May/June 2010 - Vol. 40
“Being surrounded with every conceivable kind of revolt, from infancy, Gabriel had to revolt into something, so he revolted into the only thing left – sanity.”These words, from G.K. Chesterton’s novel The Man Who was Thursday, are (whether we want to admit it or not) very relevant for today’s world. We are surrounded on all sides by a culture screaming to be released from what it deems to be a restrictive and destructive mode of thinking and acting. Sometimes we ourselves can become caught in this; seeking freedom from governmental authority or independence from a parent. It seems to me that this rebellion against all things that were – even up to 15 years ago – held dear, has been slowly but surely eroding our culture. So the question becomes for people in their teens like myself, how do we respond to this slow moral decay? However, before we can create a solution, we must identify the problem.
In the human person, there is a natural tendency to rebel, a tendency that goes back to the Fall and continues throughout human history, leaving numerous examples of human rebellion in its wake. The example that probably jumps to the forefront of most of our minds is the example of teenage rebellion. Many of us have been around teenagers (some of us still are teenagers) and therefore are constantly reminded of rebellion. We see disobedience, disrespect for parental authority, and many other things. Although part of this is due to simple hormonal changes, in it we can catch a glimpse of what this deeply ingrained rebellious streak is.
This streak, or should I say, concupiscence (unruly desires), is more or less the assertion of one’s ego (or belief system) over that of another person. This is otherwise known as pride. Continuing with the example of teenage rebellion, the teenager is trying to find his place in the world, first by asserting himself towards everyone else to see what gets pushed over and what stands firm. When this is done in a constructive manner, the teenager finds his place in society and knows his role. But, when this practice is not checked early on, it can cause catastrophic results. If a teenager is allowed to challenge everyone he comes in contact with – parents, teachers, youth group/small group leaders, and pastors – he becomes disruptive, both to the people around him and to himself. As he continues to posture and the authority figure continues to do nothing, he reinforces in his mind the idea that no authority has any sway over him, that he can do whatever he likes, and no one can tell him otherwise. From that point onward, he begins to see as freedom this being able to get away with anything he wants, and challenges everything that seems to get in the way of maintaining this idea.
So that’s the problem. How do we combat it?
I would suggest a few things that might sound counter-cultural today, but I think are really timeless wisdom, especially from a Christian point of view:
Be an example of humility.Therefore, in short, the response to rebellion, as odd as it may seem, is rebellion itself. In order to make a difference, we must be the difference first. If we behave in a way that is upright – a rebellion against rebellion – then we are in a better position to bring others along with us. Through our efforts and by God’s grace, we can help end the rebellion. The words of St. Paul often echo in my ears: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
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