Bad Things, Good People, and God: A Guide for Teens by Bryan Bliss

I met Bryan almost exactly a year ago when a dear friend and colleague posted on social media looking for resources for a middle schooler who was (understandably) “angry with God for not ‘taking care of things; a little faster – and why God allows us to keep screwing things up.” I commented that I definitely wanted someone to write a “theodicy for progressive Christian kids” book, Bryan responded, we had a great time working on it, and Bad Things, Good People, and God: A Guide for Teens is now available wherever books are sold.

Bryan is the author of four young adult novels including We’ll Fly Away (long-listed for the 2018 National Book Award) and Thoughts & Prayers. He’s also a former youth minister and curriculum designer, a parent, a theologian, and in the process of becoming an Episcopal priest. So, really, he’s the perfect person to write this particular book — a thoughtful, provocative, and humorous exploration of a serious, weighty, and ancient topic: why bad things happen, how God is involved, why it matters to us, and what we can do about it.

Bad Things, Good People and God takes on Bible stories, big ideas, and theologians and issues both historical and contemporary. It’s honest and fresh. What I love most about this book is that it empowers youth to construct and claim their own theodicies:

Let’s take a deep breath.

Just because there isn’t an easy answer (any answer?) to the problem of evil—why bad things happen—doesn’t mean we need to live in a state of constant anxiety or dread. It is not an overstatement to say this is the biggest question of faith. It’s also a question that all of us must wrestle with, cobble together some semblance of an answer, and claim our place as theologians in the world.

Yes, theologians.

Because what you have to say matters. Your theology matters. Your view of the world reveals another glimmer of truth—some small answer—to these big questions.

p. vi

Ultimately, these challenging questions can’t be neatly answered once and for all, but we — and our faith — are stronger for wrestling with them. I’m grateful for Bryan’s wisdom and wisecracks, and the passion he has for diving deep into the messiness of life with God and the rest of us.

Read a longer excerpt from the book here.

Wendy Claire Barrie is the author of Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents.