Wednesday, March 17, 2010

youth and interreligious conversation

Last night at hs youth group, a super cool guy, by the name of Rami shared his faith with us.  He is a Muslim, which means he practices Islam, or as he describes it: submission to God.  Rami was very honest and articulate about his faith, and shared openly about what he believes and why.  He was generous and kind, not judgmental in the least, and open to questions as well as eager to learn more about the Christian experience.  At the end of our time together, Rami prayed, one of the the five times during the day that he does an intentional form of prayer.

His prayer was at least five minutes long, and in mostly complete silence.  Everyone at our youth group was totally silent, respectful, and observant.  But what struck me most profoundly was the openness and inquisitiveness of our young people.

This is week four in a multi-week series of inviting people to come and share their faith with our youth group.  I have found that the youth are so curious!  They really want to know about the religious experiences of these people.  Sometimes biases come out, in both directions, but never in a seldom to never in a condescending tone.  This is led me to a hypothesis:

Young people are specially equipped to have religious dialogue.  Their brains are more plastic than adults.  They are not "locked" into one way of looking at the world.  They themselves are more likely to be honest about still figuring out their own faith, so the conversation tends to be more candid.  As they begin to understand their faith in the context of a wider spectrum of religion, they gain insight and wisdom.  This wisdom allows them to observe their own assumptions critically, and critical self-reflection is essential to authentic religious experience.  I'm going to go reflect on that for a while. 


Robert said...

The multi-faith serious sounds like a fascinating experience Wesley, and a very creative, enriching way to expose your youth group to other religious traditions from the basis of Christian spiritual formation.

I completely agree with your conclusion about young people's open-minded curiosity making them fit for interfaith dialogue and work. I am extremely interested and passionate about interfaith work myself. Have you read Eboo Patel's book, Acts of Faith: The Story of An American Muslim? In it he expounds on this idea of the critical role young people play in interfaith interaction, and how engagement with others can benefit their own individual spiritual formation.

Anonymous said...

Great blog. I am not sure I agree to placing adults in the "set in their ways" stereo type though. I meet more adults everyday that are willing to share their perspectives and "missing" components with respect to mortality. I would venture to say that it is more of a particular generation that is set in it's ways, and one that is nearing it's end.

Brian said...

Good blog, Wes. I think it's a cool series you're doing for your youth. I think it's great to think outside the box of Christianity for the kids. It's only when we know more about other faiths that we can choose and honestly believe in ours. If you only know one way of thinking, what is faith?

Wesley Menke said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.
Robert - I will check that book out, it sounds cool.

"Anonymous" - I don't recall writing anything disparaging about adults, only highlighting the gifts of young people which I feel are often overlooked. But yes, I do believe people of all ages have essential gifts to offer.

Brian - thanks for the comment, I agree faith requires making choices and commitments.

Angelina Duell said...

Hey Wes,
Hope Spring Break is treating you well.

I had a thought about your youth in the Bible concept. I was in an RE lecture today and the presenter talked about 12 year old Jesus in the Temple. I don't know if you've done it yet but that would make a great addition.

This post is really cool; I'm glad your series is going so well.