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 GodMart.com, 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.