Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Ten Commandments, the Becomers, and where this world is going (I'll give you a hint: it's in a hand basket)

How would the world be different if everyone actually obeyed the Ten Commandments?

Let's read that again, shall we?

How would the world be different if everyone actually obeyed the Ten Commandments?

A pretty simple, no-brainer question, right?
Yeah, well that's what I thought too.
Until I asked a room full of 6th graders.

This is my first year teaching 6th grade Religious Education, and I gotta say, I kind of love and am equally terrified of this wacky bunch of hormonal, ridiculous and yet endearing group of kids.
Our class is using Encounter, a video Bible Study designed specifically for this uncomfortable and awkward age group.  Mark Hart is the host, and through humor, and relatable language, he brings the Bible to life, drawing the kids into the stories, engaging them in a real and meaningful encounter with our loving God.  It's a brilliant step, really, as this age group, who learns their most important life lessons through what gets the most likes on social media, is a tough nut to crack.  Throw in the fact that I would bet that more than half of these kids have not attended Sunday Mass since their First Holy Communion, and will probably not attend again until their Confirmation day.

So yesterday, Mark guided us through Egypt and Exodus, the Ten Commandments, and Moses and Aaron.  We talked about and brought to life the spies, and bronze serpents, and the Battle of Jericho- seriously exciting stuff!  And the kids were taking notes, and following along, and laughing at Mark's goofiness.  Good stuff. Real good stuff.  And then, it was discussion time.

I lead the discussion.  Unsure of where to begin, I decided to talk about what I know every 6th grader in Newtown worships and adores. Sports.  
"Who here plays a sport?" Nearly every hand shot up.  Gymnastics, soccer,  basketball, football, lacrosse, field hockey! You name it, Newtown plays it! Unfamiliar with field hockey, I asked a young girl to explain to me how to play, if I were to join the team.  "Can I run holding the ball?" She laughed, "Noooo!" So I asked again, "Well, can I throw it into the net with my hands?" This, too, got a big, "Noooooooooooo!"  Finally, after she shot down any of my suggested ways to play the game, I asked her, "Why? Why can't I just play how I want to play?"  And her answer?  Her answer was brilliant.
"You have to follow the rules, otherwise, you will get  hurt."

THIS. This was exactly where I wanted them.
THIS was good, folks.
THIS was going to be one life changing, eye opening, Ten Commandment embracing discussion, lead by yours truly!
And so I looked around, at the eager, beautifully and wonderfully made faces, and I told the group,
"God gives us rules in life for the same exact reasons we have rules in sports.  Only in the game of Life, we can hurt more than ourselves.  We can hurt our relationship with God."
If I were holding a mic, I would have dropped it right at that point and walked out of the room.
My work was done.

Instead of my dramatic mic drop, we quickly reviewed the Ten Commandments, and then...then I asked the big question that Mark Hart gives as the number one question for group discussion.  And I knew, I just knew, that this crew was ready for it.

How would the world be different if everyone actually obeyed the Ten Commandments?

Hands shot up high into the air, and I was just so darn excited to hear about the peace, joy, happiness, and goodwill that this world would experience if only we all followed God's rules!

I called on a cute boy with a mop of blond hair, and said, "Yes, you-tell me...how would this world be different if we all followed the Ten Commandments?" And with a total lack of enthusiasm, he shrugged his shoulders, looked into my eyes, and told me, "Boring."


I wasn't expecting that at all. So I dug a little deeper.
"Boring? How? What do you mean? I do not understand."

"Well, we would all be the same.  There would be no differences among people.  We would all have to be the same.  And that's boring."

Still, with my shovel in hand, I dug some more.
"Really? Okay. Um, can you give me an example? Give me an example of how if we choose to not steal...not kill...not want what other people have...how would that make us all boring?"

Well, cute little mop top couldn't come up with an answer on the spot so we agreed to table it and moved on to other thought provoking answers such as, "It would be BAD if we all followed the Ten Commandments because then people would lose their jobs!!!!"

Who on earth would lose their job? A murderer? Shop lifter? Adulterer? Because I mean, I have always been under the impression that cheating on your spouse was not something that comes with a paycheck. And if it did, let me just say, that would really make it a hard Commandment to follow.
Again, not expecting that answer.

"Who, honey? who would lose their job?"
"The police!!!"

Okay, now I will throw this sweetheart a bone...we are Newtown and we have had more than our share of police presence.  Another hand shot up clear across the room, and I prayed it would get us back on track, and so happily I called on him.
"Um, my dad is a policeman, and that's not true! They do more than fight crime you know.  They patrol traffic, and..." and before he could finish he was interrupted by another boy, "Well, if we all followed the Ten Commandments there would be no traffic violations..."

