Articles rebellion_rebelution

Published on October 11th, 2006 | by Alex and Brett Harris

Rebellion vs. Rebelution

This is part 6 of 8 in the series The Myth of Adolescence

One of the most common expectations our society has for teenagers is that we are incurably rebellious. Indeed, it was the “storm and stress” model of young adulthood that served as the foundation for the modern concept of adolescence, sparking the cultural redefinition of the teen years in the first half of the 1900s.

But like so many of the culture-shaping psychological studies of the twentieth century, the theory of teenage “storm and stress” was inherently flawed, based primarily on observation of teen psychological patients—hardly a representative sample. No wonder we are taught that the teen years are inevitably filled with emotional turmoil, rebellion, and angst.

Of course, this new way of looking at the teen years didn’t create teenage rebellion, but it normalized it. Suddenly young people had an excuse for indulging in the foolishness the Bible commanded them to flee (2 Timothy 2:22). And what’s more, they were backed by “science.” Rebellion was now an expected thing.

These expectations played out primarily in the lives of previous generations (most evidently in the youth of the 60s and 70s) but their residual effects continue to haunt us today. The expectations have not changed, and many rebellious young people remain assured that their behavior is not only normal, it’s healthy.

One result of this prevailing attitude, which has occupied my thoughts lately, is the seeming inability (the Bible calls it “pride” and “foolishness”) we teens have to learn from the mistakes or counsel of past generations, particularly our parents. We have to “get burned” before we learn, or so it goes.

As Christian young people, as rebelutionaries, we must wage war against that mindset. We do ourselves an incalculable disservice by ignoring the means of grace God has given us in the form of our parents, grandparents, and the other godly men and women in our lives.

My reason for saying this stems from a paragraph in a recent Newsweek cover story on Billy Graham, where the 87-year-old evangelist shared his regrets:

If he had his life to live over again, Graham says he would spend more time immersed in Scripture and theology. He never went to seminary, and his lack of a graduate education is something that still gives him a twinge.

“The greatest regret that I have is that I didn’t study more and read more,” he says. “I regret it, because now I feel at times I am empty of what I would like to have been. I have friends that have memorized great portions of the Bible. They can quote [so much], and that would mean a lot to me now.”

When I first read those words I was struck at the great privilege it is for me, as a young Christian man, to hear and learn from the regrets of an old Christian man, one who has lived such a long and full life. It inspired me to study, medidate and memorize the truths of Scripture with greater dedication.

And yet, as I continued to think about this, I began to be keenly aware of many other older (i.e. less young than me) Christian men and women I know and respect, and of whom I had never even thought to ask the question, “What do you regret?”

What godly wisdom we could gain if we would only make asking that question a habit. How many regrets could be avoided? How much joy could be attained? As we are told in Proverbs 16:16, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”

Here is what I would like you all to do: Over the next few weeks (really for the rest of your life, but the next few weeks particularly) look for opportunities to speak with your parents and grandparents, as well as other godly men and women you know and respect, and ask them to tell you what they regret, what they wish they had understood when they were your age, and how they would use their teen years if they were you. When you have done that, return here and share the answers you received with us and your fellow rebelutionaries.

Finally, let us act. With God’s Word as our guide and foundation, let us put what we learn into practice and throw off the expectations our culture holds for us. As followers of Christ, as rebelutionaries, let us “rebel against rebellion.”


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About the Author

are the co-founders of TheRebelution.com and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.



  • http://www.agenttimonline.com Tim Sweetman

    What a fantastic application — and it is going to lead to some very insightful answers!

  • http://dagoochygirl.blogspot.com Danielle

    Sounds like an exciting challenge!

    I had just been pondering the infiltration of the “rebellion is normal and expected” philosophy into society this morning, so was really surprised–happily so–to see something here on it.

    Thanks for your insightful thoughts!

  • http://ladies-in-training.blogspot.com Alyssa C.

    What a great article! …and as Danielle, said, what and “exciting challenge”! :) I am looking forward to learning all I can for the next few weeks (and the rest of my life, yes). :)

  • http://www.worksoftheheart.blogspot.com Erin Koller

    Great post gentlemen!!!! Since my mom reads your blog with me, I asked what she regrets! Here is what she said.

