Brian Tenney, Shaker Student and Religious Figure

Jonathan Smith, Writer

How many of your fellow students at Shaker have gathered a religious following? Probably not many. One student at Shaker High School, Brian Tenney, has. It is undeniable that this type of thing is very rare – high school students don’t start religious groups often, but that just makes this unique situation all the more humorous and fascinating. 

Brian, for just over a year now, has occasionally arrived at school dressed as a character that he has created and developed. He calls this character “Todd.” Brian created Todd on September 23rd, 2018, just after he got home from his Catholic religion class. As Todd, Brian wears a nylon jacket with the hood on, but not covering his ears, as well as triangular sunglasses. He first began coming to school dressed as Todd later that week. Todd was originally just an inside joke for Brian and his friends. However, it surprisingly wasn’t long before Todd became considered a religious figure by other students at Shaker. Brian and his friends developed a story based around Todd. They wrote history and lore for Brian’s character, making this joke even more elaborate. 

Of course, Todd and his followers all know the group is essentially an elaborate joke, and so the entire religion is treated as such. Having Todd as a religious figure seems to give many of these students something in common that they can joke and talk about. Brian has created a strong sense of community within the school by creating this character. That seems to be exactly what he intended to do from the beginning. “I wanted to create a community in which people could all get along,” Brian says. This elaborate joke centered around Todd has both strengthened and been the cause of friendships of students within the school. 

Since religious groups aren’t normally created in schools and based around a student, there are many questions that one might have for people involved in such a group. One might wonder, for example, how it feels to be treated as a religious figure, or how someone’s life is impacted by that kind of popularity. “It’s fun. It hasn’t really been stressful,” Brian says. Clearly having such a heightened position amongst his friend group hasn’t been difficult for Brian, although that’s likely due to the entirely humorous nature of the religion. Brian also says that his status has been the cause of a significant boost in popularity. “It’s weird, some people know me as Brian and some people know me as Todd,” he says. One may also wonder where exactly a high school student would get the idea to start a religion. According to Brian, creating Todd was essentially an unprompted decision. He simply began dressing that way as a joke and people just began to treat his character as a deity worthy of a following. As for the reasons behind Brian’s choice of the name “Todd,” he claims there wasn’t any particular inspiration. The lack of premeditation in the character of Todd is interesting considering how popular Todd has managed to be amongst Brian’s friends. 

If you happen to be interested in Todd, you may consider contacting Brian Tenney for more information on the topic. Brian hasn’t advertised his religious group at all. Rather, he has let the following of Todd grow naturally. “I keep pushing it by walking around the halls as Todd,” Brian says. He expects that people may become interested in Todd as they become more familiar with seeing him in school. He only really intends for the group to grow by word-of-mouth. As for how often he dresses as Todd, he says, “I try to aim for every Friday, when I feel like it.” So Brian’s attempts to spread the religion with his familiarization tactics are consistent, but casual. According to Brian, there have been very few things hindering the growth of his following in the school. “Many teachers have given me trouble for being Todd,” he explains. However, this is mainly because of his attire not being entirely up to the dress code, due to his hood being up when dressed as Todd. 

It is unknown what will happen with Todd and his following in the future. It’s possible that he will gain more popularity and increase his following throughout the school, but it is impossible to predict. Whatever does happen, it’s certainly interesting to consider how social phenomena such as this occur. It isn’t common for teenagers to jokingly start a religion, after all.