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Secret Keepers Week 2 – A Christian Book Study

Fight for What Is Right

WELCOME!

I am trying an experiment: A Christian book study based on my new young adult dystopian novel Secret Keepers.

My books usually start with some kind of theological question. This six-week series is a book study focusing on the theology and bible behind the story.

If interested, you can learn more about the book or get a copy here.

Basic instructions:

Go through the post as it appears, playing any videos as they come up. Off to the right-hand side, you will find a few Discussion Questions. I, and I’m sure others, would love to hear your answers to those questions!

You can post your answers, along with any questions you might have, in the comment section at the bottom of this page at any time.

. . . .

Today’s lesson begins with this focusing song by Thomas Rhett. Press play, sit back, listen, and meditate on the message…

The Light

Many religious groups, including the monastic groups I talked about last week, choose to distinguish themselves from other groups by wearing distinctive clothing.

Discussion Question #1

How important is the type of clothing that we choose to wear? Do you wear anything that identifies you with a particular group of people? Why do you choose to do so? Begin your response by writing “DQ1” so we all know exactly what you’re responding to!

The Secret Keepers wear normal but simple clothes and a distinctive necklace – a white glass that holds inside it a single, living flame.

Fire is an interesting symbol in human thought, experience, and literature. On the one hand, fire represents destruction, pain, suffering, and evil. Fiery, volcanic imagery is, after all, associated with hell.

On the other hand, though, fire represents warmth, light, safety, purification, redemption, even life itself.

True, we have associated fire with hell – but before our modern, popular images of hell, fire was associated with the Spirit of God. Even when the bible does associate fire with punishment, the punishment itself is usually more closely related to purification than to torture of pain. All people must be “salted with fire,” (Mark 9:49) purified, with their sin removed. The point is not to remain in the fire, but to pass through it with God’s help, made stronger and better like metal is made stronger in the forge.

Most often, in the bible and in Christian imagery, fire represents the cleansing and active power of God, life, creation, and recreation. As Christians, we are called to join in this active, creative work – to follow where the Spirit leads us.

And even before Pentecost, the Spirit has been represented as a flame.

The United Methodist symbol is a cross and a flame. I have always loved that symbol for the reminder it would give us of the ever-active Spirit working among us.

Discrimination and Segregation

The world of Secret Keepers faces an all too familiar problem – discrimination and segregation. The is the driving force behind the conflict in the story.

But not all forms of discrimination and segregation are bad.

On the off chance that you haven’t already clicked away from my site vowing never to return, let me explain…

Discussion Question #2

What are some of the assumptions that you see the characters making about their world and the people in it in these first few chapters? How might some of them challenge those assumptions, and why? Begin your response by writing “DQ2” so we all know exactly what you’re responding to!

Discussion Question #3

How are the twins discriminated against? And why is it wrong? Begin your response by writing “DQ3” so we all know exactly what you’re responding to!

Stand up for yourself!

I’m sure we’ve all been told this at one time or another.

Also stand up to oppression, and stand up for what’s right.

But how do we go about that, anyway?

Do we call people out from a bullhorn at the top of the capital steps?

Do we picket and protest the funerals of people we didn’t like?

Do we launch revolutions, rebellions, riots, civil wars?

Our society is quick to tell us all to fight for what’s right (usually meaning our own, individual rights…), but not so quick to offer practical guidance on what that looks like.

And very recent events have shown just how important that guidance is.

So how do we stand up to oppressors and fight for what’s right?

The popular way is to actually fight, or fight back, draw a line in the sand, march on unwanted government officials with the 21st century equivalent of torches and pitchforks.

But violence, however justified or unjustified, cannot change the hearts, minds, and opinions of other people. You can force someone to do what you want. You cannot force them to agree with you.

And changing hearts, minds, and opinions, is what Jesus was all about.

Which is likely why Jesus advocated another way to stand up for what is right.

Discussion Question #4

Why do you think Megan tells the shop keepers that they should have destroyed the monument before Brian Vaulkery saw it? Was she right? Was whoever put the monument up right to do so? Begin your response by writing “DQ4” so we all know exactly what you’re responding to!

Holy and set apart

As discussed last week, the Secret Keepers, like the monastic groups before them, are people who have set themselves apart from a normal life in order to better understand and serve God.

Part of being set apart as holy means treating all other people, all of life, as set apart, holy, and deserving of God’s mercy and love – even the ones who have wronged us.

All living things possess an instinct to fight back against other living things that have caused or might cause them harm. This is justice.

But there is another way to deal with oppression, one that tempers justice with mercy, and allows for change and progress beyond the endless cycle of revenge.

We will discuss this concept more in the coming weeks as dig deeper into the story’s main theme – a theme that is central to the Christian faith as a whole: forgiveness and reconciliation.

Father and Son

Discussion Question #4

How does Elias challenge his father at the end of chapter 6, and where do you think this first challenge might lead?

Elias’s father is the “killer of Kohar.” Elias has always known this. But by the end of chapter 6, Elias is just beginning to think seriously about what this might really mean.

In the week ahead, take some time to think back on moments and events that may have challenged you to rethink assumptions and challenge long-held opinions. What was it about these particular events that caused you to think differently? Where was God in the process? And is there anything that God might be challenging you to rethink today?

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