Questions from Teens

I’m afraid of teenagers. Always have been. Even when I was one.  Patrick Mead, on the other hand, isn’t. He’s a preacher for a church in Rochester, Michigan who goes to local schools to speak with teens about Christianity. I recently saw a post at Patrick’s blog where he lists ten questions that teens in the public schools tend to ask him. I thought it would be a good exercise for me to try my hand at answering them. Of course, blogging answers is not the same as giving them out in real time but it’s still good to think about the kind of response I might give.

From Patrick’s post, 10 questions from teens:

1. Why do Christians hate gay people? Can gay people go to heaven? What’s so bad about being gay?

A) Some Christians hate gay people because they don’t understand gay people, God or themselves. I think a better question is, “Does God love gay people?” The answer to that is “Yes.”

B) It might surprise you to hear this, but the Bible doesn’t actually say that people go to heaven when they die. Seriously. Look it up. So you don’t think I’m dodging the question entirely, let me reword it slightly. “Do gay people live forever with God when they die?” People who live with God forever are no longer gay…or selfish…or dishonest…or sinful in any way.

C) Homosexuality,  like all sin, keeps us from living out the purpose for which God made us; namely to be His image in the material universe. All sin defaces that image. Homosexuality is no worse than any other sin in this regard. It just seems like it is because it gets a lot of attention from the media.

2. Why did you choose Christianity over the other religions?

Well, it’s not like I went online to, selected several religions for consideration, hit the “compare” button and then , after closely reading the resulting table, chose the one I liked best. Like you, and everyone on the planet, much of what I think, believe and know about everything has been inherited; I got it from someone or somewhere else like TV, music, books and even family and friends. I’ve chosen  Jesus over other deities and prophets because I think he was telling the truth about God, himself and humanity.

3. Will people who don’t believe in Jesus go to hell? How is that fair? How can God be loving if he sends people in Third World countries to hell just because they never got to go to church?

A) Jesus said that no one can come to God except through him. Now, this statement is either true or false. I accept it as true because I believe that Jesus was exactly who he claimed to be. Consequently, I have to accept that people who try to come to God through any other way will not reach Him. This is why it is so important to Christians to tell people about Jesus.

B) How is it fair for Jesus to be the only way to God? It’s better than fair. It’s loving. When we say that someone isn’t being fair, we tend to mean that they are not giving others their rights. You have to understand that God doesn’t owe anyone anything. He doesn’t owe anyone life or happiness. He gives life and happiness because he loves. When humans hurt Him by their sin, he doesn’t owe them forgiveness. He forgives because he loves. God doesn’t owe life forever with him, so God’s provision of  a way for us to be with him at all is an act of love. Choosing Jesus to be that way for us to be with him is his decision, not ours and it’s one he made in love.

C) God does not send people (from the First, Second or Third World) to hell because they never got to go to church. People go into hell because they reject God’s love. The question is, how can they accept God’s love if they don’t know about it? They can’t, which is why Christians think it is important to tell the story of Jesus through out the world. So, what will God do with those folks who never heard the story of Jesus and got the chance to accept God’s love? The Bible doesn’t address this question. In light of what God’s having made a way in Jesus for people to be with him forever, I trust that he is loving and wise and will do what is good.

4. Do you believe in creation? How can you believe the Bible and science?

A) Yes, I believe that God created everything.

B) The question assumes that they contradict each other. I don’t think that they do.  I think that the Bible and Science either address the same questions from different perspectives or different questions entirely. I think the real problem comes when we try to get our answers to certain questions from the inappropriate source. For example, when I’m hungry and I’m in a restaurant, I ask for a menu to help me decide what to eat. I don’t ask for a biology textbook so that I can learn how my food is digested and converted into energy.

5. Why did you become a minister/priest/pastor?

I didn’t. I started a blog instead.

6. Do you have doubts? What are they?

A) Certainly, I have doubts.

B) I sometimes ask myself “What if…?” What if I’m wrong?  What if  God doesn’t exist, or what if he does and he’s not going to forgive me of my sins? What if this group is right about God, Jesus, faith and I’m wrong? I don’t tend to think of these as doubts. I tend to doubt reports of miracles even though I believe that God can work them.

7. How many sacraments do you have? Why?

A) Um…not sure. I think two.

B) Of the seven sacraments of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, I see Jesus requiring only two of his followers, namely baptism and the Eucharist.

