Godless

You know, teens are really with it. I know adults think that the older generations create the trends, that they know all thatís out there, and if they donít know whatís going on, itís because ěchooseî not to be on top of social issues since they have ěmore importantî things to do: whatever. Teens care: they research: they are with it.

When I worked in the young adult section of the library in Boise, I noticed that teen magazines came out with the newest trends before the adult magazines did. Seventeen had advertisements for new makeup, new clothes, new movies before In Style did. They had articles on Iming, texting, and being tech-savvy when Cosmo was rerunning yet another edition of ěthe one thing that will drive him wild.î

My teen days have long since faded into the past, but I try to maintain ties with youth in a variety of ways: checking out websites, reading blogs (Ypulse is fantastic!), and yesterday, I checked out some young adult books. Theyíre fast, easy, entertaining reads which is really nice: I mean, do I need to read Faulkner every day?

Yesterdayís pick was titled Godless. I was drawn to it because a) of its title, 2) because of the shiny gold sticker on the cover declaring it a ěNational Book Award Winnerî, and iii) my son actually knocked if off the shelf, and I was too lazy to put it back in alphabetical order.

The storyís about an agnostic teen whoís tired of his over-religious parents and decides to create his own god – the townís water tower. He and his friends create their own religious cult called ěChutengodianismî full of history, traditions, and rituals centered around the ěten-legged oneî – and of course, they create all sorts of trouble.

Some of the quotes were great:

The purported idea of [Teen Power Outreach – a youth group his father makes him attend] is to give kids a chance to talk openly and honestly about God, religion, and Catholicism. But there is also a secret agenda to turn us all into monks and nuns, at least in terms of our relations with the opposite sex.

Father Haynes, a thousand years old at least, is standing in the pulpit delivering one of his famous sermons on selflessness. His voice rises and falls like the sound of a crop duster passing back and forth over a field, spraying us with words. Iíve endured this sermon before. It goes on for nearly half an hour, but the message is simple: Give more money to the church.

I envy my father, too. I envy his unshakable belief in the Catholic Church ń his faith gives him power and contentment. I envy everyone who has a religion they can believe in . . . Me? I have Chutengodianism ń a religion with no church, no money, and only one member. I have a religion, but I have no faith. Maybe one day Iíll find a deity I can believe in. Until then, my god is made of steel and rust.

Mama pajama – some of that stuff nails it pretty well, eh?

A friend recently told me of his experience with seekers: they want answers to their hard questions, and they want something they can invest in and give back to. What does the church offer? Fluffy answers, and an open hand with which to take money. So where do people turn? To gods they can “create and manage” – consumerism, technology, perfectionism, achievements, water towers. They have a religion (cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion), but they have no faith (the theological virtue defined as secure belief in G/god and a trusting acceptance of G/god’s will).

I donít think we need to have all the answers, but I think we should have a spirit willing to journey with the seekers through their questioning with no strings attached. People are aching for a deity that they can believe in, invest in, be intimately familiar with: I know of such a deity – am I sharing that knowledge and experience and relationship with others? I think itís a lot more simple that I often make it out to be.

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