Sheep and Goats by Lewis Gordon
Sheep and Goats speaks about adolescent life in its raw form but does so with an authentic voice. Lewis captures the nonchalance of youth culture (with a shrug of the shoulders or a ‘mibbe’), the challenge of social conformity, the competing tribes and the transitory nature of this stage between childhood and adult life. There is also a good mix of humour and one liners in contrast to some bleaker aspects of the storyline. For example, one of the characters starts to play ‘White Riot’ on his Walkman and attempts to walk at the pace of the drums but quickly ends up exhausted. This conjures up a great mental picture!
I am particularly drawn to Nicky, a young church goer, who tries to balance this side of life with the counter-culture offered by his circle of friends. He is endlessly teased about his faith, is nicknamed ‘The Messiah,’ and tries meekly to deflect their attempts to get him to drink alcohol, take drugs or sleep with his girlfriend, Ruth. It is clear that Nicky wants to go to church and the youth group associated with it. However, the steady drip of insults (and his own sexual awakenings) leads in a direction away from this community. Mack, his youth leader, offers counsel and support but his voice is drowned by the competing chatter from the mixed bag of characters that Nicky associates with most of the time.
This is a decent novel (Lewis’s first); the narrative drew me in and I found resonance with its central character. I have since reflected (because I am a Christian and Youth Pastor) about why I strive to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and subsequently choose to swim against the tide of the prevailing culture.
Some early ideas…
- Jesus Christ offers, I believe, the most compelling vision of how life should be lived.
- This life is centred on his character (vividly illustrated in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 6 - "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control").
- His life, death and resurrection give it an enduring framework.
- The community of the church provides the support, encouragement and engagement needed for the journey.
- His call to ‘love God & neighbour’ lifts life out of selfishness into service.