    “I wish I would of taken the opportunity I was given to learn from my Great Aunt Vera, who as a little girl was very much like Laura Ingalls Wilder. She knew how to make great bread, she knew how to knit socks, make quilts, and hand sewed clothes. But I was too busy as a teen to listen to her childhood stories and to learn those things. Now Aunt Vera is gone and I am trying to learn to knit, make quilts and bake an awesome loaf of bread. I am ashamed of myself, I should have paid attention!”

    “I also regret that I didn’t spend more time in my studies and less time socializing. I spent way too much time concerned about the clothes I wore, what I would be doing on Friday evening, etc. When I was married, I found I had no time to do what I thought I would have time to do, and that was read lots of books.”

  • Bella Paolucci

    Have you ever read Slouching Towards Gomorrah, by Robert H. Bork? He addresses (among other things) the moral and cultural decline in America today, with a lot of emphasis on the affects of the rebellion so prevalent in the late 60s and early 70s.

  • http://www.lightfromtheshadows.blogspot.com Brian Gee

    Though I am no longer a teenager, I will never forget one lesson that my parents taught me during those years: In life, there are very hard choices: you will not be able to choose both options, and the implications of choosing one path negate the benefits of choosing another. Point: we are given a choice daily between serving ourselves and serving others. We know the choices Christ made with His time. We know we must serve both Christ’s body and a hurting world. Choosing to serve is perhaps one of the greatest signs of true rebellion this culture will ever see. And I am thankful to my parents for this lesson.

  • http://faithshepherd.blogspot.com Alex Poythress

    Thank you very much, guys. This will help a lot :-)

  • http://counterculturesite.blogspot.com Cristina Irizarry

    It is funny that you gentlemen would publish this post. The next series in my blog is about parenthood and how we as young people can do certain things to prepare and learn for that part of our lives. May I quote you guys?

  • http://www.therebelution.com Brett Harris

    Cristina: Feel free to quote any of our articles provided you give proper credit and provide a link back to our website (or the original article). :)

  • http://studyquiet.blogspot.com Elizabeth Ellen Moore

    Excellent post! That is quite a challenge. I will work on getting some answers. This goes up my alley of genealogy as well.

  • Ella Elaine

    I asked my mom some of her regrets from when she was my age. She had three specific ones.
    1. She wished that she had helped her mother more, especially now that her mother has passed away.
    2. She wished that she had taken some of the academic opportunities that she had and thus learned more. She said that she was sometimes a little timid in that area.
    3. She wished that she had followed Christ better during her late teen years.

    It is kind of interesting because it seems as though she has taken those regrets and turned them into something good. For example, she became a tremendous blessing to her parents as a daughter and was very helpful. She worked diligently so that they would not acquire any debt because of her wishes. In addition, now she loves to learn and soaks up everything that she hears/reads and thinks about it. And lastly, my mom is one of the most incredible examples to me of a woman who fears the Lord. She works so patiently and tirelessly for our family and seeks to do His will in all.

    This was a great post. On this subject, we should never beat ourselves up over “bad” or “not good” things that we have done in the past. We cannot let regrets keep us from doing better in the future (or allow bitterness to fester inside). Instead, we must relinquish ALL to Christ (and that includes the past!). The example of Billy Graham, my mom, and other adults shows that we cannot simply have regrets; these people (and others) used their regrets to do hard things for the glory of God. They looked at what they had failed at, and, by God’s grace and strength, improved in those areas. That is a great example to all of us, as getting rid of our sinful tendencies (ex. our tendency to be selfish and not serve) are some of the hardest things we can do. But it is all by His grace and for His glory.

    Thanks for this post, guys!
    Ella

  • http://seventhsola.blogspot.com Joel

    Some random thoughts here if you don’t mind. The main post sparked my thinking.

    The subject of rebellion has always been an interesting one, and it’s often at its hottest when the generational gaps collide. I like the idea of positive rebellion. We know from Scripture that “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” Of course, this means rebelling against what is true, right and biblical..rebellion against God. However, the idea of Christians rebelling against the world system of the enemy is great. From teens rebelling against the dubious “fads” of the day, to adult Christian laypeople or leaders rebelling against the latest church growth fad soaked with rotten theology…I love it. I’d like to see more of it.

