Monday, 18 May 2015

Religious Tolerance: A Dying Trend?

Hope is a 15-year-old high school student from Stratford, NJ. She loves reading, writing, socializing with friends and her favorite subject is English because she wants to be a writer/editor.

From troubles during biblical times to today’s schools banning discussions about it, religion has always been a touchy subject. Discussions about religion have ended in fights. They have even left people in tears.

I strongly believe in religious tolerance but it seems like that’s a dying trend. In high school, you meet people of varying religious backgrounds. You have Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, people who believe in a higher being but do not follow a set religion, atheists, etc. Depending on where (location) you go to school and what school you go to, you will see more of a certain religion. At my school, I don’t see too many religious discussions. This does not mean that they don’t occur, however. Whenever I end up in this type of discussion with an atheist, and I mention that I’m Catholic, I always get the same response. They tell me that Catholics are crazy and they always try to convert you. I have yet to attempt to convert any of my non-Catholic friends to Catholicism, just saying. I think that religious discussions should not take place if all parties involved are not going to be mature and understanding.

Why are their varying religious backgrounds? Many situations can cause varying religious backgrounds. Growing up, I attended a Catholic school so I adopted the Catholic faith. That’s how, from what I’ve seen, kids and teens end up in a certain religion. Parents and teachers play an important role in helping a child choose a religion. Atheists have varying reasons for being atheist. Some just don’t believe in God because they want some sort of physical proof that He is real. The most common reason that I’ve heard, which I find very interesting, is that their Catholic school teachers didn’t explain things or answer their questions. I find this interesting because, while I do believe in God, this is a legitimate reason. They want to belong to a religion but they are confused. Obviously, teachers cannot answer every question. I have seen, however, that some Catholic school teachers are better than others.

As for what teens believe today, it’s hard to say. I’ve met several Catholics and I’ve met several atheists as well. My advice to teens when it comes to discussing religion outside of your school’s curriculum: just don’t do it. My advice to parents when it comes to discussing religion with your teen(s): be calm and understanding. While everyone in my family believes in God, we are not all Catholic. We do have varying views when it comes to religion, but we can have religious discussions in a calm and mature manner. Nobody knows what religion is right or wrong and everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.

New Era: New Religion

Shammara is a pursuing journalist who enjoys fashion and believes everyone has a purpose in life.

As the years go by and there are manly scientific advancements in medicine, opposition or straying from religion is seen in increasing numbers in the younger generation. Religion has become one of the most controversial topic between teenagers and parents in the 21st century. What was once done as common practice is now on the forefront of being questioned or often done involuntarily.

In my perspective, I consider myself agonistic. I do not attend church regularly and my mother is not religious of any form. Many teenagers are taking the same stance which is resulted in uproar from parents. In every parent-teenager relationship, are different situations but in a religious family the circumstances for a teenager to express their own individuality are outstanding. For example , there is a gay male in my school is forced to hide his sexuality because of his religious parents who view homosexuality as a sin and should be punished. On the contrary, many teenagers as oppose to earlier generations are well protected by the stand they hold on religion in society today.

As a parent, even if your own personal belief is you should regularly attend church or perform prayer for any monotheistic or polytheistic religion, you should never force it on your teenager. Teenagers who have sardonic parents who constantly ridicule their ways of thinking, usually grow distant as they age. To build a great relationship with your teenager the best thing to posses is an open mind. No matter how hard it is to accept, when one accepts the thoughts of your child, it helps to build the relationship between you two.

All over the world, there are different takes on religion. Some people are Christian while others are Atheist. The dawning truth, that haunt many, is that everyone is born to follow what they believe in even if you don’t quite agree. This fundamental should always be followed to build a great relationship with a teenager. The known fact (Though many oblivious parents are clueless to such) is no matter what you enforce on a child, only if one believes it or learns from what you have enforced will they continue to follow the “rule” into adulthood.

Freedom of Religion

Cielo, a Los Angeles dreamer, enjoys recognizing images in the occasional cumulus cloud that meanders through the California sky, documenting interesting events and quotes and observations, and learning about different cultures, customs and lifestyles.

“For all my visual students out there,” the teacher started, “You’re going to have to use your vivid imagination.”

“You’ll be good at that, Isaac,” a student mumbled to his classmate, “Since you believe in God.”
This is what an atheist friend of mine recounted to me, expecting me to laugh. He seemed both stunned and embarrassed when I snapped that it was not funny and I was offended.

