Not too long ago my 17-year-old son Ben came bounding into my room after youth group and announced, "When I die I want you to play the Supertones' 'Heaven' at my memorial service." My heart skipped a few beats. Then I said, "OK."
My son and I brought different assumptions to that moment. My assumption was: Parents are not supposed to bury their children. His assumption was: To serve the Lord means you think about your memorial service. This was a post-Columbine conversation.
He and his brother Jon, 16, had also been reading the recently published book Jesus Freaks, by the Christian rock group dc Talkand The Voice of the Martyrs. The book, written for teens, highlights the martyrdoms of people from every corner of the globe, from the apostle Stephen up to Cassie Bernall. Jon was struck by the testimony of a young Russian named Ivan who served in the Soviet military at the age of 18 (in 1970). Ivan was forced to stand in subzero temperatures wearing his summer uniform for 12 nights in an attempt to make him renounce his Christianity. "A lark threatened with death for singing would still continue to sing. She cannot renounce her nature. Neither can we Christians," Ivan said to his tormentors. The tactics intensified and by 1972, when he was 20, Ivan wrote his parents, "You will not see me anymore."
When Ivan's body was returned to his family, he had been stabbed six times around the heart, with wounds on his head and around the mouth, and signs of beatings on the whole body. Ivan "died with difficulty," his commander told the family. "He fought death, but he died a Christian."
In dc Talk's popular song, "Jesus Freak," the singers ask:
What would people think when they hear that I'm a Jesus Freak? What will people do when they ...1
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Elegy for a Jesus Freak
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