. I remember being the only recognizable Christian in my graduating class of 200.
While my faith never prevented me from making friends, many of my friends were openly condescending and mocked what I believed. Others didn’t get it. Around the time the “Passion of The Christ” movie came out, I remember one friend saying he didn’t want to see the movie. He didn’t see the point in watching a “brutalized Jew.” To him, the Christian story was just gore porn.
As a result, I was guarded and careful with whom I shared my faith. I knew where and when my beliefs would not be accepted or tolerated. Most places didn’t seem safe. I quickly learned that I was free to believe what I wanted as long as I segregated myself in some Christian ghetto. To me, it felt as if the Christian Union on campus and church were the only appropriate places to be Christian.
Sometimes I let my mouth get the better of me. I would speak up in biology class about the false presuppositions of evolutionary theory to the snickers and stifled laughs of my peers. To my professor’s credit, he was gracious to his brash Christian student. But generally, I knew that if I were to share my faith, more than likely I would be fought on it. People wouldn’t merely listen and nod their heads politely. Most would try to refute my claims.
This made me feel like I had to have all the answers. Which is, of course, impossible, but I felt burdened to prove the veracity of my faith. I read Christian science magazines and inhaled apologetics textbooks. When my faith was the topic of conversation (again), I wanted to feel better informed on whatever topic they decided to throw at me.
While this made me a more informed Christian, it also made me more insecure. I asked myself often: What if I didn’t know enough? What if I didn’t say it in the right way? What if I couldn’t refute the way I was supposed to? What if the one argument I couldn’t counter was significant enough to dissolve my friendships and melt any chances of my friend’s salvation? What if I ruined my witness in some way?
Growing up in Scotland made me guarded and embarrassed about Jesus. It made my faith dry, argumentative and information-driven; and it made me insecure. I don’t think these were the appropriate responses, but they were mine. And as these reactions become more common among American teenagers (and I think they will), teachers must be willing to fight rabid secularism with a rabid gospel.
I’m not sure I heard the gospel in a way that addressed my insecurities or encouraged me to be bolder. I’m not sure I heard a gospel that was more about Jesus than about the logical correctness of the apologetics argument. I never heard the Romans 1:16 gospel that was “the power of God.” That would have changed everything. As we minister in a world that is increasingly secular we must be increasingly about the gospel.