    On another, but related, note…I read a book a long time ago by Jacques Ellul called “The Technological Society.” I don’t necessarily agree with all of Ellul’s theology (he’s not evangelical) ..but he has a lot to say about how our fast-paced society will eventually do us in if unchecked. I’d love to see what he’d say about this now. Multi-tasking, families with no time to even sit at the table and eat dinner together, getting in wrecks because drivers are talking or text-messaging on their cellphones..yada yada.

    I do not have a cell phone despite much pressure from my office and friends to get one. I am rebelling, Joyfully.

  • http://www.elisabethartblog.blogspot.com Elisabeth

    I remember talking about this sort of thing with my mum a while ago. Not specifically on things regretted, but actually about what I’m going to do after graduating highschool.

    One of the things my mom said she regrets about post-highschool life was that she was worried about finding the ‘perfect guy’ until she got married, when she could have gone on missions trips, traveled, or done other cool things that she cannot do now as she has five kids. She mentioned to me that she didn’t want any of me and my two sisters to make the same mistake of trying to find ‘the man’ instead of using those single years as opportunity.
    And so she (and my dad) have been guiding me to go do other things during my single years, such as going to Belarus to visit my Belarussian friends, and we’re possibly looking into Hillsong church Ukraine and doing something there, using the Russian I’ve learned.

    I’m deeply grateful to my mum for guiding me that way, because if she didn’t, I know I would go and make the same mistake and worry about the ‘perfect man’ coming along instead of using my single years as a gift from God. And that has made me incredibly excited about life to come, and I think I will take your advice and ask my parents about what they regret, beyond what I just mentioned. Thanks for bringing that up in your post!

  • Jeff S2K

    Excerpt from Today’s Squires – Tomorrow’s Knights:

    REBELLIOUS SONS

    It’s a scary thought to consider God’s law as it applied to a rebellious son of the Old Testament. “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son … bring him to the elders at the gate … Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death.” (Deuteronomy 21:18-19) Thank God for the grace of the new covenant – we are no longer “under the law.” We can offer grace to our sons. We can love our sons as we nurture and grow in relationship with them, just as God does with His children.
    Even King David recognized his own youthful disobedience. As he says in Psalm 25:7, “Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways.” Here, a man after God’s own heart had to repent the sins of his youth and his rebellious ways. But truly, why would we expect any different?
    And how about one of today’s Christian giants. Dr. James Dobson relates a story in his book Bringing Up Boys. He tells of a day when his mother had to call his dad, a traveling evangelist, and tell him, “I need you.” You see, at age 16, our beloved Dr. Dobson was getting a bit smart with his mom. And at the first sign of his disrespect to her, dad stepped in to straighten him out. The good news is Dr. Dobson’s father was willing to give up his successful career to be closer to home. Through a commitment to relationship with his son, Dr. Dobson’s dad finished raising young James into the man we know today, by the grace of God.
    Yes, by the grace of God. You see, God instituted the family as His principal instrument of relationship and authority. He established the relationships between husband and wife, parent and child, father and son. From these relationships we are to practice our responsibilities with authority, submission, teaching and learning. And it is here we deal with youthful rebellion.
    While scripture tells us, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1-2), Jesus also warned his disciples “children will rebel against their parents” (Matthew 10:21). So King David and Dr. Dobson would not have been exempt from this youthful attribute. But we must understand that “he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted” (Romans 13:1-2).

  • r

    Science doesn’t actually support the “storm and stress” model, just pop psychology. Cross-cultural studies done by psychologists studying adolescents show that it isn’t true.

    I also don’t think it’s true that children raised without religion will be more bad/rebellious. I was raised in a secular family by two working Ph.D.’s (there was some cultural Judaism on my dad’s side and Christianity on my Mom’s, although the latter was weak because it had only been forcibly imposed by colonists on the country her parents came from). I was one of the best students in my year, studious and polite. I think a number of parents wanted their kids to hang out with me more.

