Over the last few days I’ve been lucky enough to be able to get in to our local secondary school to take a few lessons. The school have been doing some sessions on morality and they wanted to get a Christian in to talk a bit about the effects their faith has on their morality.
I was that Christian.
And very happy to be. I really love getting into the classroom with the students. It doesn’t matter what subject I get asked to speak on you can always guarantee some good discussion. In all honesty I tend to find that unchurched kids ask better questions than the kids in the church youth group. That’s why I love it. People are (for the most part) genuinely thinking through what you’re saying, evaluating it and coming back at you. I love it because, at the very least, it keeps me on my toes instead of getting comfortable and at best it’s a great opportunity to get the gospel into a generation that is growing up with almost no knowledge of Jesus whatsoever.
The basic outline for my lessons was to get the students to define what morals are before brainstorming where we get our morals from and how they’re formed. Then I would explain a little about where I get my morals from as a Christian and give some basic governing principles that are always in my mind – basically love God and love your neighbour, and how all of God’s commands basically come back to those two ideas. Then I would hand out some scenarios for them to discuss in groups before they fed their thoughts back. I would then be able to explain my response to the situations from a Christian perspective, pointing to some relevant verses and drawing on the 10 commandments as I knew they had already covered those in class. We could then have some discussion around that.
So I did the lessons and I enjoyed them, as I always do, but I have to say I also found them deeply disturbing. At the risk of sounding like an old man, “where are these kids morals”? I was really shocked at the general attitude to the moral dilemmas and I was even shocked that I was shocked by it. I began to wonder whether I’d been working in the church too long, insulated from the reality of the outside world. It just saddened me to hear some of the attitudes to the dilemmas.
The scenarios touched on things like stealing music, drugs, lying in court and abortion and I was shocked at some of the responses. The general attitude was that stealing is OK if you can get away with it and the people are rich, drugs are fine as long as it doesn’t effect me, you can do what you think is wrong if it’s part of your job and abortion is no big deal. The blase attitude that some of the kids talked about abortion as “yeh I’d just kill it,” was just horrific.
Of course when I put some real faces to situations some of their attitudes changed or they at least began to see other points of view to the situations. No-one was happy for poorer people to steal from them, that was out of order. It’s a bit different when the shoes on the other foot. The school also has a special needs school within it’s site and I posed a question or two about who has the right to judge someone’s quality of life as being deserving enough of life or not. The kids in the special needs school all have varying levels of disability and differing qualities of life so I posed the question; where is the cut off point? What boxes need to be ticked before you say no this child won’t have a good quality of life, therefore abortion is preferable.
I think working primarily amongst Christians, flawed though we all are, has lulled me into a a bit of a false sense of security. It’s easy to look around at the church and think ‘yeh, we’re all sinners but we’re not that bad.’ The Holy Spirit is at work in the church and has changed people to be more Christ-like. We’re all far from perfect but people are generally moving forward and becoming more like Christ. When this is what you see all the time, you start to assume that most people are like that, that there are basic levels of morality and even humanity out there.
And of course there are, but there’s also a lot of darkness. Hearing those kids during these lessons drew the community of the church into sharp relief with that of society. It reminded me just how bleak a state the world is in, how sinful it is, how no-one really loves God or their neighbour and what darkness and evil these young people are living their lives in.
The cross has never looked more important.
There is a plus side to all this though. It certainly made me look at the kids in our church youth group through different eyes. It’s so easy to look at some of them and be disappointed and frustrated that they don’t seem to be maturing or ‘getting it’ but when you look at their lives and attitudes next to some of those I’ve witnessed in the last few days God has clearly brought them a long way. It’s an encouragement to see how distinct some of them really are.
As I talked about this with some of my colleagues, one of them also pointed out that the fact that the darkness in the school grieved me so much was a testament to my own walking in the light. And I suppose that’s true. As the Holy Spirit works in us more and more our priorities and values should start to align with God’s. We should love those that God loves and be grieved by the things that grieve God. A personal positive then.
But there’s still a lot of work to be done in that school.