Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Activity 3: Stories - Evangelicals in a Pluralistic Society

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the stories so you will be comfortable presenting them.
  • Read Handout 4 and copy for all participants.
  • Obtain or make a poster, or create and copy a handout, of the Unitarian Universalist Principles. Plan to display or distribute the Principles to help youth discuss questions related to our UU faith.
  • Preview the discussion questions. Make sure you leave enough time for youth to explore Unitarian Universalist faith-grounded ways they might handle an interfaith encounter with an Evangelical Christian. If you think youth may have personal experiences to contribute, save time to unpack these.
  • Optional: Preview video clips on YouTube. Consider their usefulness and appropriateness for your group and whether you will have time to screen any. Note: Do not share with youth the public comment section that appears under a YouTube video.

Description of Activity

The youth learn about two different ways Evangelicalism acts in the world and consider their own, faith-based potential responses.

Say, in these words or your own:

We have seen how every religion has variety in terms of how followers live and show their faith. Here are two stories that show two very different expressions of Evangelical Christianity.

Share the story "Feeding the Hungry - an Interfaith Story" by Greg Damhorst.

Then, ask:

  • What does Greg share about his beliefs, and what they call him to do?" [Help the group articulate "service," "family service project," "cooperation," "showing others the compassion of Jesus." Note that Greg grounds his values in quotations from Christian scripture-the word and example of Jesus.]
  • In what ways does Greg's story sound as if it could have been shared by a UU youth? In what ways does it not?
  • What does our UU faith tell us about engaging with people from other religions? Having friends whose beliefs are different? Working on projects together to help others? What do we believe in, that calls us to do it? [interconnected web, responsibility for one another, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, learning from the wisdom of many faiths]

Now invite the youth to hear the second story. Explain that this story is called "Combating the Hate of Westboro Baptist Church."

If you have decided to show one or more video clips, do so immediately after the story.

Then lead a discussion with these questions:

  • [If you have not shown the video clip in which Westboro Baptist Church members speak.] Because this story is told about the Westboro Baptist Church and not by its members, we cannot be sure what beliefs called them to demonstrate against gay people. However, from what you have learned about Evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity, what beliefs might those be? [Affirm: a belief that the Bible gives rules for how we must live, and being gay is against those rules; a belief that a Christian must tell other people they are sinners and explain to them what they need to do to be saved.]
  • [If you have shown the video clip.] What beliefs do you think led the members of Westboro Baptist Church to bring an anti-gay demonstration to Grady High School? Think about what you've learned about Evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity. [Affirm: a belief that the Bible states rules for how we must live, and being gay is against those rules; a belief that a Christian must tell other people they are sinners and explain to them what they need to do to be saved.]
  • If the Westboro Baptist Church were to stage a public demonstration in our community, or at your school, how might you feel? What might you do? In what ways can you relate to Becca Daniels' feelings? Her actions?

Distribute Handout 4, UU Response to Westboro Baptist Church. Explain that the Westboro Baptist Church in 2010-11 traveled to many states to stage anti-gay demonstrations, and this handout tells how some UUs in Virginia responded. Invite the youth to read the handout to themselves or have volunteers read aloud.

Then, ask:

  • How is this UU response to Westboro Baptist Church similar to Becca's response? What similar feelings and actions did you notice?
  • Does the UU response demonstrate any of our Principles in action? Which ones? How?

Distribute the handout or indicate the poster of the UU Principles. Encourage youth to apply phrases in the Principles to the UU action against Westboro Baptist Church.

Tell the group Becca Daniels is not a UU; she is Episcopalian, which is a Protestant denomination-so, she and the members of Westboro Baptist Church share a Christian identity. If you have time, share this self-description Becca provided to Building Bridges when she gave permission to share her story:

I graduated from Henry W. Grady High School, in Atlanta, GA, on May of 2011. I am now a freshman at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC. I am undecided in my major but I am considering majoring in Sociology and minoring in Religious Studies. I was raised Episcopal, and as an adult I am choosing to stay with the Episcopal Church. I have learned a lot about my faith not only from church, but from an Episcopal Church camp in Toccoa, GA, called Camp Mikell, and youth programs and weekends through my diocese. Socially, I am a very liberal thinker, so I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in the Episcopal Church, where open-minded thinking and all walks of life are welcomed. My home church's, St. Luke's Episcopal in Atlanta, slogan is "Where ever you are on your spiritual journey, St. Luke's welcomes you". As Episcopalians we focus on God's eternal and unconditional love, which has shaped me to view humans that way. I learned as a child that we are made in the image of God, so discriminating against someone is discriminating against God's work.

Invite the group to share ideas for how they might respond, in faith, to different kinds of encounters with Evangelical Christianity. Use any of these prompts that seem right as the conversation develops:

  • Suppose you learned an extreme Evangelical fundamentalist group was planning to demonstrate in your community against some kind of freedom they believe goes against the Bible. What would you want to do in response? Which Principles and what UU values can you rely on to know what to do?
  • Suppose a classmate of yours is an Evangelical Christian, and they inform you that you are a sinner and going to Hell. What would you say? What would you do? How do Unitarian Universalist beliefs support your answers? Which Principles and what UU values can you rely on to know what to do?

Ask the youth to consider:

What if we encounter someone from another religion who says our religion is wrong? An Evangelical Christian believes that you were born a sinner, and will spend eternity in Hell unless you accept Jesus Christ as your savior. Suppose another youth were to tell you this. How would you feel? What would you say?

There is a slogan on tee-shirts and bumper stickers that jokes, "If there's one thing I can't stand, it's intolerance." As a UU, do you have to tolerate intolerance?