I come from a Christian family; thus, as the tradition goes, I was raised Christian. From my birth until recent years, my mom would wake my siblings and I every Sunday morning, shove us in the car, and drive us to church. Once we reached the pre-teen/teen age, church lost its luster. For us, church was boring. It was not the place to spend our hard earned Sunday morning that we longed to devote to sleep. We were reluctant to go each week but went, mainly, because it was expected of us and it was, essentially, mandatory. When my older brother was around fifteen, he often opted out of going to church. I never saw this as an option but was eager to follow in his footsteps.

Now I am in high school where many of my friends are atheist or agnostic. Though I never bring my Bible to school or attempt to convert my fellow “heathen” peers, many of my atheist friends cannot say the same. I nervously shift in my seat when they openly criticize my religion to my face, pondering whether I should ignore their comments or defend my beliefs. (I typically go with the ladder.) By being surrounded by these kinds of comments, I too began to question my own beliefs. With me finding little to no interest in church and questioning my own religion, I became a less active Christian than I once was. I would dread the days my mom mentioned heading to church. I would often complain about having far too much homework to do or I would “accidentally” oversleep.

In the midst of this, my mom never forced me to go to church. I’ve heard many people say that if they dared to miss church, their parents would not allow them to do anything for the rest of the day. I know that if my mom had implemented this coercive mindset with me, I never would have developed as a Christian. I would go by force every weekend and daydream of the outside world while the pastor was speaking. Nothing would soak in and I would eventually rebel and head down the opposite path my mom and church wanted me to go.

Recently, my mom was invited to a church by one of her coworkers. Though hesitant, I decided to go with her. It had been a while since I had been to church and something led me to go. That Sunday morning, I had a complete breakthrough. Something in that church, something in the choirs songs, something in the pastors message resonated deep into my heart and caused me to realize and appreciate the pertinence of religion to my life. Since that day, I enjoy going to church—for myself. Rather than going for my mom, I really needed to go for me for the concepts of Christianity to really sink in.

I do not intend to advertise any certain religion or lack thereof. I just genuinely appreciate that my mother never forced me to go to church. She understood that I was going through a questioning phase where I had to decide if the religion that I was raised to follow was suitable for me. In my case, I chose to stick with Christianity. That may not be for everyone, but if parents force their children to follow their beliefs, those beliefs will not stick.

Wavering Faith

Julia is a 17-year old junior from New York City. She swims, plays the violin and loves spending time with her English bulldog Louie.
I am Jewish. Why? Because my parents are. There was no distinct moment where they whispered it in my ear; it was one of those things I knew growing up. It was why my cousins all had bar and batmitzvahs; why I got to spend a night at a fancy hotel with my cousin running around the halls in inflatable shoes. It was why I went to synagogue on high holidays, sitting amongst the Jews who recited prayers without even glancing down at the book, playing a tile game in the basement with the younger kids to pass the time. It was why I went to Hebrew School, learning the Hebrew alphabet until it was second nature but struggling to actually understand any words. It was never a choice I had, it was just the way I was and I never questioned it.
But the trouble with being Jewish, is just that; being it isn’t enough. There is more to Jews than saying you are one; you have to act like it too. Like not eating pig products or shellfish, like not watching TV Saturday mornings, like wearing long skirts. My family isn’t orthodox, but my brother and I still felt a sort of responsibility to be good Jews. There came a point in my life, probably when I started to prep for my batmitzvah, that I came to hate the responsibility that was attached to my religious faith. It meant extra work, and hard work at that, and it just didn’t seem worth it to me. I had never found Judaism, it had just been handed to me and it didn’t seem fair. Why did I have to work hard at something I wasn’t even sure I believed in?
The minute my batmitzvah was over, I dropped back. I stopped learning and thinking and following Jewish rules. I had had enough. But after only a few years, I started to miss it. I missed belonging to something bigger than myself, something that ran deep within the blood of my family. I missed following rules that had purpose that I could feel even if I couldn’t logically understand it. I was so glad that my parents had not given up on me and I was welcomed back to my culture as if I had never left. Because, I had always had a place there. It was a part of who I was at my core.
So, parents, don’t let resistance persuade you. The greatest thing my parents did for me was push me to do what I didn’t want to do. They forced me to make hard decisions about what I believed and didn’t believe and the type of person I wanted to become. And making those decisions, even if they were subject to change, helped me figure out what I wanted to do and the best ways to go about doing it. I am a better Jew now, because my parents pushed me to understand what it meant to be a Jew before deciding if it was what I really wanted to be. And even more than that, they welcomed me back with open arms. I felt both supported and informed. If your children push against your religious values, push them to fully understand everything they possibly can before making their decision. Even if it is hard, even if they hate you for it. But, ultimately, support them in whatever decision they make. Whether you agree or not, whether it
changes daily, yearly, or never. While religious faith may waver, family ties are permanent and can never be replaced.

