Updated: Feb 12, 2022
Last week I did an atheist role play at Coram Deo Academy’s Flower Mound campus (This is different from the other CDA I spoke at, in Plano). I love doing these role plays. Not only are they fun, but I usually come away from them very encouraged, because even if the students struggle with the exercise, I’ve never encountered an apathetic audience. Students love this sort of thing and dive right in with little encouragement. Seeing that gives me hope.
It’s very easy to look at the current church landscape--especially when it comes to youth--and feel discouraged, because it seems like there’s so much crazy going on and not enough courage. The other week I was on a panel of teachers for a live parent Q & A about how best to reach Gen Z, and afterwards I thought “gee, I’m overwhelmed just hearing myself talk!” Everyone on the panel was detailing these huge, weighty challenges facing our youth today, one right after the other. At times it can feel like overcoming those challenges is like giving commands to a tsunami. But yesterday I saw some rays of hope that gave me a good boost in my step. Same thing happened when I did a role play at CDA Plano last year. The CDA organization is doing something right. To review: I don’t do the role play to teach the students how to argue. The training *can* have a bit of a debate-y feel to it, but if I only encourage them to train their apologetics guns on unsuspecting non-believing friends in an effort to “take out” or “overwhelm” the enemy, I’ve missed the mark. Rather, the goal is to wake them up to the need to develop their own Christian intellects--yes, with things like apologetics and philosophy--so that they themselves can have resilience against an aggressively oppositional world *in their own minds.* That is, the world is constantly trying to get them to compromise and cross the line, in subtle and not so subtle ways. The more they have prepared their minds by digging into the embarrassment of riches we have in our tradition (and currently! We have a very deep bench, as Greg Koukl says), the better they will be able to side step and manage the manipulation that comes from the world. Sometimes I elect to push their buttons a bit to see how they respond. That was the case here. I’ll make a snarky response, or use loaded words with rhetorical barbs on them, even be a tad condescending, just to see if they shoot back in kind or if it intimidates them. A lot of what they’ll face in the world is social bluster like that. Some good teachable moments can come out of those moments. In short: I hope to motivate them to take their mental and heart preparation more seriously now so that they know what to do with the doubts when they do come. That being said, whenever I go to CDA, I always come away with some things that lift my spirits. Among them the following stood out: *When students shook my hand, they *all* looked me in the eye and *every single one of them* had a VERY firm handshake. This was the case for both the young men and young women. Little things like that tend to stand out to me. *Watching them interact prior to each class, they really seem to like each other. I’m sure there is friction in places, but there is a collegiality amongst them that I’m not used to seeing. I’d like to think that’s the Holy Spirit. *During one class, a girl made an off hand, random comment that “they were talking with each other at lunch about discipleship and evangelism.” Think about that: the students--on their own, without prompting from an adult, on their own time, not as a part of an assignment, outside of class--took initiative to engage each other on a deep discussion on what discipleship and evangelism looks like. These were 17, 18 year old kids.
You coulda’ knocked me over with a feather. *The class began with a prayer and liturgical recitation of a foundational creed of the church, and ended class with a benediction. In my younger days, I perhaps would have written off ritual like that as meaningless memorization, but the older I get and the more I think about it, the more I see the formative and soul enriching value in things like that. Some of the kids might not see what those practices are really worth, but one day hopefully it will dawn on them.
*After the benediction, the teacher ended with a very prominently and genuinely stated “I love you guys.” This wasn’t said in a facetious manner.
I should start saying that more.
*Some classes and individuals struggled more than others, but some students did not let me get away with shenanigans in the role I played. In one instance, for example, a female student called me on the carpet--hard, in no uncertain terms--when I ran with the “faith is just believing without evidence” line. She decisively pointed out that I was attacking a straw man. I tried to confidently re-assert dominantly, but she was having none of it. I had to quickly change the subject and move on. Most students let me get away with that, and many even have that view of faith themselves. She did not. This made me glad.
SO: keep up the good work, guys. Glad my daughters are part of CDA.
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