Earlier this week, Barack Obama was speaking to a group of high school students and shared that he had tried drugs and alcohol as a teenager:
“I made some bad decisions that I’ve written about, there were times when I got into drinking and experimented with drugs.. there was a whole stretch of time when I didn’t really apply myself a lot.”
Mitt Romney has since criticized Obama's admission to the youth, saying:
It’s just not a good idea for people running for President of the United States who potentially could be the role model for a lot of people to talk about their personal failings while they were kids because it opens the doorway to other kids thinking, ‘well I can do that too and become President of the United States,’” Romney told an Iowa audience today. “I think that was a huge error by Barack Obama…it is just the wrong way for people who want to be the leader of the free world.”
I read that statement and imagined for a moment if what Romney had said instead was:
In either context, Romney's statement is ridiculous. God forbid our politicians should be honest with us, but God help you if you are trying to lead a youth ministry program and you can't be authentic with the young people you serve. Teens don't need perfect adults with perfect manners teaching them how to be perfect people. They need to know that we struggle with the same things they do. They need to know that have, do, and will make mistakes. They need to know that we on a occasion (or even more often) let an expletive slip our lips, curse bad drivers under our breath (or out the car window!), fail to tell the truth sometimes, and not to put to fine a point on it: sin!It’s just not a good idea for someone leading a youth ministry who potentially could be the role model for a lot of people to talk about their personal failings while they were kids because it opens the doorway to other kids thinking, ‘well I can do that too and become a Christian.’”
I'm not saying, as Romney seems to be implying, that we should revel in such behavior or dismiss it or encourage it in our youth. But I do think we need to be honest about it and acknowledge it. And I do think we need to stop acting like the point of youth ministry is to teach teens how to be nice, and polite, and to have good manners and how to be the "good kids." Because if youth ministry becomes the place where the "good kids" hang out, then when they do slip up (and they will) and do something they feel is wrong, or immoral, or unforgivable, the last place they will come for help is the Church! We are not a "nice people club." We are a community of people who trust that, in spite of our mistakes and our destructive decisions and behavior, we are loved beyond measure.