Religion and Teenagers

Cassie is a 16 – year old from Los Angeles, CA.  She enjoys acting, playing guitar and spending time with her younger brothers. Her favorite subject is English because she wants to be a writer.
The phase of adolescence is often defined as the age of self-discovery.  One primary element of this “self-discovery” concept is the value of teen ethics and morality.  In public and private high schools throughout America, teenagers with a commitment to their own religion have a large influence on the social dynamic of the high school environment.  While religiously devoted teens do not impose their set of values upon groups of students, they do set a standard of ethics and morality through their lifestyle.
A fair amount of high school students are involved in Religious Youth Programs in their local community.  Teen Christian Clubs in high schools often strive to promote abstinence among their peers.  A popular Christian Teen trend is the “purity ring.” Teenagers wear purity rings as a statement regarding their belief of abstinence until marriage.  By publicly showcasing their morals, Christians share their core beliefs and encourage other teenagers to consider their options as well.
Religious Youth Programs can also directly influence their community by creating outreach programs.  Such Religious Youth Ambassadors are not preachers or converters.  Youth volunteers simply supply moral support to students who have lost faith in the goodness of humanity.  Religious teenagers often give back to their community through service programs affiliated with their church such as Free Dinners for the Homeless and Peer Counseling Programs.
Religious core values of any individual often affect one’s political views.  In the high school community, moral and ethical principles influence a teenager’s political standpoint.  This influence stems from a religiously diverse student body create a dynamic group of citizenship.  Teenagers’ religious opinions can help form the foundation of their political views, thus creating a more politically active youth.
Through these examples of house religious teenagers influence their community, it is evident that the character o any culture is defined by one’s actions and reactions to efforts of implementing moral values.  Teens who are dedicated to their religion show strong evidence of their ability to morally change their culture.

The Compassion Child: Balancing Your Call to Parenthood and Your Call To Ministry

Gabriele is a 17-year-old aspiring writer from Jacksonville, FL.  She loves the wit of Charles Dickens, the smell of sharpened pencils, and the charm of coffee shops. She lives her life by a Benjamin Franklin quote: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write the things worth reading or do the things worth writing.”
You want the truth?
It was ugly. It was almost offensive, the way the place looked. Not that there wasn’t something completely captivating about it all. Growing up in the quiet suburbs, the city was indeed a place to be curious about.
If you knew me back then, you would have thought of me as the good Christian girl who was too sheltered for her own good. And if you knew of my recent move to the city, you would have laughed at my naiveté that the city can’t be “that bad” and every person is “a good person.”
If only you would have said a thing or two about what I would see there.
In the urban neighborhoods of Atlanta, I watched sin as it prowled about in dark corners and subtly gnawed at my fingertips. I saw children being abused, mothers searching through trash for food, and fathers shamelessly crying in the streets.
I felt helpless.
I never fancied myself going to a church with drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, thieves, and abusers. I never imagined sitting next to the homeless, the hungry, the lonely, or the broken. But here I was, at the start of junior high school, in one of the highest ranking cities for crime.
My parents heard all the “How Could You’s” regarding putting their children in danger. Along with myself, my younger brother was only three years old when we moved to fulfill God’s calling on our lives. Other parents did not understand how this could be God’s plan. Though it seemed like they were risking the safety of their children, they had nothing to fear.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:2) NIV
The life of a missionary is not always pretty. It’s not grandiose, glamorous, or glitzy. However, it can be powerful, surreal, and life-changing. Your sons and daughters have the opportunity to experience what most kids may not have the chance to understand; an opportunity to live a life filled with endless compassion, gentle empathy, and God’s inexplicable wonders. Not every family ministry is the same. You may minister in your hometown, you may travel from place to place, or you may be stationed in a foreign country. Though we find ourselves in different situations, most kids with parents involved in ministry struggle with similar fears, insights and emotions. Here are some things to keep in mind when parenting your children on the mission field.
1. “I never quite fit in.”
Sarah is from Denver, Colorado. Since she was ten years old her family has lived and ministered in Zimbabwe, Africa. While in Zimbabwe, her white skin clashes with her African heart, and while in America, her Zimbabwean customs limit her understanding of the culture of her American friends.
David, who has now been to nine schools in the past five years, is always seen as the “new kid.” Though he enjoys meeting interesting people from all over the world, it is hard for him to build friendships that lie beyond the surface.
-How can I help? Prepare your kids for their new home by teaching them about the culture and customs. While they’re making new friends, also find ways your kids can keep in touch with the friends they miss. If any opportunity arises when they can spend quality time with friends, jump over hurdles to make that happen. Your kids have made many sacrifices for the ministry and need their time to have fun with good friends.
2. “I don’t know where my home is.”  
It is not uncommon for missionary kids, especially those who are living overseas or are constantly moving, to feel insecure about where their home is. Though they are from one place, they were raised in another. And while they were raised in another, they are probably now living somewhere entirely new. Their heart belongs to so many places and so many people that they may not have a specific place to call “home.” One of my friends used to tell me “you know you’re a missionary kid when you can’t answer the question ‘where are you from?’”
-How can I help? When you move, give your child a chance to process. Take with you certain things that can easily identify your new location as “home” whether it’s an old teddy bear or a family picture. They say “home is where the heart is” so create family traditions such as a kiss on the cheek before bed, an inside joke or saying, or anything that will bond the family and remind your kids that their home is wherever they are loved.
3. “I need you, too.”
Sometimes when parents are wrapped up in ministry, they forget their ministry toward their family. It seems as though you are pulled in all directions and it can be difficult to prioritize. This can be extremely complicated if you’re working a job along with your ministry. Your kids still need your attention, and not focusing on the family household will cause your ministry to deteriorate.
How can I help? Make every time you spend with your kids count. Even if you only have a couple hours a day, use those two hours as quality family time. Encourage your kids to get involved in the ministry, but do not push. Pray every night as a family and discuss with your kids how they feel. Just listening to your kids will improve your relationship, whether it’s about ministry or life in general. Most importantly, remind your kids that they are loved daily, not only with your words, but with your actions.
The Mission Minded Family
There is a book by Ann Dunagan entitled The Mission Minded Family: Releasing Your Family to God’s Destiny. In this book Dunagan tells us that “family is not an obstacle to ministry; it is a vehicle for ministry.” Through the years, with every new home, I learned to create a “new normal.” Though ministry life can get lonely, hectic, and complicated, I believe ministry and missions has made me the person I am today, and I do not regret any of it.  

