This week, thousands of young people swarmed movie theaters in New York, Miami, Cleveland, Nashville and Dallas to attend a sneak preview of the soon-to-be released film “The Fault in Our Stars.” Based on a New York Times best-selling young adult novel, it is a simultaneously hopeful yet tragic tale of teenage cancer patients who fall in love.
Named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, author John Green is a cultural icon to his legions of young fans. They know him not only for his writing, but for his extensive YouTube presence including Mental Floss, Crash Course and the Vlogbrothers.
Another key fact about Green? He is an Episcopalian. The support group that provides the venue for the young lovers to meet? It’s in an Episcopal church, the setting a conscientious decision by Green, who once considered the priesthood. During his discernment process he served as a children’s hospital chaplain and this experiences shaped the story that would become “The Fault in Our Stars.” Although he chose to remain a layperson, Green’s work is infused with an indelible sense of grace that speaks to who he is as a person – and who we are as the Episcopal Church. Without pandering, his voice channels a teenager’s brutal honesty: the hope and despair, the angst and humor. His story embraces the dual nature of faith and futility providing redemption without resorting to easy answers. Teenagers love his work and crave his message.
On June 6, when “The Fault in Our Stars” is released nationwide, we have a tremendous opportunity to use this epic tale to share our story as Episcopalians. Like Green, we don’t offer werewolves or vampires nor do we exist in a dystopian future. What we do have as followers of Jesus Christ, however, is a culture of grace and love where all – including young people – are welcomed and valued. Like Green’s charitable initiative Project for Awesome we, too, are called transform the unjust structures of societies and to respond to others in loving service. Or as Green puts it, we are called to decrease “WorldSuck” – increasing the “awesome” in the world and working hard to eradicate the “suck.”
So how do we use this beautiful story to help young people connect to who we? Take your youth group to see the movie. It is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language (See the link for the trailer below to get a sense of it). For more in-depth consideration, consider a discussion series around the book reflecting on how faith manifests in the book and the reality the characters face.
Whether you focus on the movie or the book, take this opportunity to engage your own youth and encourage them to bring their friends. Help them understand that while the characters are fictitious, the love, relationships and support that the characters find are a true representation of who we are as Episcopalians. Okay? Okay.
Move trailer is here. (And take note of that Episcopal shield!)
Lisa Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org ) is the Director of Children’s Ministry and the Communications Coordinator at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon, PA, which was a primary filming location for the movie.