There’s a prominent outlook on growing up that is doing more to harm growing up than most people realize. This outlook is what you hear referred to as “go sow your wild oats“. It basically writes a blank check for high school and college aged young adults to do whatever they feel like doing. The thought is that you go do all the wild and crazy things you want and then grow up and learn from all those mistakes as you transition to “settling down”.
It’s the mentality that is being used in defense of the Ohio State University Marching Band’s underground “parody songbook” that has recently come to light. The songbook, featuring, among other disturbing themes, heavy anti-semitism, was passed out to band members for singing during trips to away football games.
Comments from former band member Lee Auer in the Wall Street Journal article highlight the “sow your wild oats” mentality: “I don’t think you are going to find many 19-year-olds who don’t joke about those things… It was fun for me as an individual, but we knew if the public ever caught wind of them, people are going to lose respect.”
As you read this, you might be shocked, but chances are you’re not really that surprised. Most of us sort of shake our head and think what can we really do?
The songbook is illustrative of a much larger problem in our society: we set the bar incredibly low for the younger generation. We in the Church are guiltiest of all. For far too long we’ve bought into the lie that the youth group is basically just glorified babysitting. We don’t seek to engage student’s deeper questions of faith—we’ll just give them an endless calendar of exciting events that distract them from doing anything too bad.
I’m being too harsh here, right? But why do we wonder why so many students drift away from the moorings of their faith when they go off to college when all we’ve really given them is a schedule of fun activities and some vague platitudes of easy believism?
Young adults need to be called to a deeper Christian faith than what we’re giving them. They need to be discipled, loved, listened to, encouraged, and taught the narrow road of following Jesus. Look at the revivals of the past and you’ll see the common thread of a passionate group of young people carrying the Gospel to new people and places.
One of the great paradoxes of this whole thing is that in the world of competitive sports we have actually raised the bar for young people rather than lowered it. Just look at the state of youth sports right now: year-round competition; exclusive traveling teams; paid and trained coaches; sophisticated training regimens and dietary programs; strength and conditioning programs. The list goes on and on.
We push our children to be champions on the field but only call them to mediocrity in their faith.
It’s true, young people make a lot of mistakes. We’re still trying to figure out how to make our way in life, and we don’t yet have the great example of experience to guide us. But rather than just shaking our collective heads at the continual decline in our culture, I hope that we can use the example of the OSU Marching Band songbook as a propelling force to explore ways we can better reach our young people with the Gospel. I hope this may spur us on to greater commitment to truly discipling and encouraging them to follow the narrow road of Jesus. I hope this will motivate us to consider ways we can better pray for and support youth and college ministers and their ministries.
The truth is, there’s another commonly held maxim that will help us in this way forward, if we’ll just change a little of the wording.
Carpe Diem! is a mantra that exhorts you to live life to the fullest and “seize the day”. But what if we changed it to Carpe Deum, or “seize God”? Let’s decide together to live the radical faith of following Jesus on his narrow road, and determine today to help our young people do the same.