By Sarah Pride
Patrick Henry College
Sleepy-eyed young people filled Patrick Henry College’s Town Hall, tired from their week of work and play at Generation Joshua teen camp, but intent on the two figures onstage. Brett and Alex Harris, twin nineteen-year-old brothers and best-selling authors of a new book for teens, Do Hard Things, swapped a microphone back and forth in the characteristic style they have developed in the last year-plus, explaining the premise of what they have termed the “Rebelution,” a “teenage rebellion against low expectations.”
“We feel that God’s doing something in our generation,” one of the twins enthused. “It’s not that we’re something special. We’re in the right place at the right time.”
Alex and Brett, who will be attending Patrick Henry as freshmen this fall, might find themselves sitting in classes alongside some of the older GenJ campers they taught this summer morning. Until then, they are traveling the country on a “Rebelution Tour,” giving a series of conferences for young people ages 10-20 and their parents. Thousands of teens travel for hundreds of miles to attend these one-day events, which other teens manage and staff. Like the Harrises’ blog (www.therebelution.com) and other materials, these speaking engagements are run in a manner that is fresh, technology-savvy, and solidly grounded in Scripture.
“Our conferences are for teens and by teens,” Alex told the campers at PHC. “We give our local volunteers support and hook them up to mentors. Publicity is spread by young people’s word-of-mouth.”
The Harris family has always lived and worked at the forefront of Christian evangelicalism. Gregg and Sono Harris traveled the country in the first years of the Christian homeschool movement, explaining the concept of home education to diverse audiences, and have toured various conference circuits ever since. Their son, Joshua Harris, the twins’ older brother, published a bestselling book at age twenty-one that focused the attention of many thousands on the issue of how best to glorify God in romantic relationships. He now helps pastor a flourishing church and runs a yearly “New Attitude” conference that attracted 3500 attendees this summer.
It is a small wonder that when the Harris twins started a blog of cultural commentary in 2005, other young people quickly tuned in. The Harrises’ message to teens, that they are able to accomplish great things even during these “years of preparation,” struck a resonant chord. They soon began to receive stories from readers, such as Austin Gutwein, age 14, who has raised more than $450,000 for AIDS orphans in Zambia. Before long, several book publishers had contacted them to suggest that they write a book. This became Do Hard Things.
“It’s hard to write a book,” grimaced Brett.
Of course, the twins didn’t make their job any easier by simultaneously choosing to organize thousands of young volunteers as the grassroots “Huck’s Army” for presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Their efforts helped Huckabee to an Iowa primary win that pushed him into the national limelight as a conservative “values” candidate.
“Our parents had to remind us sometimes to work on our book, because it was more fun to manage Huck’s Army,” said Brett.
Not only did the twins support garner a crew of foot soldiers, they also managed to pull famed martial artist Chuck Norris into the team. Norris does not have an email address, but the twins’ friend Randy Alcorn received one of their campaign emails and printed it out to show Norris at an informal get-together. Norris began to talk about Huckabee everywhere, several times a day—and to mention the Harrises as well, as “two guys from Oregon.” Unsurprisingly, yet more people found their blog.
“It’s impossible to email Chuck Norris,” grinned one of the twins, “but we did.”
This fall, Alex and Brett Harris will become freshmen at Patrick Henry College. Although they originally were looking at other schools, they changed their minds after reading Washington Post writer Hanna Rosin’s controversial and often unflattering book, God’s Harvard.
“We began to gain a wider appreciation of what PHC is achieving, and of the people who come here,” Brett said. “We see God working at PHC, and we are also impressed by the College’s enemies.”
Patrick Henry College President, Graham Walker, counts himself among the twins’ ardent admirers, and is elated about their impending arrival: “I'm delighted that Alex and Brett, and their parents, felt led of God to enroll here at Patrick Henry College. We're a demanding college, and I'm sure that the classical Christian education they will get here will enrich their ministry. And I know that PHC will be a wonderful place for them to keep speaking to their generation beyond this campus--to all the young people who need to embrace God's higher expectations for them, rather than to accept the low standards given to them by a dying secular culture.”
While they will continue the Rebelution around and during their college studies, the twins also look forward to being part of, in Brett’s words, “something bigger.”
“One of the big appeals [of Patrick Henry],” agreed Alex, “was that it is still a young school. We hope to help answer the question, ‘What do PHC students do?’”