Your missionary to Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, Rob Schenck, reporting:
Days 3 and 4 of Creation (The festival version in Pennsylvania--not Origin of the Universe Version of much greater substance!)
I wound up my part in this year’s Creation music festival by tossing the second half of my afternoon seminar to my twin brother, Paul. I had originally planned to finish it up and literally run for my waiting car so I could get to the Baltimore airport in time for my 6:50 flight to Tampa. I’m speaking Sunday morning at the wonderful Calvary Chapel South Orlando where my friend Charles Nestor II is pastor. The trip between the festival site and the airport was over three hours, making it a bit too close for comfort. So, at the last minute I asked Paul to take the second half of the presentation. To be honest, I felt he had a better handle on the material than I did. The title of my talk was “Juno’s Moment: It Has Fingernails.” Festival founder Harry Thomas had told me he was hoping for a pro-life message this year. I was all too happy to comply. As you know, Paul and I have given the last 20 years of our lives and ministries to championing this very first of our God-given human rights.
The title was taken from the film “Juno,” written by “Diablo Cody” (a pseudonym for writer . . .) and starring the precocious Ellen Page. It follows the most-time hilariously quirky main character, Juno McDuff, who at 16 discovers she’s pregnant. Her first impulse is to get an abortion, but after encountering a classmate holding a pro-life sign outside the clinic, she thinks twice about her “choice.” “Juno’s Moment” comes when Su Chin calls out to her, “Your baby has a beating heart ya’ know!” And then the zinger, “It has fingernails!” At that, Juno pauses but shrugs her shoulders. (It’s worth watching this scene on YouTube.) The idea germinates, though, and ultimately she decides to keep the baby and adopts her out to a well-deserving couple.
The film is enormously popular with young people. It garnered four Oscar nominations. (Although I’m not sure it won any.) When I asked the hundreds of kids who attended how many had seen it, a whoop when up and so did an overwhelming number of hands. The point of my talk was to come at this paramount moral issue from a completely different angle, and that is the question of “human rights.” One thing I discovered talking to kids at Creation is that they don’t list “abortion” or “the sanctity of life” as one of their top concerns. (We did scores of audio and video interviews.) When we asked them what they were concerned about, they said things like, “the economy,” “the war in Iraq,” “AIDS and poverty in Africa,” and “free health care and college tuition.”
As with any generational transition, these kids don’t use the same language or pursue the same associations as their parents. They want to make their own mark on the world—and serve Christ in their own way. I fully understand that. It was true of me 35 years ago. Back then I was a longhaired, counter-culture, last vestige of a hippie. Conventional “church religion” wasn’t appealing to me. The “Jesus People” movement was—and I grabbed on to it. Jesus was a radical who challenged the status quo. This generation is looking for a similar Savior—one who will buck the system and “speak truth to authority.” I don’t know about you, but I definitely see that Jesus in the Gospel. We can start there.
My brother made an interesting observation: The sin, sadness and problems of this time in world history is different from what shaped him and me as Christians. It goes without saying that it is that much different from what shaped their grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ worlds. The “enemy” in the world today is not communism or fascism, but killer diseases, tribal conflicts and what they see as rapacious capitalism that exploits the ignorant for financial gain. Whether they are right or wrong in these assessments, it is what is motivating them. Like the early apostles, we need to connect with those concerns and use them as platforms to deliver biblical and historically Christian truth in a way that connects with them.
My time at Creation was much more for listening and learning than for preaching and lecturing. I’m far from an expert in how to talk to these kids, let alone disciple, train and mobilize them, but we must. The average age of our Faith and Action support base is 55. We “senior Christians” may be older and wiser, but lack the energy, time and skills of these young people. The work of God needs them. “Of such is the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus said.
I thank God for the thousands of kids who committed their lives to Christ this year. (Our own Tanie and Jacqueline Guy supervised the extremely demanding prayer tent ministry.) Yet, these kids need a lot of spiritual care, teaching and training and direction. Pray for them and pray for us. I may be turning 50 this year, but I’m only now resolving to spend a lot more time with this emerging generation.
Thank God for our friend and Faith and Action trustee Harry Thomas who is older than me but more committed to kids than ever. He founded the Creation festival 30 years ago and is still giving it his all. Thank God for his partner Tim Landis and the more than 2400 volunteers who poured their lives into Creation this year. If you want to get the full impact, you have to come next year. If you’re over 45, bring earplugs—and an open mind and heart!
(Register now for a big discount at www.creationfest.com.)
Your grateful missionary to elected and appointed officials,
Faith and Action
109 2nd St, NE
Washington, DC 20002