Teaching Luke: A Divergent Bible Study
Author Veronica Roth has captured the imaginations of audiences worldwide with the newest in a string of young adult fiction series, Divergent. Like Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games before it, Divergent focuses upon the situations and choices of a young adult protagonist trying to survive in a challenging world. The lessons learned and the obstacles overcome exaggerate the real life challenges faced by young adults who feel connected to these heroes and heroines.
The Divergent series concentrates on the world of Beatrice (Tris) Prior, a resident of dystopian Chicago. Chicago has been divided into factions based on core virtues intended to help keep the peace in this society’s post-war culture. The factions are broken down into the selfless ones (Abnegation), the brave ones (Dauntless), the honest ones (Candor), the peaceful ones (Amity), and the intelligent ones (Erudite). Individuals must choose in their 16th year whether to stay with the faction of their birth or choose a new faction based on the results of a state administered test. For Tris, the test that is supposed to help her decide does anything but. After her test, she finds that she does not fit into any faction at all. She belongs in a completely different category altogether: divergent.
Throughout her journey, Tris realizes that being divergent places her outside the clean boxes and boundaries of the factions. She is not only selfless, but she is also smart, kind, honest, and brave. Tris’ struggle of being different in a world that values assimilation into a larger group speaks to the challenges of being a young adult and a Christian in today’s world. Young adults are asked by their peers, families, and mentors to blend into the culture surrounding them. Yet, many young adults are seeking the exact opposite- to be unique and different. By examining the five virtues upheld by the factions of the Divergent series, this study of the Gospel of Luke challenges young adults to question their assumptions about fitting in. Instead, they are challenged to be divergent.
Lesson 1: Amity
The members of Amity value peacefulness. The manifesto of this faction is a series of conversations that mimic Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain in the sixth chapter of Luke. The manifesto conversations reflect the topics of trust, self-sufficiency, forgiveness, kindness, and involvement. The Sermon on the Plain moves from blessings and woes to loving enemies to the measure of a disciple. Study participants will be asked to take a particular conversation of peace in the Amity manifesto and compare its message to the message found within Jesus’ teaching in Luke chapter six.
Lesson 2: Candor
Candor holds honesty as their highest virtue. For Candor, dishonesty causes suspicion and conflict where honesty leads to peace, transparency, and strength. In order to lead honest lives before God, Christians must be honest about their shortcomings through prayer. Luke’s gospel portrays the unique parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14). Participants will investigate the importance of honesty by discussing prayer together.
Lesson 3: Erudite
Intelligence defines the members of the Erudite faction. In the first book of the Divergent series, Erudite begins to step out of their role as society’s innovators and thinkers, thereby threatening the peace. Their purpose, to use their knowledge and understanding to benefit all factions, is admirable, but fails to be kind and caring toward others. In this way, the Erudite mirror the actions of the Pharisees during Jesus’ ministry (Luke 5:17-26 and 6:1-11). By comparing the history of the Pharisees and the Erudite, participants will discover that intelligence must be balanced by compassion. They will use current issues to discuss how knowledge and faith are not mutually exclusive.
Lesson 4: Abnegation
The quality that defines the Abnegation is selflessness. Through all of their actions, the Abnegation attempt to rid their lives of selfishness and self-concerns through service to others. Jesus teaches his disciples to live a life of service not only explicitly through his words (Luke 22:24-30), but also implicitly through his actions and his crucifixion (Luke 23: 32-43). Participants will look at the implicit and explicit accounts of selflessness in the Divergent series drawing from their own experiences in order to gain a greater understanding of what it means to truly be selfless.
Lesson 5: Dauntless
Luke’s gospel is unique in its attention to the care for the poor, women, and individuals with disabilities and illnesses. Dauntless functions based on the principle that “ordinary acts of bravery drive one person to stand up for another.” Jesus’ care for the vulnerable of society is precisely the kind of work that Dauntless advocates. Participants will retell the stories of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and the Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8) to discuss the type of courage that Jesus advocates in the Lukan gospel account.
Lesson 6: Divergent
By returning to look at all of the lessons together, participants will discuss what it means to be divergent. Divergence is the tendency to diverge from the norm, which is represented by faction life within the Divergent series. Participants will determine what it means to be divergent in the “real world.” How does Jesus’ calling change the way Christians in the world are to fit in? How can participants be peace seeking, honest, intelligent, selfless, and brave in their everyday lives?
 The Divergent series is accompanied by manifestos for the five factions explaining each group’s thought processes. These can be found in the appendices of the books or by visiting http://divergent.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Manifestos.