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Blogging teens

Six homeschoolers are using blogs to rebel against rebellion

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When he wakes up in the morning, 17-year-old Alex Harris doesn't roll out of bed just in time to gobble down Pop-Tarts and race off to catch the bus. Instead, after reading his Bible and praying, Alex eats a homemade breakfast (accompanied by a kefir-fruit smoothie) and sits down at his Apple laptop to update his blog, The Rebelution.

Alex and his twin brother Brett are part of an online movement of blogging teens who are rebelling against the cultural trends of their generation. They, along with Tim Sweetman, Jonathan McCarthy, Robert Wood, and Kierstyn Paulino, are Christian homeschoolers between 15 and 18 years old who use their blogs to combat teenage apathy and political ignorance and to build Christian worldviews.

Alex and Brett Harris, 17

These boys are definitely twins: Brett plays percussion and teaches himself violin, while Alex is content with his guitar, but the two are agreed in book choices: Social policy, theology, apologetics, and politics are their preferred genres, and favorite authors include John Piper, Francis Schaeffer, and Nancy Pearcey. Musically, they like the Beatles and the Beach Boys along with jazz and bluegrass, U2, and Switchfoot. The boys play sports (they recently took up fencing) and classical piano, and they read widely: "It's hard to write well," Alex says, "unless you're reading the thoughts of others."

Their blog, The Rebelution, battles "the myth of adolescence," the idea that the teen years are a time to goof off before really "buckling down" to a responsible adulthood. Alex says that "if teenagers think that this is the time to have fun, they won't be ready to be responsible." He adds that "low expectations affect you even if you're not into the drugs, sex, etc., and it continues until someone intentionally remedies that irresponsibility." The Harris twins say the disease of teenage apathy morphs into another stage: the kidult, a person between 18 and 25 who lives at home and waffles between jobs.

The solution, Alex explains, is rebelution, "a cross between rebellion and revolution. It's an uprising against social norms. We are refusing to be defined by an ungodly, rebellious culture." Modern teens are expected to be rebellious, but Alex and Brett are rebelling against that rebellious trend-and that means building character rather than a political movement.

"A lot of teens are not ready to become actively involved politically," Brett says: "They've been crippled by low expectations. They need to train themselves for involvement first." Alex agrees: "Politics is so corrupting, unless character has already been developed." For Alex and Brett, the teenage years are not an occasion for immaturity, but a valuable period in which to prepare for adulthood.

The boys admire Francis Schaeffer "for his ability not to compromise truth but to reach out with compassion," and their goal is to do the same. "We don't unnecessarily condemn people," Alex says. "We really do have a heart for our generation." They believe that this outreach is best achieved if they work in tandem, with what Brett calls "a healthy level of competition."

Jonathan McCarthy, 18

Jonathan typically gets up at 5:30 for devotions before working an eight-hour day for a concrete contractor. He spends most of his work time building patios and walls and says the mission of Christian, Think! is "to build other teens' worldviews according to Scripture." This includes "asking their opinions, debunking heresies, and writing scripturally based articles."

Jonathan, too, is on a mission to combat indifference and apathy: "The biggest threat that I see facing Christian teens today is a deadness to spiritual things and a conforming to the world in the areas of music, movies, and books." He says the answer does not lie with politics but with "changing hearts. Legislation won't work if hearts are wrong." He speaks about achieving this through media as well as through direct evangelism: "We need to produce better, deeper media products and preach a gospel of judgment and mercy."

Jonathan's literary favorites range from Ravi Zacharias, C.S. Lewis, and Ray Comfort to Lew Wallace, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Charles Dickens. His future plans are unclear, but he has a few ideas: "I might translate and write books for a Spanish church, or I might be a journalist, or a professor."

Kierstyn Paulino, 15

Described by her friends as "passionate, determined, and understanding," Kierstyn loves debating, speaking, and interrogating political candidates. Among her favorite reading materials are Oliver North books, Men in Black, and the Left Behind series. Kierstyn enjoys political satire and is firm about her heroes: "First, Christ. After that: soldiers, my parents, and Ronald Reagan."

Kierstyn's Politically Incorrect Zone blog has a conservative mission: "To influence at least my readers and show them the 'right' angle." For example, she recently discussed the problem of judicial activism and presented both a biblical and a constitutional evaluation of the situation. She enjoys blogging because "I like knowing that in some small way, I am making a difference and I am saying what needs to be said." For Kierstyn, like the others, apathy is the enemy: "We aren't willing to act on our beliefs and stand for what we believe."

Taking a stand will probably take Kierstyn even further into politics, but for now she's content to engage in campaigns and use her blog to "make other people think."

Tim Sweetman, 16

An avid soccer fan and guitar player whose favorite movies include Gods and Generals and The Chronicles of Narnia, Tim began Agent Tim Online as a place to post thoughts on his devotionals. His mission now is to offer a biblical perspective on political and cultural issues, and-like the Harris twins-lead a rebellion against rebellion. "We've got to stop just rebelling against previous generations," Tim says: "We've got to stop being brain-dead, walking around with cell phones in our ears like pacifiers."

Tim works at a Chick-fil-A front counter and drive-thru and says that his goal is to "live a revolutionary, regenerate life. Go above today's low standards, the modern expectations of rebelling against parents, of dressing and acting a certain way: rebel against that every day." Tim says blogging has contributed to his education: "I can look at what I wrote when I was 13 and then look at my writing now and there is a huge gap," Tim says. "Now I can talk about issues, I can hold an opinion and argue a point, and I can also network with like-minded teens."

Although it's been hard to get over nasty e-mails and angry comments, Tim says he has also learned to respond intelligently to different worldviews and relate constructively to people through discussion rather than through argument. For him, dealing with people is an important issue; one of his goals is to have the humility to "be able to turn the conversation to talk about the other person."

Robert Wood, 16

His voice is soft and his manner reserved, but "Palm Boy" (as he is known on his blog) has a quick laugh and a penchant for politics. A Boy Scout and a book lover (including Star Wars-"all 40 of 'em"-State of Fear, and Tom Clancy books), Robert enjoys robots, engineering, and history. His blog, Pushing Back the Frontiers of Ignorance, aims for just that: "I'm a news junkie. We as teenagers will be voting soon, and most of us don't know why to vote what we vote, other than family associations (like 'My father is Republican, therefore I'll vote Republican'). My blog is about informing people."

Robert plans eventually to join the Marines, and he is also thinking about political science and videography (primarily videotaping weddings) as possible professions.

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