8. What does it mean to be a Christian?

To be a Christian means to follow Jesus. I’m still learning what all that entails.

9. Is there a heaven and hell? What are they like?

A) The word heaven has a couple of different jobs in the Bible. Sometimes it means the place where God is. Sometimes, it means the sky as opposed to the ground. It can also mean the space beyond the sky where the stars are. We know what the sky and space are like. As for the place where God is; I assume that it’s a good place. Hell on the other hand is a place without God and so I trust it is no where I want to be.

10. How can you say you are right and everyone else is wrong?

Understand that for the most part, people don’t make up their religious beliefs. They inherit them or they choose them. In some respects, it’s like joining Facebook or MySpace: you don’t register and then start ordering the network to function the way you want it to. Instead, you figure out what is acceptable use and decide whether or not you will follow the policy or not. If not, you either use another social-networking service or you start one of your own. You could say that I registered with “FaithBook” and friended Jesus…, but you probably shouldn’t. 🙂 One of Jesus’ status messages reads,  “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”  I believe him. If someone says to me, “All paths lead to God,” it’s impossible for me to say he is right, but so is Jesus. It is dishonest to God and an insult to your intelligence. After all, you know it’s impossible for “one way” and “all ways” to both be true.

I don’t know if these are good answers…persuasive answers…helpful answers, or not. But they’r what came to mind this time around.


Filed under Religion

3 responses to “Questions from Teens

  1. Tonio Green

    Your answer “Homosexuality, like all sin, keeps us from living out the purpose for which God made us” presupposes that homosexuality is a sin. Fortunately, the Bible never says anything of the sort. The Bible condemns certain homosexual acts, yes, but it also condemns certain heterosexual acts. For two people of the same sex who love each other to express that love physically is no more sinful than for two people of opposite sexes. And for heterosexuals to have sex outside of a faithful, permanent relationship that has been blessed by God is no less sinful than for homosexuals to do so. What does the Bible really teach about homosexuality? It’s in Matthew 7:1-5, John 8:1-11, and Galatians 3:26-28.

  2. amtog

    Thanks for the comment Tonio.

    You’ve raised an interesting issue and made a valid point.

    First, you seem to believe that there is a meaningful distinction between homosexuality and homosexual behavior. Could you explain this distinction and why you think it’s valid?

    Second, you pointed out the Biblical truth that sexual sin is still sexual sin regardless of the genders of the parties involved.

    Sadly, you posed a question which you did not answer. You asked “What does the Bible really teach about homosexuality?” and then pointed us to Bible verses which do not address the question. I think you know that Jesus isn’t addressing your question in either Gospel reference and neither is Paul in your reference to Galatians.

    Can you point us to any passages that address homosexuality directly? Are there any texts (stories, poems, laws) which affirm homosexuality/homosexual behavior? Are there any passages that affirm marital covenants between homosexuals? You say that the Bible condemns “certain homosexual acts”. Can you reference any homosexual acts which the Bible condones?

    Those would be useful for a discussion.

  3. amtog

    Tonio never returned. I’m not surprised. It seems that I’ve never been adept at initiating productive conversations with this blog the way other bloggers are able to. That’s okay though.

    However, despite Tonio’s hit and run commentary, I continue to live and think about issues brought up on this blog. The question “What’s so bad about being gay?” is one of them. A while back, I learned about a activist/theologian name William Stringfellow whose theology gave me a new insight to the question.

    For Stringfellow, human existence is characterized by enslavement to the powers of death or submission to the powers of life. (This submission to life is manifest in Christian baptism.) To put it another way, at any time, in any action, human beings are either colluding with Death or with Life. Consider the following:

    Humanity is a gendered species. As a rule, we exist as either male or female. Consequently, our gendered existence facilitates life, or we might say “the perpetuation of the species”. To engage in the sexual act of reproduction is to affirm life, to affirm the continuation of humanity upon the face of the earth.

    Conversely, to engage in homosexual acts does not facilitate life. Homosexual activity has no potential for, no possibility of producing life and consequently, cannot perpetuate the human species. In essence, homosexuality thwarts life. It colludes with death. This is one way to identify it as sin, for (Biblically speaking) sin is what leads to death.

    I’m confident that Stringfellow would not have agreed with this application of his theology, but it appears consistent to me.

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