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Secret Keepers Week 3 – A Christian Book Study


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 Michael Card. Press play, sit back, listen, and meditate on the message…

Word and God

The Gospel of John begins by calling God “the Word.” But what does this mean? And what does it have to do with the theme of this lesson, the place and importance of Education in Religion?

To understand, we must take a journey all the way back to the beginning of the cosmos…

Discussion Question #1

Why does education matter (or does it)? Why does it matter to the characters in the book?

Word and Wisdom

Before God was called logos (word), God was associated with the Hebrew word for “wisdom,” hachmah.

Hachmah is grammatically “feminine” in the Hebrew language. So this attribute or quality of God was personified in the Old Testament book of Proverbs as a woman who stands on her rooftop and shouts for the entire city to hear:

“Come in! Join me!”

Discussion Question #2

What images do you have in your mind for God, and why? Begin your response by writing “DQ2” so we all know exactly what you’re responding to!

Education and Preconception

I mentioned in the video on discrimination last week that all societies indoctrinate children to make automatic assumptions and value judgments about certain things.

I also claimed that, despite the harshness of the word indoctrinate, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I stand by that claim. No, indoctrination isn’t great. But really, I think it is more of a survival mechanism than a sinister plot.

Xenophobia (the fear of outsiders) has its roots in the need of communities to band together and survive against outside threats. Though unfortunate, it is understandable, especially in the extreme violence of the ancient world.

Regardless, however, there comes a time when we must move beyond indoctrination, and grow beyond the instincts of self-preservation and survival alone. A time when we are called to follow the prophetic refrain: Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God.

But when that time comes, how do we challenge our preconceptions about the world and about indoctrination?

The answer – the only answer – is education.

And I don’t just mean book learning.

I mean the entire environment that goes along with education. I mean the gathering of many different people with different opinions into one place. I mean debate between people with diametrically opposed beliefs. I mean exposure to many different ways of things – both from the present moment, and from the past.

Discussion Question #3

Elias comes to school with certain preconceptions, especially about people in the lower classes and what they are capable of. But so do Hetty and Henley. In what ways are those preconceptions being challenged in these chapters? Where do you think these challenges might lead? Begin your response by writing “DQ3” so we all know exactly what you’re responding to!

There is a reason that young people tend to change a great deal during their college years. A few reasons, actually. One is simply that the brain finishes its development between the ages of 20 and 25, so, biologically speaking, these are the years during which a person really does become their true self.

But the other reason is that most young people come from small, closed groups – family and friends that they have had for most of their lives, a single school system that has seen them through all 12 grade levels, beliefs and opinions that have remained relatively uniform for their first 18 years.

Then, suddenly, they are thrown into a new environment, challenged with different types of people – sometimes from all over the world – exposed to new ways of thinking, and bombarded by sometimes radically different opinions about pretty much everything.

This is exactly what happened to me in college, and even more so in graduate school.

This is the experience that I tried to convey in Secret Keepers. A group of 13 and 14 year old children arrive in a new and strange environment with many preconceptions and assumptions about how the world works and why things are the way they are. Everything in the coming year, from their classes, to their teachers, to – perhaps most of all – their fellow students will challenge those preconceptions.

How each of them will deal with that challenge… Well, that’s the story.

And that’s history…

One of my undergraduate majors was history. The other was foreign languages, for which I chose to study ancient Greek and Latin – which means that even my second major required me to study a lot of history.

And then I went on an art history focused study abroad program in Italy my senior year…

Oh, and then I got a Master’s degree focusing on early Christian history

So, yeah, I guess you could argue that I think history is an important subject…

In another life, I would be a history teacher, and Dr. Morry’s first class lecture was me living out a history teacher fantasy.

Discussion Question #4

In chapter 10, Dr. Morry tells his students that “History is, first and foremost, the study of yourself,” (pg. 118). What does he mean by this? Do you agree or disagree, and why?

In this life, I am a storyteller, which I see as the perfect combination of my three great loves: religion, history, and language. History, after all, is just the world’s story – the story of the human race.

Like all (good) stories, the study of history exists to challenge us, to expose us to new ways of thinking, and provide us with experiences and knowledge that we would never have the chance to experience otherwise.

Which means that the study of history is one of the most useful tools we have when it comes to challenging our preconceptions and assumptions about the way the world is.

In the week ahead, take a look at back your own education. What were the best or most important things you have learned in your life? What might you still have to learn, and how will you go about learning it?



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