Recently, my little sphere of twitter became abuzz with wry mirth after discovering Boyfriend Bears. I believe the purity movement is harmful in many ways, but the bears seemed more silly than anything. I rolled my eyes along with everyone else until I read on the site that Boyfriend Bears was begun by a teenager. A teen advocate just wanting to make a difference in the world. I have been there. I got myself as much of a platform as I could to help change the world.
I wasn’t alone.
Many of my peers and I believed we were a generation of youth set apart to turn the world upside down. Internet access was becoming common, platforms were easier to find, and it was perfect for those of us on fire for God. Some, like Josh Harris of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and his brothers Alex and Brett Harris of the Rebelution blog, had huge national platforms and a large sphere of influence. Others had smaller but still sizeable platforms that people like my husband and I could only dream of. But we still did what we could.
Teenage zealots across the country rallied against abortion, wrote blogs, spoke in state senate, studied debate, led Bible studies, wrote magazines, started worship bands, and preached in church.
Now that I’m older, I’ve seen some fallout from giving platforms to teenagers. The pressure they put on themselves and that others put on them can weigh heavily. The untempered zeal with which they share their untested ideas with others can spread bad theology and unnecessary burdens of ‘conscience’. They can find themselves in the awkward position of defending and spreading their beliefs while most people their age are questioning and refining theirs.
While I do think there are constructive ways to channel teenagers’ natural enthusiasm, I question the wisdom of giving young people a platform of any kind while they still have not had a full chance to live or question their ideals.
I’m not really sure what to think on the subject. I know teenagers can do good and have unique ideas and voices. On the other hand, I have concerns such as those listed above when teenagers are allowed or pushed to lead.
I would like to do a series exploring these thoughts and my own experiences and observations in the coming weeks, and I welcome guest posts and discussion. Anyone may submit something for consideration.
Some questions to get your creative juices flowing:
Were you a teen zealot, advocate or leader? Can you share your story? What was good or bad about the experiences? How has your life been shaped by teenage or young adult advocates and speakers? If you could visit yourself disguised as a wise old stranger, what advice would you give your past self on this subject?
As an adult, what do you think should be done? How can we protect teenagers while supporting their dreams and beliefs? What are some healthy ways to channel teenagers’ zeal without putting the burden of a pedestal on them?
Email submissions to email@example.com or use the contact tab.
Posts in series so far:
- Teen Zealots: Lana, who used to be perfect last Sunday
- Teen Zealots: (crosspost) The One Thing I Can’t Write About
- Confessions of a Wannabe Rebelutionary by Christopher Hutton