I spent three years teaching religion to high school students.
Teenagers aren’t the slack minded creatures they’re often depicted as. In fact, I found them to be wildly curious, loyal friends, hilarious, and enormously sensitive to spirituality and the world of religion.
I like teenagers. A lot.
But one barrier I’ve encountered is that many teenagers, like a lot of adult Christians, aren’t terribly excited about reading scripture.
Don’t get me wrong. They want the content. They clamor for wisdom. They cherish the debates and discussion. But they don’t necessarily want to sit down, open their Bibles, and read the narratives.
Because they’ve already read it. They know the story. They’ve been taught the lessons. Why read it all again?
After all, Netflix is waiting. And if not Netflix — Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. You get it.
Let me tell you a story. When I teach courses on the Old Testament the first homework assignment is to read Genesis 1 and 2 — the opening pages of the Bible.
The next class I ask the students if they did their homework. All the pretty little liars nod, smile, and say: “Yes, of course!”
I ask them to tell me how many creation narratives they found. The students answer almost unanimously: “One.”
I ask them to open their Bibles. I repeat the question.
Same answer is given.
I ask if they were honest about doing their homework. The tension rises. Eye contact is avoided, which I don’t mind because now they’re at least looking down at their Bibles. I ask again.
Then I tell them all is well; I know they didn’t read it. I knew they wouldn’t. We share an awkward laugh.
So I ask them to do the reading now, in class. I want to know how many creation narratives they find.
It takes an average of 21 minutes before the first kid realizes there are two narratives within Genesis 1 and 2.
These are smart kids. The problem isn’t that they can’t read. The problem is that they think they already know the story, so they don’t read.
We, all of us, need to read the story again.
Especially the gospel.
How much do we miss because we think we already know the story?
Here’s what I’ve done:
I reimagined the Gospel of Mark as a dystopic thriller. Basically, I hid the Jesus story within the framework of a larger, action-packed, three-book saga. Which, I know, sounds insane — but it’s not.
Without giving away too much . . . here’s the set up: The United States has fallen. In its place stands an oppressive Kingdom led by the handsome but vicious King Charles who controls North America with an army of foreign mercenaries. After decades of war, the king has finally tamed the once mighty shores. And the young king will stop at nothing to protect his reign – no matter how many Americans he must hang on a Kingdom cross.
I want to light a spark in people to read scripture by showing them just how thrilling, passionate, and page-turning the story of Jesus Christ actually is.
Think it’ll work?