Be transformed, not conformed
by Paul Hess
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To show how faith can encourage students to break the shackles of conformity.
Preparation and materials
- Have available the song ‘Another brick in the ball’ by Pink Floyd and the means to play it at the beginning of the assembly.
- We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control. No dark sarcasm in the classroom. Leave them kids alone. Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone! All in all it’s just another brick in the wall. All in all you're just another brick in the wall.
- These famous words from the song ‘Another brick in the wall’ come from Pink Floyd’s iconic 1979 album The Wall. The album revolves around the character Pink, whose life is full of loss and isolation. He starts to build a mental wall that isolates him from society and incidents that cause him suffering are ‘bricks in the wall’.
- One of the things that caused him pain growing up was an out-of-touch education system, run by cruel teachers who had no feeling for or sensitivity to Pink’s true, inner self.
- Among many other provocative images in the video to the song is that of students travelling along a factory conveyer belt – emphasizing how a rigid education system enforces conformity and crushes personal freedom and creative expression.
- I wonder whether, here at school and beyond it, you have a sense of being on a conveyer belt, controlled by the adults in your life, or do you feel that you are allowed to give expression to your true self?
- Of course, it is not only adults who might restrict your freedom as young people. Very often, the most powerful force controlling your behaviour is the opinion of your peers. Are you someone who thinks, behaves, dresses and speaks as your friends do, someone who follows along blindly, or do you have the courage to be different?
- Education and religion are both often criticized as being systems of control, ways of making people conform to the values and ideals of the Establishment. In fact, education and faith, at their best, are about freedom of the spirit and mind. They are about developing a critical approach and asking challenging questions of the prevailing assumptions, values and beliefs of our day.
- SØren Kierkegaard was a great philosopher who lived in Denmark in the nineteenth century. He had no time for what the press called ‘the public’. He thought the idea of ‘the public’ was just an invention that forced everybody to follow the crowd. Rather than following other people, he believed each of us should act freely and independently.
- In the Gospels, Jesus often took the lonely and difficult path. He did not conform to other peoples’ expectations of what the Messiah should be like and he certainly did not conform to the religious system of his day.
- The great question for each one of us is whether or not we have the courage to strike out on our own possibly risky and radical path rather than travel the road others want us to take, prepared to challenge rather than conform, prepared to dismantle the bricks in the wall.
Time for reflection
It is true that Christians today are often acquiescent and conservative instead of presenting a radical challenge to society’s values. That is why we need to hear the words of Paul to the Romans (12.2, KJV) afresh:
And do not be conformedto this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Spend a few moments thinking about how you may conform without even realizing it. How might you be more true to yourself today?
Liberate us from the pressure to conform, that we may be free to be who you have made us to be.
Help us to see the path of truth and justice and grant that we may have the courage to follow that path, even if it means going against crowd.