rebelling against low expectations

Rebellion vs. Rebelution by Brian


On January 11th, readers were given the following assignment:

In “Challenge of Youth” (1974), Professor Friedrich Heer documents and analyzes historically-significant youth movements, from the time of ancient Greece through the hippie era, and concludes that:

“[T]he harsh light of historical fact [is] that every significant youth movement is in its own time crushed by the forces in power, and its spirit frequently perverted or bent to other uses[.]”

It is also interesting to note that Professor Heer identifies the common characteristic among all youth movements as being “the symbolic rejection of the father (authority), and frequent adoption of a new ‘father’…” and references Malachi 4:6 (“…turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers…”) to conclude that “it is the fathers who have the last word.”

As a presuppositionally-Christian youth movement, how do you think the Rebelution differs (or should differ) from the youth movements Professor Heer described?

Over a grueling week and a half, rebelutionaries around the country turned out responses to Professor Heer. Some sent theirs early on. Others sought the middle ground. Still others strategically waited until right before the deadline. Each varied in length and approach, but all contained a common feature. Quality.

Brett and I were thrilled by the submissions we received. In fact, they were all so good that we decided to post more than one. Over the next few days we will be sharing, not only the winning essay, but also the top three runners-up.

Today, without further ado, we present the judge’s selection…

Rebellion vs. Rebelution by Brian

Youth are stereotypically rebellious. Though the social placement of youth has transformed over the years, and may vary between cultures, the blanket generalization about youth is they have a disregard for any authority placed over them. This stereotype certainly cannot define each individual youth, but the interesting thing about stereotypes is that they are always born out of common truth. It is only natural, then, that any movement instigated by and primarily composed of youth would be characterized by rebellion.

Professor Heer states that past youth movements have been “crushed by the forces in power.” Logically, the “forces in power” have always had the advantage because of their prior establishment as the mightiest contender for power. Though these youth movements surely have had visions of greatness, perhaps even practical and workable visions, they have lacked the might to overthrow the reigning authority.

That being said, however, I do not believe that lack of strength is the primary reason for the ultimate failure of any movement, whether youth or otherwise. Rather, perhaps, the failure of past youth movements is primarily due to the corrupted motivation behind the movement itself, the goal of obtaining power to make a vision a reality.

As Christians, members of The Rebelution have a biblical mandate to submit to authority rather than rebel against it. Romans 13:1-2 says, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” God commands us not to do the very thing youth are so commonly known to do. He commands us to be different; to rebel, in fact, against our own nature. If The Rebelution ever became characterized by rebellion against authority, it would be guilty of a far greater rebellion, that against God Himself.

The Rebelution must define its purpose by Biblical standards and take care never to stray from that vision. We must guard ourselves against the faintest glimmer of desiring power itself because that desire, however small, has the potential to radically alter the goal of The Rebelution and thus destine it to failure. Rather, let us seek to bring change to a hurting world through the testimony of our character, our submission to authority, and our dedication to doing hard things.

1 Peter 2:13-15 says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” God has designed for movements such as The Rebelution to be used for His kingdom, but He accomplishes that glorious work through us by our devotion to doing right. In cultures across the world, doing the right thing is often synonymous with doing the hard thing. We are called to diligently pursue difficult lifestyles for the furtherance of His glorious Gospel.

It is simply by the content of our character that we “may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” It is in their silence that The Rebelution will be able to make itself most clearly heard. In the silence of the world, the voice of the body of Christ will be able to proclaim the message of salvation with a voice so loud that every nation, and every tribe, and every tongue, will know that Christ is Lord. Through character, through submission to authority, and through the power of God, this vision which God has instilled in us can become reality.

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • Well… interestingly, ‘teens’ and ‘youths’ are largely a modern Western construct. Many cultures around the world have no such period for ‘rebellion’ (or for that matter ‘rebelution’) between childhood and adulthood. There are often rites of passage (such as Confirmation in the Christian world) between the two, but no period in between. If we westerners weren’t so spoilt and lazy, your youngsters wouldn’t have so much time between becoming able to work and actually doing work.

    I also think it’s wrong to equate being a good Christian with obeying authority blindly; after all, Jesus was a revolutionary Jew and if we wanted to be unthinkingly submissive we could turn to Islam (which I’m sure you know means submission).

    Surely the message of Jesus is to live peaceful lives while constantly questioning and challenging society’s attitudes towards ostracised minority groups (in his time for instance prostitutes, in our time perhaps gays), because God alone can judge, and God loves every sinner equally.

    And the ‘failure’ of past youth movements is also debatable. If the 60s flower power generation hadn’t questioned oldfashioned attitudes towards sexuality, lots of young women would probably still be dying for trying to perform abortions with wire clothes hangers. And I don’t just mean ‘promiscuous’ girls who had premarital sex; even married women would sometimes do this because they simply couldn’t afford having another child without starving.The contraceptive pill has done much to remedy this.

    If young people hadn’t questioned and challenged authority, women would still be staying at home and wearing skirts, and men would be unable to admit they love spending time with their children more than they the office.

    The world changes, and we need to change with it. This does not mean we can’t at the same time be good Christians. Being a bad Christian to me means unquestioningly clinging onto archaic notions of what is right and wrong, and putting ourselves in the place of God by constantly judging other people who are different than us.

  • J’s Girlfriend: The Rebelution is not contingent on being “teens” or “youth.” It a rebellion against the low expectations of on ungodly culture. These low expectations continue throughout life and so will the need for a rebelution. Nevertheless, your point is good, and well taken. Thank you!

    I don’t have time to respond to your other comments, but for the sake of our readers I must say that I disagree with most of them — especially your interpretation of the message of Jesus and the allegedly positive consequences of the youth rebellion in the 1960’s.