    What I’m saying is that if the Bible works for you to guide you to be a good person, that’s great. But it’s not the only way. As one of my agnostic Catholic-school-raised friends said her mother told her, “there are many paths up the same mountain.”

    You may have been taught that atheists are cold, untrustworthy, or selfish. If you stop and question any of your teachings, question that one, at least. As a secular humanist, I have many of the same values that you have, although I may diverge on a few (such as gender roles and evolution). I’m not hedonistic, and can show self-restraint. I want to do good in the world, just like you do. I volunteer overnight shifts at a homeless shelter. I’ve read and enjoyed some of the great Christian intellectuals, like Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard. I don’t pollute my life with mindless TV. What bugs me is when the worst aspects of popular culture are portrayed as being endemic of secular culture. To me, secularism is about having a mind and thinking carefully about things. To me, they are symptomatic of a mindless, apathetic culture.

  • Melissa

    (I hope you guys don’t mind me doing this)

    I just want to say to “r”, the Bible is a lot more reliable than you think. It’s not just a boook of good suggestions on how to live. It is God’s holy, inspired Word. Let me tell you how I know. Did you know that there are hundreds of prophecies about the Messiah, and every one was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ? And they were written hundreds of years before He was even born!! Just to name a few… Isaiah 7:14 was fulfilled in Luke 1:26-31, Micah 5:2 was fulfilled in Luke 2:4-7, Isaiah 53:3 was fulfilled in John 1:11 and Luke 23:18, Isaiah 53:12 was fulfilled in Mark 15:27-28, Isaiah 53:9 was fulfilled in Matt. 27:57-60. The most amazing prophecy of all, is found in Daniel 9:25-27. If you take the day for a year principle in Ezekiel 4:6, you can work out the exact time when Christ was supposed to come, and in happened right on time! If you take all these prophecies, then Acts 4:10-12 takes on a more serious meaning.

    Daniel is full of prophecies that have been unmistakeably fulfilled. Like the statue in Daniel 2 that represents the major world empires right to our day. Daniel 7 basically repeats that in the beasts, and adds some interesting details to the last one. What I am trying to say, is that the Bible is truly reliable. It’s not just a book of good ideas. I really can’t explain this in such a short space. If you want to know more, please check out this link

    http://www.amazingfacts.org/school/af_logon.asp

    Please don’t take my word for it. Study it for yourself.

  • http://godslilprincess-stace.blogspot.com Stacie

    What a good way to look at it~! ” REBEL AGAINST REBELLION!!!!!!!!” always keep the faith! Never back down. Never lose heart. Never walk away. NEVER LOSE FAITH! I want to remind all of you all that if you accept defeat, then that’s what you’ll get. So, go out and get the victory with GOD our SAVIOR in whom we trust!

    “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” -Jim Elliot

    Have a great day! I’ll keep you guys in my prayers!
    -Stace

  • http://www.theoutliers.blogspot.com Trevor

    Wow. That is awesome. I never thought about it that way. True people do make mistakes and when the y make them, not only them should learn from them, but us, the future president, future everything teens need to listen to the mistakes of others and make the best out of it and learn to live our lives just a little bit better.

  • http://www.theoutliers.blogspot.com Trevor

    thanks for letting us quote too. That really helps. It’ll help me start a good discussion.

  • IntelligentChristian

    Maybe its just me, but I hardly agree with anything on your blog. Everybody knows about the true and necessary functions of the teenage rebellion mechanism, and the people in the last 100 years were just honest while admiting to it as a fact while earlier generations were hindered by stupid and unnecessary taboos. Our time is far more honest as considered the TRUE impulses, sufferings, problems etc. of Man and I am looking forward to further development in the affected domains (e.g psychhology and the self-analysis of every particular person). In order that everybody face his real problems and pains, solve them and become as happy as possible (and no, Jesus is not the only premise of happiness on Earth, experience shows it). But instead, individs, and Christian individs nonethelss than unbelievers, are gliding more and more into neurosis instead, and I have suffered neurosis while reading “I kIssed Dating Goodbye” because it fitted exactly in the thinking pattern “Sin or No Sin?” burned in my brain by my experience with Christianity so far and I had to suspect everything a sin that has been (and is!) dear to me at th edoamin of love experiences. And if everybody at all, YOU are the creators of artificial truth here. Think whatever you are, but I AM a convinced Christian believer – if I was none, I would never bother about books and blogs and forums of that kind. But I still have something to say that fits in well with your article: If there is something I ever have regretted, this is ever having known about you!

