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Greta Thunberg: Teen Prophet

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Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen activist with Asperger’s, delivered a passionate speech at the United Nations this week.

Her words condemned preceding generations and current leaders, challenging them to immediately address and act on climate change.

Her words were direct and pointed. “I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean,” she proclaimed. “Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

She went on to criticize members of the U.N. who cared more about “fairytales of eternal economic growth” than anguishing ecosystems, large extinctions of species, and the millions of people suffering due to climate change.

Thunberg’s comments struck a chord with many in the crowd, as applause broke out during and after her speech.

While many declared the young Swedish teen a modern-day prophet, speaking truth to power, others immediately began comparing her advocacy with Nazi youth during the 1930s and 1940s.

Even the president of the United States tweeted mockingly, “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”

Over the last few years, a growing number of teenagers are standing up and speaking out. From climate change to sensible gun legislation, the emerging generation decided that their preceding generations failed them.

The emerging generations are rejecting the mindset of those focused largely on maintaining their wealth and power.

Instead, they are seeking to live more simply, equitably and sustainably.

These young voices are filled with passion, but they are also filled with reasonable arguments and achievable solutions.

For almost all of them, regardless of topic, they denounce preceding generations that have shirked responsibility while leaving the consequences of inaction to those inheriting the future.

The consideration, reason and passion of these teen prophets remind me of an adolescent Jesus at the temple.

Luke records 12-year-old Jesus’ encounter with teachers of the Law (Luke 12). As the elder generation of teachers listens to the boy, Luke records their response: “All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.”

Then and now, hope rests in people bold enough to speak truth and daring enough to act.

Speaking at the U.N. Youth Climate Summit in New York, Thunberg told the audience, “We showed that we are united and that we, young people, are unstoppable.”

The prophet Isaiah once declared that a child would lead the nations to peace: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

EthicsDaily is committed to giving a platform to the new generation of faith leaders.

Our “Emerging Voices” and “U:21” series provide the opportunity for the next generation to shape critical conversations and advocate for hopeful solutions.

As the world continues to face significant issues without many current leaders offering daring and tangible solutions, the future will need to depend more and more on the younger voices speaking out.

The church would do well to let emerging generations serve in leadership roles, develop innovative ministries and preach from pulpits.

The world seems to grow darker at times, but a beacon of light peers through the darkness.

The light of youthful exuberance offers a pathway forward; a path where righteous fury, raging passion and hopeful solutions are travel companions.

Listen to Thunberg once again: “Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.”

Isaiah was right long ago; children will lead us.

Hopefully, adults will listen before it’s too late!

Mitch Randall

Mitch Randall is executive director of EthicsDaily.com.