    Your examples of progress seem markedly “clich�d.” Purposeful or not you sound like you view many of these issues through a liberal lense.

    I agree with several of your premises, but cannot say the same of your conclusions. For instance, I agree that we cannot simply accept everything without question. However, I entirely disagree with your “positive” examples of young people doing so.

    Your contribution to the discussion is respected. However, I would ask that you refrain from even implied insults. For instance, if I were to say, “Being a bad Christian to me means unquestioningly clinging to modern liberal notions of what is progress, and putting ourselves in the place of God by constantly judging other people who are different than us,” you would most likely be offended. Please treat us with the same consideration.

    As long as the discussion stays civil, disagreement can be healthy. If you are willing, and if any of our readers would like to (civilly) take up this discussion, that’s fine. With the exceptions of the “official response” posited above, Alex and I must bow out.

  • I liked the points Brian made in his essay, particularly about rebelling against our own lower nature. But I have difficulty with the quotation about not rebelling against the governing authority. If I had lived under the regimes of Stalin or Hitler, I think it would have been my duty, at least to resist their authority, if not outrightly to rebel. I’ve always admired the “White Roses” – the teenagers who were hanged for rebelling against Nazi rule.

    In the case of the Rebelution, you have the blessings and support of those elders whom you respect, so in that sense, you are not rebelling against the authority which matters. I think that is important. But if the governing authority is corrupt, then is it not right to rebel?

  • J’s Girlfriend: I agree with your first comment, so we do have some common ground. Your second one is a touchy issue that others have picked up as well, and my thoughs on it are this: as long as the authority in question does not ask you to violate Biblical standards, you should obey and support that authority to the best of your ability. The problem comes when the authority challenges Biblical truths, and then you must follow your own conscience.

    “Surely the message of Jesus is to live peaceful lives while constantly questioning and challenging society’s attitudes towards ostracised minority groups….”
    Are you sure that Jesus’ ministry can be summarised in this way? This sounds more political than religious and by these standards anyone can be Christian even if he or she does not profess Christ as Lord, or even denies the fact outright. Jesus’ care for these minority groups stemmed out of His great love for all people and His desire to save them. He accepted them for who they were, yes, but then He called them to higher, better things. I don’t have time to respond to your other points just now, though I hope to do so in the near future.

    Finally, if I have in any way offended you, I apologize now, as it was not my intent to do so. Please confront me with any insulting remarks I have made, and I will try to better explain myself and learn from my mistakes.

  • Excellent post and excellent point, one that is becoming more and more apparent to me.

    Yet still, moderation is needed – in the words of the wise man (Ecclesiastes 3), “1There is a time for everthing…

    7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,

    8 a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.”

    Neither an absolute adherence to dissent nor an absolute adherence to blind devotion is appropriate. I would disagree with J’sGirlfriend when she says that our notion of teenage rebellion is completely cultural. While I agree our culture has perhaps thrown it out of whack, teenagers in nearly every culture throughout history have shown some signs of independence. This is natural and necessary. If there was no desire in the young adult to branch out and try to forge his own way, people would simply stay like children forever, depending on their parents until they kicked them out and they would not “leave his[their] father and mother and be united to his wife[their spouse].”

    On the other hand, authority is absolutely necessary for the preservation of the order of society. I have seen few instances where a rebellious spirit resulted in anything good. The rebellious spirit wishes to throw out the old and bring in the new. This is often necessary if the old is corrupted, but if this spirit is not carefully controlled, it will soon throw out the new for the newer and so on until chaos reigns and no system, no matter how effective, can be maintained. This is the downfall of youth movements that rely on a rebellious spirit.

    It would be helpful to point out that there are two distinct kinds of rebellion: political and cultural.

    So what is an appropriate rebellion? It is one that:
    1st) identifies a specific problem in the current authority or system that cannot be dealt with internally and is too great to be endured
    2nd) clearly erects a new system or authority that solves this problem
    3rd) implements this new system or authority
    4th) stops 🙂

    An example of this could be found in the American Revolution. There was a specific problem with the previously existing British authority that could not be solved internally. The first step the founding fathers took, it should be noted, was to establish a new authority and place themselves under it. They acted to remove the previous corrupt authority, implemented the new authority to solve the problem and, as soon as their mission was complete, halted the rebellion.

    Any successful revolution (or Rebelution) must have its focus clearly directed on the specific goal (in this case, a transforming of our society), and not on the idea of rebellion itself. If the society is suddenly transformed into the type of positive culture the Rebelutionaries seek (though that will never completely happen), they obviously cannot continue trying to change it and the rebelution will end.

  • If the above sentence

    “It would be helpful to note that there are two distinct types of rebellion: political and cultural”

    seems somewhat random and out of place it is because that was the beginning of another point I was about to make, but decided was not important. I forgot to delete it before publishing the comment, though. hehe… oops…

  • Luke & “a fellow soldier” : excellent points both of you. I especially appreciate your gracious attitudes and humility, even in disagreement. Awesome guys.

  • Caridwen,

    I apologize for any misconception in my essay. I agree with those who have responded already; there are times where it is appropritate to rebel, under tyrranical dictatorships, oppression, and the like. My point was that the name of Jesus is not going to be lifted high by us forcefully overthrowing the powers that be and imposing Christianity on the world.

    However, I do not believe that rebellion is necessary in the case of a government which we simply disagree with on certain issues. In America at least, we have incredible freedom. If the government is forcing us to disobey God, then we must obey God rather than men. Otherwise, we must set an example of submission, not in any way to hinder our faith, but to shine our light.

    Acts 4:18-20 —
    “Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.'”

    Acts 5:28-29 —
    “‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,’ he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’

    Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!'”

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →