Tonight I attended a political debate on the Democratic and Republican platforms on all the key issues: health care, gay marriage, the economy, energy policy and more. But instead of seasoned political pros, at this debate all the presenters were 14-year-olds in the Initiates group, a joint youth program of First Church and South Church.
The Initiates go through a two-year program modeled on traditional rites of passage from several world cultures. The program was designed in the "counter-culture years" by then-First Church minister, Bill Roberts, and eventually, South Church joined in. In early adolescence, the group goes through a number of rituals to lead them to official adulthood in the church community. Tonight's event was a "social witness" rite, which gave each teenager the chance to weigh in on political issues in the grown-up world.
During the debate, the teens took turns representing the Blue and Red positions. As one initiate said, it was the first time she'd ever logged on to the website of the "opposition", and it made her realize that although she wasn't changing her preference, there were some things to admire about the other candidate that she hadn't known before.
There were a lot of lively questions from the audience made up of church and community members. After the debate, everyone seemed to enjoy the donuts and pumpkin bread, regardless of how they'll be voting on Tuesday.