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Church as Royal Priesthood

The story made newspaper headlines and television newscasts this week: a “powder puff” touch-football game involving girls from an affluent Chicago suburb turned not just ugly but downright dangerous.

The story made newspaper headlines and television newscasts this week: a “powder puff” touch-football game involving girls from an affluent <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Chicago suburb turned not just ugly but downright dangerous.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 
Students who had gone to the park last Sunday to watch the game captured it on videotape. Many barroom brawls end more peaceably and with far fewer injuries.

In what is an annual tradition at Glenbrook’s North High School, girls who are currently juniors faced off with senior girls in the game that has historically included some degree of hazing. The younger girls reportedly paid $35-40 each to participate in the “initiation” into their senior year. In return for their money, they received a jersey and whole lot more. 
They were slapped, punched, pushed, splattered with paint and doused with a variety of other dirty and foul-smelling things, including mud, animal intestines and excrement. Five girls were injured severely enough to require hospital treatment. One girl required stitches in her head; another suffered a broken ankle.

“It was supposed to be a friendly initiation into our senior year,” the Chicago Tribune reported one 17-year-old as saying. 
Glenbrook North’s principal, Michael Riggle, said alcohol contributed to the violence. Police and sheriff’s departments are investigating the incident and indicate that criminal charges may be filed.

It’s more than an isolated situation that quickly got out of hand. One study conducted in 2000 by Alfred University in New York reported that 48 percent of students said they had experienced some form of hazing. 
The girls involved felt that participating in the ritual would somehow set them apart as seniors. It has, but probably not like they had hoped.

The incident raises all sorts of questions:

·         Why did the girls think that participating in this ritual would make them more “seniors” than girls who didn’t participate?
·         How could something that apparently began as a friendly rite turn into gang violence?
·         Why hasn’t someone stopped the hazing part of this ritual before now?
·         Why do girls continue to participate year after year? 
The desire to conform is a strong characteristic of adolescents. Without condoning or excusing the extremes of the Glenbrook incident, we can understand why most high school kids will go to great pains just to fit in.

Unfortunately, many adults never outgrow this need to conform. Neither do some churches. Too often, both individuals and churches do things that reflect contemporary culture rather than challenge or change it. They want to fit in, to be liked and accepted. 
That’s not what God has called the church to be and do, according to Scripture.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not receive mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:9-10 NRSV). 
God calls the church to become a unique moral community of nonconformity that displays as best it can God’s character and love. Qualities like moral purity, faithfulness, honesty, kindness, care, generosity, hospitality, humility, justice and peacemaking set Christians apart as “different.” They show the world that the church is neither a social club nor an activity center. Instead the church is a spiritual family.

As you read 1 Peter 2 and prepare to teach from it, consider what message Peter might have for your church.
Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.
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