Sending Your teen Away for the Summer: Pros and Cons

Emily is a 13-year-old from Corona, CA. She enjoys reading, writing, and swimming and her favorite subject is history because it inspires her to learn about other cultures.
Sending your teen away for the summer is no small decision. It takes a lot of planning, and in some cases persuasion, to convince your teen they will have a great time. If it is their first time leaving home or your family for an extended period of time, or they simply dislike leaving home to begin with, then some challenges might arise. Here are three pro’s and con’s for you to consider if you are thinking about sending your teen away for summer break.


  1. Leaving home without parents can actually change a teen’s perspective on their life. Getting the opportunity to live for a short while with a new set of rules and to escape the dreary routine of everyday life. After all, having to stay within close proximity to home all summer long isn’t what most teens consider “fun”.
  2. Sending your teen to summer camps without internet or other technology is a great way to prove to your teen(s) that is possible to survive without constantly updating a social network or texting. There are many camps in national parks, forests, etc. that offer minimal technology environment for teens.
  3. It’s cliché to say but absence makes the heart grow fonder. So if you have a teen that is particularly reluctant to leave home they will be overjoyed to see you when they get back. Sometimes going away can help ease tension and bottled up resentment in teens because of the distraction it creates.


  1. While away, homesickness is common and, though typically mild, some teens have it more severely than others. This can lead to rash behavior, such as unreasonable outbursts and disrespectful behavior toward superiors and others. I recommend having your teen pack pictures of family, friends, pets, and anything else that they would miss in particular.
  2. While away, teens are given the opportunity to shut you out completely. There will be nothing forcing them to engage in any form of communication with you let alone anything personal. This is more likely to happen if you already have a broken relationship with your teen. In that case you should repair the relationship as best as you can beforehand
  3. Teens are very attached to their friends so being forced to leave them for anything less than a relaxing vacation might not go over peacefully. If an argument does occur it is essential to try and resolve it before your teen departs. If not, they will be leaving you on a sour note which is far from desired for both sides.
Clearly, as a parent you have a considerable amount of things to think about before making the decision to send your teen away during summer break. Ultimately, though it depends on their outlook on life and attitude towards leaving home. The best way to make departing as peaceful as possible is to discuss it with them at least a month or two beforehand. It gives teens who are reluctant a chance to discover something exciting for them and for those who love the idea from the beginning more time to enjoy planning.