Yesterday I went to a school in Doncaster. Picture it. There are 80 sixth formers and I have to engage them for 90 minutes on my own with just one teacher present. A tad frightening.

I tell them about Tarzan, the human trafficker who comes from Ukraine. In the 1990’s he attempted to purchase a Russian submarine to help him smuggle cocaine. Tarzan then gave up drug smuggling and turned to human trafficking. He said: “You can buy a woman for $10,000 and make your money back in a week if she is pretty and young. Then everything else is profit.” A 2003 study in the Netherlands found that, on average, a single sex slave earns her pimp at least $250,000 a year.

During my fifty minute presentation I help the students to understand the materialist philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and how this leads to both consumerism and atheism. Then I show, through storytelling, how this secular worldview impacts both celebrities and ordinary people. I then explain the Christian faith by contrasting it with materialism and consumerism.

I then ask the students to write down any questions they have (this takes 10 minutes). Then they grill me for 30 minutes.

Here are some of their questions.

1) What is Tarzan doing now?

2) Is it possible to have knowledge if everything is physical?

3) How does consumerism lead to environmental destruction?

4) Are beliefs just commodities?

5) What happened to Natalie Dylan, the young woman who wanted to auction her virginity for £2.5 million?

6) Why is sabbath rest so important?

7) How is Hobbes different from Descartes?

8) Do you believe in free will?

In my answers to these questions I explained secular views, both modernist and relativist and contrasted this with the Christian faith. They were very respectful. I touched on the dignity and value of human life, the hope of bodily resurrection and the forgiveness of sins.

The teacher who asked me to do the conference said it was ‘brilliant’.

Brief Reflections

To be honest I was blown away by how attentive and responsive the students were. Thanks to anyone who prayed for me. The stories really engaged them and made them think. I was struck by the power of contrasting secular mindsets (we live as if there is no God and everything is just physical) with the Christian faith. It is vital to connect the Christian faith to our contemporary culture. Teenagers really want to grapple with deep and meaningful issues, like human trafficking and free will, but cliches and glib answers do not work.

Mark Roques

Mark Roques

For eleven years Mark taught Philosophy and Religious Studies at Prior Park College, Bath. As Director of RealityBites since 2005, he has developed a rich range of resources for teachers and is a popular speaker at educational conferences in the UK, Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. Mark is the author of three books, including the Religious Education textbook The Good, The Bad and The Misled, and his innovative approach has led him to appear on television (Channel 4) and radio.