“Is it real?”

I had a great meeting today with the RE teacher at a school where we haven’t done much for a couple of years. In and around all the discussion about lessons, visitors and stuff we got talking about student’s attitudes to belief in general and Christianity in particular. She observed that many are asking questions that explore whether any of this is real, which concurs with what I’ve experienced of young people’s questions in school, but it was interesting to hear the same observation from a self professed agnostic.

I’m wondering whether the question “Is it real?” is the post-postmodern replacement for the old modernist question “Is it true?” There was an early postmodern question, “Does it work?” but my perception is that this soon gave way to “Does it feel right for me?” which is probably where many people still are.

“Is it real?” is a great question, combining as it does a kind of guarded appeal to truth with the subtle implication that whatever “it” is one might want to engage with it in a personal way. Do lots of people wonder about this, or is it a stage of questioning that is strongest among young people and which fades away with the onset of adult cynicism? If it is, it provides a unique window of opportunity to those of us working with young people for sharing the most amazing news ever, that God is not only real, but can also be real to you. The challenge then, is not only to explain how this is real but to live that reality every day so that when we speak of it, young people can already see it.

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