So at Youth Group tonight, we discussed Injustice and specifically Racism. I had prepared a video clip (from “Remember the Titans”) and some discussion questions. I try to ask questions that give lots of opportunity for discussion because the youth group at the Presbyterian Church really likes to have an opportunity for discussion. In fact, I usually have to stand up at least once during the meeting and loudly request that they stop discussing all at once already.
And one thing that I have learned is that I should never assume I know how the discussion is going to go because I’m usually wrong.
I’m also usually grateful for the insight of the group. For example, Grace (who is consistently responsible for sharing our most random statements at Youth Group and then almost immediately sharing something incredibly profound) reminded us that whenever there is war, there is injustice somewhere. “Some innocent person is being treated unjustly,” she said. Another student reminded us that the church is powerful and “we should care about injustice because God created everyone in his image and God doesn’t play favorites.” Well put, Hannah.
We did focus most of our discussion on the injustice of racism. I asked if they thought racism was more of a problem today than it was in their grandparents generation. YES, was the answer (honestly, that surprised me). India observed that it is perhaps more hidden today than it was back then. I asked the students if they thought adults were more racist than teenagers. NO, was the answer. Teenagers are definitely more racist, but to teenagers it’s not as big of a deal. “Do you mean because skin color isn’t really an issue and so joking about it isn’t really an issue?” I asked. “Well, maybe,” Sierra said. “Sometimes it’s just like joking, but sometimes it’s for real.”
I asked them about racist jokes. Many of them said racist jokes make them uncomfortable (amen, btw). A couple said they know people who tell them. I asked them if they have ever been the victim of racism or if they have ever been with someone who was discriminated against. For the most part, the answer was no.
We talked about the church. Is the church diverse? Not as diverse as it could be. Would people of different races and ethnicities feel comfortable worshipping at our church? (BJ: “Hello!?! Does anyone remember AIMEE?” That cracked me up.) Well, maybe was the hesitant answer. All people would be welcome. Tess pointed out, “it’s always hard to go to a new church, anyway, so it would be hard to tell.” Elle suggested that anyone would definitely feel welcome at youth group and probably in the worship services. Is the church supposed to be diverse? That’s a tricky question for them to answer. “Can you force diversity?” Probably not. “A lot of churches are not diverse.” Well, that’s true–“11 a.m. Sunday morning being the most segregated hour of the week” and all. “Does it matter to God? Aren’t we all the same in God’s eyes?” Yep.
We shared Bible passages (Genesis 1:27; Romans 10:11-13; Acts 10:28; James 2:8) and spent a moment with each one, considering how it might relate to racism and injustice overall.
What can we do about injustice? Well, we start with ourselves. Not stereotyping, not telling offensive jokes or listening to them, welcoming and loving others. What can our youth group do about injustice? We can partner with organizations in our community that serve people who are victims of injustice, we can spread the word, we can pray. What can the Church (the BIG Church that includes all followers of Jesus Christ) do? Raise money, speak up, make it better.
Wanna learn a lot about important topics? Spend some time with a local youth group. Teenagers are smart and they are good at observing the world around them. My prayer is that they continue to struggle with these issues and allow the God who created all of us for love and peace to call them to lives of justice.