  • Kevin Jackson

    IntelligentChristian: It’s true that human nature doesn’t change and that rebellion comes quite naturally to us. However, I can’t see anything positive or necessary about it. We do undergo a time when we start to think for ourselves more, going from a childlike faith in whatever our parents say to an informed childlike faith in what the Bible says. It is a good thing to ask honest questions and be honest about how we feel, but we should also be open to the answers that our parents and others give us. How a Christian should undergo this stage is by asking people the answers to our questions, not by challenging the answers. For a Christian, the question is how we can grow without rejecting those who already have.
    As far as happiness without Jesus, it seriously depends on what you mean by happiness. You can temporarily feel self-fulfilled without Jesus, for example by doing good deeds or “something worthwhile.” You can be “happy” listening to music, eating good food, admiring art. But you won’t find grace, mercy, holiness, forgiveness of sins, lasting victory, hope, and enduring joy in the things God created. The things that people say make them happy are only the things God uses to show people his qualities; they are not substitute saviors or joy-givers.
    I hope you consider what I wrote, whether you agree with it or not. All I’m asking is that you examine it and test it with the Bible.

  • Jeff Robertson

    Kevin Jackson: I back you up totally!!!

  • DD

    I think that is a very crucial question to ask. I’m sure there are many leaders that we either know of or personally know ourselves that have many regrets from the past wherther spiritually or educationally or etc. Thank you for the challenge!

  • Jeff Robertson

    DD: I hope your right

  • Gordon

    “Some day, in years to come, you will be wrestling with the great temptation, or trembling under the great sorrow of your life. But the real struggle is here, now, in these quiet weeks. Now it is being decided whether, in the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by a steady, long continued process.”

    Phillips Brooks (1835 – 1893)

  • Beka

    Hey Alex and Brett!
    So, I think your website is really cool! I totally agree that the expectations for Christian teens now is SO low!! Thats why I really respect this site and the work you guys are doing!! I was wondering though if you were by chance going to be coming back to Portland OR any time in the future?? Portland is the closest you guys are coming to my city and I would love to come to one of your conferences! I don’t think i can come to the one on May 3rd though, so i was just curious if you were coming again any time soon. If not thats OK! You probably have a ton of other people who would like you to come to their cities!!
    Thank you!
    Beka

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  • Abigail Oxford

    i have been a christian most of my life. but i recently gave my all to jesus. i am naturally a rebel against like everything. i am an individual and always have been. i used to rebel against authority, and things like that. but i realized God gave me a rebellious attitude to use for him. and thats exactly what im doing. ive always known i would be a musician who made it big time. but its not the only thing God has planned for a 14 year old girl from louisville.

    stop human trafficking

    change the music industry forever

    be a missionary

    start a nonprofit for teens with any hurt of any kind.

    seems like a lot for a 14 year old. well not for God.

    me and some friends have recently gotten real close. we r changing our youth group. at 12 on a tuesday nite instead of having sex or partying we are upstairs worshipping, preaching to eachother, giving God our all, praying. instead of gossiping before church we worship with no music, everyone looks at us like what the heck its not 7:00 yet. but we came to church to be with God and grow. i easily make friends so i always try to befriend the new kid. im so excited to find out there are more ppl like me. REBELUTIONARIES.

    abigail

  • Elisa johnson

    i love this concept im only 13 tomorrow but im starting a teen youth group that will raise money for africa lead protests against abortion clinics preach to people and lots of other things to help the community and most importantly serve God

  • http://prayercanhelp.com Corrin Underwood

    Think this website is really awesome its so good how you guys help teens what made you think of name REBELUTIONARIES its so cool God has blessed you.

  • http://prayercanhelp.com Corrin Underwood

    I would like to response to jeff i know its hard for but you trust them they strong in word i was not a rebelutionarie for 6 years my mom & dad can with you the website is Ben@prayercanhelp please also put your prayer needs on their blog

  • daniel t. clemons (age 13)

    i just have to say that in all you guys have said and done, you’ve really changed my way of thinking and i’m really happy to have learned about the book and blog, so thank you very much :-)

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  • Amanda

    Let’s rebel against rebellion, low expectations, and what is considered “normal.”