Good grief.  

Unfortunately, time ran out, and the kids scattered, and I walked to my car sort of shaking my head and feeling confused.  Were they just being goofballs? Did they really believe that following God was a bad idea?  Were they just playing dumb?  Seeing how far they could get me off track? It wasn't until I got home and sat with my husband at dinner that I realized what had happened.

Aside from the obvious fact that these kids have no idea what the Ten Commandments truly mean, these kids are also being raised by a world that not only encourages them to not follow rules, but teaches them that it is wrong to follow the rules. Dare I say, even prejudice to follow rules.  Rules exclude those among us that are different.  Rules are boring.  Rules keep you from being you.  Rules, especially those awful Catholic rules, don't allow you to be who you are.  Rules force you to conform. Rules keep you in chains.  Rules don't allow you to be happy, or feel your own feelings, or live the way that you want to live.  Rules don't allow same sex marriage or aborting your baby or dressing like a girl even though you were born a boy. Rules are not fair.  We have the right to be who we are, and to feel what we feel, and to become whatever we want, no matter the cost, no matter how insane, no matter how wrong.   And at the end of it all, it doesn't matter what God wants, does it? It matters what you want.  And anyway, if our God is an all loving God, then He will accept us anyway that we are, because God is love and love is a feeling and rules play no part in any of it and because even facebook told me that  #lovewins.

God help us.

This is the message our children hear.
All. Day. Long.
How do I know?
Well, I have four children.
One of them is a 6th grader.
And I follow them on Instagram.
I hear their conversations.
I check out their music.
I see what they watch on TV.
And they talk to me.
They ask me, "Mom, why can't a girl marry another girl?"
Or, "Mom, why can't a boy become a girl?"
And these are questions my nine year old asks me.
I was not thinking about anything other than how awesome I looked in my leg warmers and roller skates when I was nine.

And you don't need children to hear the world's message.
Just watch TV.
While snuggling on the couch with the kids, ready to enjoy a family Christmas movie, I could not get over the constant, inapproriate, in my face commercials. Sex, lust, violence, teen pregnancy....all while trying to enjoy Elf!  And the best part? (And by best I really mean the worst, but you know that.) This was on the ABC FAMILY CHANNEL. Of course, as you may already know, ABC has dropped the "family" (so boring and traditional) and changed their name to FREEFORM.

I googled the definition of freeform.
google says:
Not conforming to a regular or formal structure or shape.

Merriam-Webster says:
Created or done in any way you choose; not required to have particular patterns or forms.

The Oxford Dictionary says:
Not conforming to a regular or formal structure or shape.

Variety magazine printed this in regards to the re-branding:

The relaunch, which will coincide with the cabler’s popular “25 Days of Christmas” and winter premieres, marks a continued effort to evolve the young-skewing network past traditional family viewing and toward its target audience of “Becomers,” a network-coined term defined as those in the life stage spanning ages 14 to 34.
The Becomer audience — a concept ABC Family execs introduced at this year’s Upfront presentation — reflects the network’s efforts to keep up with its millennial viewers as they grow up. “The most important question that young people ask themselves as they’re going from high school to their thirties is, ‘Who am I becoming?’ So we call the life stage ‘becoming’ and the people going through it Becomers,” Ascheim explains.

The Becomer's. And yes. That is with a capital B.
This was my audience yesterday-the 6th graders, the Becomers.
My bad.
Had no idea.
Thank you to the network for understanding the wants and needs of my children and finally defining them so that they can get through this stage of life.
Now excuse me, while I gather us all up into this hand basket....

And I am sorry, but what exactly are they Becoming anyway?
Well, not normal..not boring...not regular....because who wants to be that?
They are not conforming, and they are free to create themselves as they choose.
Like a sponge, they are soaking up the messages from TV shows like Pretty Little Liars, The Fosters, and Baby Daddy.
And this is good news.
This world is finally moving in the right direction!

Dear Lord, have mercy...this is a train wreck.

I have another week until I am back with this 6th grade crew.
And while I am a little sacred and feeling a wee bit defeated, I am determined.
I am determined to teach them about our God; a God who created them and loves them.  A God who by the very rules He gives us allows us to live freely.
A God who made everything out of nothing, who can count the hairs on your head, who can change water into wine, which is just about the greatest and coolest miracle ever.
A God who knows exactly who we are to become...
because we are each made in His image.
Because He knit us in our mother's womb.
He made us, not the world.
And certainly, not a TV Network.

We need to point our children in the right direction.
Not the popular direction.
The right direction.
Who are they to become?
They are to become like Christ.
And there is nothing boring about that.