These blogs get harder and harder as each week comes. Not only is it tough to think what is best to write about, but it gets harder to also find the words to make sense and have the biggest impact in what we say. Usually we put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard as is more appropriate for how we actually write these) and we will write whatever comes to our minds, and for any of you who know me and Darren personally, you’ll know sometimes that can drag and go on a while. We don’t want to write words on paper and it not mean anything, we want something which talks to you, and actually says something of meaning. However, as I sit here and write this, I think to myself, ‘why do we worry so much?’ Although we may not feel it is our best blog, or that it doesn’t have some sort of deeper meaning, we never know who it can touch. One person may get different meaning out of it, compared to what someone else may see.
As we grow, we’re taught what is wrong and what is right. What is true and what is false. But there are other times when maybe the answer isn’t as simple as that, we need to sit and think about it, we need to work it out and take time by ourselves to work out how we feel, what we believe and what our own mind is telling us.
Catalyst Youth UK began as, and still is, a Christian organisation. Everything we do will connect to faith somewhere along the lines, as that is who we are. It is what we believe. However, one of the things we always make clear is that we want to see Young people grow as a person, we want to help them develop so that they can go into life confident and happy. If they come to faith, that’s amazing, however, if they don’t come to faith, if they don’t believe in God, then that is okay as well! We won’t stop working with someone, or for someone, just because their beliefs aren’t the same as ours.
I think some of the time, when it is come to religion, people are put off due to the fact that they’re not given the opportunity to ask questions, to talk about it and to be open. When I was growing up my mum used to take me to church most Sundays. I was very lucky with the church we went to, as nothing felt forced, it felt open and everyone was given the opportunity to share. There was no ‘that’s wrong, you shouldn’t believe that’, no one was put down for asking questions, and everyone was respected for whatever views they showed, whatever comments they made and whatever decisions they felt were best for them. However, I have had experiences in my life where I have gone to different churches, and it hasn’t seemed as welcoming. Where you felt forced to have an answer, where it wasn’t easy to discuss because I was afraid that what I said would be wrong, or in their eyes at least!
As I think about this, it reminds me of a film. An American Christian Drama film from 2014 named God’s Not Dead. The film focusses on college student Josh Wheaton who attends a philosophy class, where the uncompromising Professor Radisson requires all students to agree in writing that the Christian god is "dead". When Josh refuses on account of his Christianity, the Professor challenges him to defend his position that his god is real, which leads to a series of confrontational presentations by himself and the professor in turn, each making their case in front of the class, before a final debate.
Professor Radisson is an example of someone who was trying to force what they believed onto others around them, and although a lot of the students gave in and did it otherwise they would fail the class, Josh didn’t give in. Although we see the professor in the light of someone very forceful, and not a nice guy, one thing that he does do is he let’s Josh talk. He lets his views heard, and instead of just cutting them down, he listens. He also puts in his points, but instead of it being a one ended conversation, we see Josh being given the chance to discuss, debate and ask questions, as well as talk about his beliefs and his views.
My message for you today, and from us at Catalyst on a daily basis is, don’t be afraid to speak up. To ask questions. To share views. Don’t be afraid to be the one to say ‘I don’t agree’. But do it in a way that benefits everyone, a way which can teach and provide, rather than put down and take away. Be ready to listen to other people’s opinions.
Within the Bible there is a book called Proverbs. One of the verses in ‘The Message’ version says this:
Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.
Although that may seem abrupt, it works for the message which I am trying to share, because no one has all the answers. No one’s opinion is more valid than someone else’s. We are all equal, so give everyone the chance. Hear what others have to say. Don’t put up barriers, be open minded, who knows what amazing things could come out of it!
As Pastor Dave in the film says: It’s not easy, but it’s simple.
This week’s resource...
Film: God’s Not Dead (PG Rating)
Can be found: Amazon (and on Prime if you have it!)
About: Momentous and thought-provoking, a debate of a lifetime comes to a head in this compelling and critically-acclaimed drama, starring Shane Harper and Kevin Sorbo. When atheist lecturer Professor Radisson challenges his philosophy class to sign a declaration stating that 'God is Dead', devout Christian Josh cannot accept and sets out to prove God's existence. Take your seats!