While most students at Washburn High School dances are searching the floor for their next partner, James Sorenson is thinking about God.
Or, more specifically, whether God would be disappointed in him. Sorenson — a junior at Washburn — is Protestant, a branch of Christianity. His religion guides most of his decisions, including those he has to make at dances.
The 10th Commandment says not to commit adultery and Sorenson decides sexualized dance moves often seen at high school dances would violate this.
“I would be disappointed in myself and my father in heaven would be disappointed but he would still love me for sure.”
Sorenson takes this concept of loving and applies it to his own life.
“I like loving people. And I see a lot of love in the world, a lot of forgiveness. I try to take tangible steps toward being loving and forgiving,” he said.
How do you identify your faith?
Christianity. I believe that there is a God who created us, and we were sinful, so he sent his son (Jesus) to die for us because he was perfect. We can be perfect again because he took all the blame. And now we can go to heaven.
What is your relationship to your faith?
I try to spend a lot of time practicing my religion. It’s the most important thing in my life.
How do you practice?
Go to church on Sunday, pray whenever, read the bible whenever. There is really no set time to do those things. (Also), youth group on Wednesday nights, which is like church for young adults.
What’s your earliest memory of being religious?
Fourth grade. There was no set time when I was like, “OK, I’m a Christian now.” But I started trying to act like one in fourth grade. I think trying to forgive someone who had bullied me. That’s probably my first memory of it. (But) it was still my parents’ religion. I hadn’t made it my own.
What made you decide to take it as your own?
Because I was growing up. I was like, “OK, if I’m going to believe this, I have to believe it for myself. I can’t just believe what my parents believe.” But after thinking about it, we have very, very similar beliefs.
Do you think your parents would have supported you if you hadn’t believed what they believed?
Yes, they would have, but it would have been very hard for the family. They think it’s very important that all of their children believe.
Do you have siblings?
Yes, two younger siblings.
Do you feel like you’re a role model for their faith?
Yeah, it’s a lot of pressure. If I can influence them, that would be awesome. But it’s also possible to influence them in the wrong ways, so you have to be careful.
Who have been your biggest faith influences?
Jesus. Whether or not you believe in Christianity, he’s just a really good guy. And a good prophet. I believe he’s the Son of God, and even if you don’t, he’s still a really cool dude.
Another one would be my grandfather. He lives his life with lots of love. I really admire that greatly. He has a ton of wisdom.
What do you consider to be the most important values of your faith?
Love and forgiveness, because it was with forgiveness that we were saved from sin. God forgave us, and love is what we need to have for each other, and that’s how we grow in our community as Christians.
Do you have a specific example of a step you’ve taken toward being loving and forgiving?
I suppose with the gay rights movement. I know a lot of Christians have hated on it or judged it, or even a lot of regular people in general. But homosexuals are no different than me. They are wonderful people, and they need to be loved not hated on.
What comforts you about your religion?
It’s comforting to know that I know where I’m going to go when I die. That’s huge for me, because it’s really scary to think about what’s going to happen after we die. That’s weird. So being able to believe that I’m going to be in this incredible place for the rest of my life and never stop is awesome. It’s also comforting to have a reason to be on earth. I believe that God put us here to love one another and build relationships and bring others to Christ. So that’s really a good mission to have. It’s good motivation, too.
What challenges you about your religion?
High school. Just trying to live a sinless life. That’s impossible, and obviously it’s not going to happen, but it’s still nice to try to follow what Jesus said is good.
How is high school a challenge?
It’s easy to step away from my faith. It’s easy to say that I have too much going on, that I don’t have time to read the Bible, that I don’t have time to pray, that I have to get stuff done. It’s easy to forget. It would be fairly easy for me to just, like at dances — I don’t know, I don’t really go anymore because I can’t deal with the dirtiness — or at parties … those seem really fun sometimes. And it’s very tempting to go out there and throw it back or whatever. Or hit up a party.
What are the biggest misconceptions you face?
Christians don’t have any fun. I suppose, in a sense, that’s true. But we have fun in other ways. Or that Christians are really judgmental and hate on anyone who isn’t like them. And we are all humans, and God loves all of us the same. We are no better than anyone else. I try to make it clear that just because I am Christian, I am not better than anyone.
In general how does your generation respond to faith and religion?
I think there is a lack of serious religion in our generation. I know a lot of Europe has fallen away from Christianity. A lot of America has. I can’t support this, but I would guess that it would be (the same with) other religions also. I think there is faith still. I think our generation believes in something, but they may not practice seriously. So that’s where there’s hope. There’s hope that they still believe in something and maybe I can influence that.
Is it hard to be a Protestant teenager?
Yeah, it is. Sometimes you feel like you don’t really fit in. Because you don’t want to do some of the stuff that your friends do. It’s sometimes hard standing up for your faith, sometimes you don’t want to. Me personally, I just don’t want to be a social outcast, so maybe I give (in) … or even if someone came at my religion, I might not have the strength to be like, “Hey, I don’t agree with that.”
If you could change anything about your religion, what would it be?
I would get rid of churches — because we don’t have to worship in a church building. We can worship wherever we want. Sometimes I think it’s a little foolish to spend millions and millions of dollars on these giant buildings that we don’t really need. I would also let women do more. In my denomination, it’s very traditional … and women don’t have a lot of opportunity to be in roles of leadership. I think that women are awesome. They definitely have a lot of wisdom to bring and they definitely should be given chances.