Issue 04 | February 23, 2015

Issue 04 | February 23, 2015

SUMMARY: This week, we discuss how Snapchat is changing the game, why some believe it's wrong to teach religious views to children, and some dangerous ideas in new single from Taylor Swift.

Weekly Rundown

This week's major pop culture happenings:



Snapchat, the messaging app that deletes messages after a specified number of seconds, has added a new feature called Discover. The feature brings news and entertainment to the Snapchat world, and the company is marketing it as a way for media teams and artists to tell stories that they think are interesting, rather than the story being driven by the number of clicks or views it receives.

Snapchat has already become one of the most disruptive trends today, especially with youth. Before Snapchat, messaging had been mostly texting via a phone's native app or on Facebook Messenger. Now, teens prefer to use messaging apps that offer more than just the ability to send and receive messages, which is why apps like Snapchat and Kik have become so popular with younger generations.

What's important is to be aware of the content that's being shared through Snapchat's Discover. Currently there are 12 channels: CNN, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, Snapchat News, ESPN, Food Network, National Geographic, People Magazine, Vice, Yahoo News, and Warner Music. Keeping in mind that the majority of users are female (70%), under 25 (71%), and under 17 (32%), the content is a bit alarming. Cosmo offers beauty and fashion tips, along with sex advice and a weekly horoscope, while Warner Music offers new releases and new music videos daily, with no regard for the content and/or messages of the music being shared.

Ask Your Students: Raise your hand if you use Snapchat. (This will give you an idea of whether this is something you'll need to start discussing with your students.) Why do you prefer it to other messaging apps? Do you like the new Discover feature? Why or why not?




Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion, has been known to vehemently speak out against religion, especially Christianity. In a recent article he wrote for Time, he rants against Christian parents "forcing their religious opinions" on their children. "We wouldn't claim our young kids are liberals or libertarians, so why are we saddling them with our religious labels?" Dawkins asks.

His frustration was sparked by an article claiming that certain primary schools had stopped offering pork items in school cafeterias because children may not know which foods contain pork and "may not realize the importance of avoiding it due to their culture or beliefs." "'Their' beliefs?" he asks. "How can the 'beliefs' of a four-year-old child be 'important' to her if she doesn't even know what her beliefs are?" In his opinion, the religious beliefs of children as the same as their political beliefs: nonexistent. But his issue isn't just with labeling children according to their parents' beliefs; it's also with teaching children the beliefs of their parents:

There really is an important difference between including your children in harmless traditions, and forcing on them un-evidenced opinions about the nature of life or the cosmos. . . . Tradition is a terrible basis for ethics, or beliefs about the origin of the universe or the evolution of life.(emphasis added)

Notice his strategy here: He uses verbiage that assumes that religious beliefs are "un-evidenced," that teaching your children is "forcing" them to believe it, and that "tradition" is the sole basis for religious ethics. It is ironic, then, that he concludes the article with an admonishment to raise our consciousness about the words we use to describe children, just as we have done before concerning sexist/feminist terminology:

Let us all raise our consciousness, and the consciousness of society, about the religious labeling of children. Let’s all mind our religious language just as we have learned to over sexist language. “Catholic child,” “Muslim child,” “Hindu child,” “Mormon child” — all such phrases should make us cringe.

Discussion Questions: What does God's word tell us about teaching our children? (See Joshua 8:35, Psalm 34:11, Psalm 78:5, Proverbs 3:1, Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Deuteronomy 4:9, Deuteronomy 11:19, and Matthew 19:14) Do you think that his opinions will work their way into mainstream culture? Why or why not? If they do, what effects will that have on Christian parenting?



As "Blank Space" works its way out of the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, Taylor Swift herself is by no means out of the top 10. The third single, "Style," from her album 1989 has reached number 10, which makes her 3 for 3 thus far on the album. The music video was released on February 13 and garnered over 18 million views in the first 6 days. Considering that the music videos for the first two singles from the album have over 1 billion views combined, it's fair to assume that this song will also be a powerhouse.

Taylor's lyrics have been fairly innocuous in the past, and though 1989 is still almost exclusively about relationships and love, her lyrics seem to be reflecting what she's going through in life, which is not necessarily a good thing.

Because Taylor came on the scene as a sweet, innocent country artist, and because Taylor has since spent time setting herself up a role model and a much more thoughtful pop artist than most, she and her music have come to be beloved by many, including many Christians. But her most recent evolution demonstrates that we Christians always need to pay attention to lyrics, no matter from whom they come. A cursory reading of the lyrics of "Style" show a toxic relationship, giving in to the moment (even when they know it's bad), and justifying staying in a codependent relationship. And while "Shake It Off" may have been an empowering message for many, the rest of the album is more similar to "Style," giving young girls especially ideas that seem beautiful and satisfying but only bring emptiness, pain, and sorrow instead.

Ask Your Students: Do you think the relationship Taylor describes in "Style" is a good relationship? Why or why not? Is it good for them to keep going back to each other? Why or why not? What happens when we listen to and sing these words over and over again without thinking about them? (See 2 Corinthians 10:5) What else does she sing about in her album? What's one song with good ideas? What's one song with bad ideas?