  • Rachel Ogden

    Thanks for the challenge of this post. :)
    One of the things I enjoy most about some of my friends, is that we are all unashamed rebels- we don’t wear the clothes that are popular, listen to the top songs of the moment and go with the flow. It is so freeing to be who you want to be, and like what you want to like yourself without worrying about attempting to measure up to anyone else’s standards.
    However, I often find myself questioning the value of our rebellion. Are we really making a mark on our generation? I have found that to be a “rebel without a cause” really is to be a rebel without effect. If we are merely rebelling against the popular trends of our culture, and embracing a counter-culture simply for the sake of doing so, what is the value? Punk and emo cultures, as I have learned from my previous involvement, though counter-mainstream culture, are merely a new culture of cool to abide by- which is still being a trend follower and not really a rebel at all.
    I would argue that a true rebel is one seeks after God’s heart and embraces and fights for His truth despite any losses. Though it is a call to give up what we cling to, and serve our Creator, it could not be more freeing. In total surrender to one, we give up all audience to please but the One.
    There are identifying clothes, music, or other marker that will identify us. We will be diverse and many, yet unified in Christ. We will stand out for our actions- for the wounds we heal, the lives we touch, the battles we fight all in Jesus’ name.
    I hope to show my friends a new breed of rebellion as I follow Christ, and pray that God will transform their desire to rebel into a powerful force for His kingdom.

  • Brendan VanWagner

    Hey guys, thanks so much for the challenge. I wish I was younger so that I could pick up the challenge sooner to make a bigger difference in my world. As it is, I am 30 years old and a youth pastor in a small Eastern MT town. Today I had the chance to listen to you on FoF and had the fire rekindled for the students I serve. I see the potential that they have to change their world and am awed that God would choose me to lead them. But I struggled as I listened because my other job takes 50 hours a week and it limits what I can do. So what hard things can I do for God I asked. He told me that I was doing what was hard for me. Bivocational ministry is not an easy task, but that is where he has me right now. There is a great benefit that does result from my job though. It allows me to meet with other youth pastors and pastors to learn and grow. This I have found to be the most valuable part of my ministry life. My life has been changed because of mentors I have found in my life. As you suggest to find those who have gone before and learn from them, I have found this to be never ending. God brings mentors into my life for a time, and some forever (like my dad), and my job is to glean what I can from them. I feel that if I stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, I will be able to see farther than they ever could. That is the model that Jesus gave. “You shall do greater things.” He expected us to learn and grow from our elders, and even though I am getting closer and closer to being an elder, I am still finding elders to learn from.

    Students, don’t stop at asking what your elders regret. Ask them what lessons they have learned. Discuss the deep truths of the Word of God and discover the joys found in the doctrines they believe. You will not regret that!!!!

  • Jason

    Guys. I’m very intrigued and impressed by what you’re doing. There’s a great book by Pastor Wayne Cordeiro called “Divine Mentor” that addresses this very topic. It stresses using Biblical personalities as our mentors in various life situations. God bless you.

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  • Sarah E Smith

    This is very interesting. I am only 13, but after reading your book, I realize that THIS is what teens need to be doing. Can you imagine what our world would be like if every teen took this seriously? I admire you guys for your faithful work and publication on things like this. you can be sure I will be trying this out.

  • Christian Senf

    That’s interesting, always when I was a kid I would picture teenagers as those kids who ran out and did things to bring down “The Man” that really sheds light on the subject.

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  • http://TheRebelution.com sidney nutt , Youth Pastor

    A young 13 year old girl brought yur book to me during sunday school and read parts of it to me. She was very excited and wants to know more. I just got through reading The Myth of Adolescence, Part 1 and 2. I would like to get more information on some down loads that I can share with my youth. I wsa a rebel in my younger days and like Billy Graham wish I could live my life over that I might help other teens. I read and study the Bible a lot and tell about my experiences.

    Thank You

    Sid Nutt

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