Generation Joshua wants to get high school students so involved in comprehensive civics education that they'll be eager to become players in the nation's political process. Through online courses, voter registration drives and student action teams, Gen Joshua motivates teens to learn, and then to put their knowledge to work.
While the program originated with the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a review of the website reveals excellent resources for public school classrooms as well as other youth organizations which want to get teens involved in the culture.
Ned Ryun, director of the Gen Joshua program, told AFA Journal, "The tendency to engage in hands-on involvement in civic activism is not as great among home schoolers as it was 10 or 15 years ago. We want to encourage this rising generation of young Christians -- home-schooled, private-schooled and public-schooled -- that they can make a difference in America now, and that they can be leaders for the next generation."
Ryun is no stranger to politics. He is a former writer for President George W. Bush and son of U.S. Congressman Jim Ryun (R-KS). He also directs the HSLDA Federal Political Action Committee and is co-author of Heroes Among Us with his father and twin brother, Drew.
"We got the name Generation Joshua from Mike Farris," said Ryun. Farris is president of the board and general counsel for HSLDA. In 2002, he gave a speech in which he referred to home-schooling parents as the "Moses generation" and the rising generation of students as the "Joshua generation" who can take back the land and play a key role in preserving freedom and liberty in America.
Gen Joshua takes to heart the principle from Proverbs 29:18: "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (KJV). The online courses are designed to help students grasp the importance of our history. They include courses on the Founding Fathers, an introductory Constitutional law class, a campaign school, and live online chats with notable conservatives in Congress and the private sector.
Seventeen-year-old Matthew Johnson said, "I have found the online instruction to be both informative and inspiring. This organization is not only providing Christians with civics education, but is also directing an army of enthusiastic young people determined to make a difference." Johnson is a Littleton, Colorado, Gen Joshua member.
The online curriculum provides the basics, and the overall program moves students to the next level -- taking a stand on moral and social issues, and practical application of the principles they've learned.
Gen Joshua held their first summer camp in July, with speakers including Congressman Ryun and historian David Barton. The week-long event included a field trip to Washington, DC. "Quite frankly," said Ned Ryun, "with the hymn 'Soldiers of Christ, Arise' running through my head, I want to inspire young Christians to fight for what is right. There are many issues facing us today that will impact America for generations, same-sex marriage being a key one."
Ryun is convinced that a key strategy for the future is to get young Christians involved in the citizenship process even before they themselves can vote. Through Gen Joshua, he is able to provide the means to counter the secular humanism and moral relativism rampant in America today.
According to a 2001 poll by Pew Research, less than 60 percent of self-proclaimed evangelical Christians were registered to vote and less than 25 percent actually voted. One of Gen Joshua's main goals is to boost the number of voting churchgoers in the nation.
In fact, these startling facts are one of the main reasons HSLDA formed Gen Joshua. The voter registration campaign appears to be taking off with home schoolers, many of whom are making it a family project. Within three weeks after Gen Joshua announced the project, more than 250 families had signed up to conduct church voter registration drives. At press time, that number had grown to 450.
The Jim Bittles are one family who took on the project. Jim and Michele Bittle, of Winchester, Virginia, have been married for 13 years and have four children. "It was a great experience for everyone," said Jim Bittel. "We've registered 30 people over two Sundays, and the kids had fun too."
After signing up at the website, those who want to conduct a voter registration drive at their church will have access to Gen Joshua's general and state voter records and other resources. In addition they will receive step-by-step guidelines and support.
"This is not about politics," said Ryun. "This is a call to obedience." Gen Joshua students from California to Virginia to Ohio are conducting non-partisan voter drives in churches, at conferences, at music festivals and Christian concerts.
Ryun is excited about the potential of the program. He points out that just a small increase in evangelical voting could make a big difference in the outcome of any election, especially considering that in the 2000 presidential election, five states were decided by 7,000 votes or less.
Gen Joshua cites three Scriptural principles regarding the moral mandate for Christians to vote. First, God ordained civil government in Romans 13:1-7. In Exodus 18:21, He called His people to select godly leaders. And the payoff is, according to Proverbs 29:1, if His people are obedient in this responsibility, they will be blessed.
Student Action Teams
HSLDA's Political Action Committees form the last arm of the Gen Joshua strategy. This fall, HSLDA PAC will be sending out 15 Student Action Teams, recruited from Gen Joshua, to work for pro-life, pro-family candidates across the nation.
This year's teams will follow the pattern established in 2002, when seven teams of home school and Christian college youth went on the campaign trail for pro-life, pro-family candidates. These teams focused on the 'get-out-the-vote' effort, making phone calls and going door-to-door to boost voter turnout. Of those seven races, six were victories, and in many areas where these young people were active, voter turnout rose by 15 percent.
One final component of Gen Joshua is the Benjamin Rush Awards Program. Rush was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, established the first Bible society in America and helped found five colleges. There's nothing like the challenge of a little competition to motivate teens, and the awards program offers scholarships to Patrick Henry College.
Teen members accumulate points by recruiting new members, registering new voters, taking quizzes online, writing letters to the editor and volunteering for political campaigns.
The times can certainly be discouraging, and many an individual with an activist's heart has grown discouraged when there seemed to be no like-minded patriots. It's easy to fall victim to doubt, thinking, "I'm only one person. What can one person do?" The fact is, one person can do a lot. Generation Joshua is proof that activism starts with an individual who wants to have a positive impact on our culture.
Randall Murphree, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is editor of AFA Journal, a monthly publication of the American Family Association. This article appeared in the September 2004 issue. Generation Joshua (http://www.generationjoshua.org) Homeschool Legal Defense Association (http://www.hslda.org)
© 2004 Agape Press.