Issue 12 | April 24, 2015
SUMMARY: Issue 12 covers gender fluidity, surveillance, vaping, and more.
This week’s major pop culture happenings:
- Man tears tendon playing “Candy Crush”
- Daniel Radcliffe set to star in “Grand Theft Auto” movie
- Full House reboot “Fuller House” coming to Netflix
- Comic book superhero, Iceman to come out as gay
- Young girls are attempting the #kyliejennerchallenge
- Former White House representative says gaming can be positive
- Vine Star, Shawn Mendes reaches #1 on iTunes
- YouTube celebrates 10th birthday
- The guys behind The Lego Movie are creating an animated Spider-Man film
WHAT STUDENTS ARE LISTENING TO THIS WEEK
This week’s top songs as ranked on the Billboard Hot 100*:
- “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa Ronson feat. Charlie Puth
- “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
- “Earned It (50 Shades of Grey)” by The Weekend
- “Sugar” by Maroon 5
- “Trap Queen” by Fetty Wap
- “Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding
- “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran
- “Shut Up And Dance” by Walk the Moon
- “G.D.F.R.” by Flo Rida ft. Sage The Gemini & Lookas
- “Somebody” by Natalie Rose
*In case you missed any previous issues, click on the links above to read our analyses of these songs.
ST. VINCENT AND GENDER FLUIDITY
Cara Delevingne is dating was dating is dating the musician St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark. Delevigne is a model, who is set to star in John Green’s latest book-turned-movie. Recently their relationship has been a shroud of secrecy and gossip. But whether or not they are in love isn’t what’s important. What matters is the discussion that isn’t happening about gender identity. Clark and Delevingne are both biological females, but neither claim to have a specific gender role. In fact, in a Rolling Stone article from last year, Clark claims she believes in gender fluidity, meaning that sexual experiences should be situation specific. Just as you and I might argue we weren’t born to like one type of music and therefore go through musical phases throughout our lives, so each of us should consider our gender a personal choice.
Normalizing atypical sexual preferences isn’t new in our society (People Magazine named a transgender woman, Laverne Cox, as the 5th most beautiful woman in the world today), but this fluidity does show a major shift of which we should be aware. We’re all familiar with the most widely circulated argument of the LGBT community: we’re “born this way.” But there’s a segment of the community that disagrees, saying that idea is too deterministic. Upcoming generations don’t want to have anything be outside of their freedom to choose, even gender.
As we disciple students and discuss gender and sexuality, we should be bold to proclaim truth. But we should also know some of our old arguments won’t work—and that’s okay. Gender fluidity, though totally unbiblical and dangerous, presents a great opportunity to reach out and restart a conversation. In order to do so, we need to understand both what the Bible says about the topic and what our culture truly thinks. Though their rebellion against determinism is individualistic, it is hopeful because it’s a philosophy that says we’re are not bound and therefore change is possible.
To Do: Understand the vocabulary of the other side: Gender refers to what they identify with; sex is what they are biologically. As Christians, we see them as one and the same, but it can make for confusing conversations when we use them interchangeably. Though we may consider gender and sex to be the same, we should be aware of how others may use it.
YOU’RE BEING WATCHED! WE SHOULDN’T FEAR
If you have students who are sports fans, then most likely they’ve all heard about the McHenry parking garage tirade and the subsequent backlash she has received. In addition, you and/or your students have probably heard plenty of the commentary about how terrible she is, how she should get more punishment, how terrible the surveillance state is, and how we all need to be careful. And all of these things are valid talking points.
But the most important issue this debacle raises is one that isn’t being talked about much. In a recent article, the Atlantic points out that “[the ever growing surveillance society] is, overall, a reminder that technology is making it harder to differentiate between the people we perform and the people we are” [emphasis added]. The people we perform vs. the people we are is an interesting distinction, one that is foreign for most people above the age of 35. But for younger generations, it’s life. The generations that grow up with social media are more concerned with the images they project and their public personae than with who they are.
Jesus said in Luke 12, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” He goes on to say that we should not fear man but fear the one who has power over our very souls.
So why do we need to talk about this with students? Because there should be no differentiation. At the very least, who we are in private should match who we are when people are watching. Or, in the vein of not letting our right hands know what our left hands are doing, we should be better in private than in public! But students today may not even understand what it’s like to not have pressure to be a certain way on a certain social media network. They may not understand that it doesn’t have to be that way at all. That’s why they need you! You can help them see that, as followers of Christ, our lives should be dedicated to becoming more like Him and developing the fruit of the Spirit, not to posting the best selfies or getting lots of viewers on YouNow. We should fear the Lord, not man; we should seek God’s approval, which matters for eternity, not man’s approval, which matters only for a short time (if at all!). In doing so, we can rest assured that, by His grace, our actions will always be for His glory, and we will never have to be afraid of the whole world seeing what we’ve done.
This event can be a warning for students to be aware of what they do on technology, but should, more importantly, lead to the discussion of integrity and how our professional and personal, public and private, observed and unobserved selves should all line up, should be the same, and should reflect the character of Jesus Christ.
Ask Your Students: Do you feel pressure to project a certain image on social media? Where does that pressure come from? Does it help you to become a better person in real life? Does it help you to become more like Christ? Are there areas of your life where you live as if no one is watching? What if someone secretly was watching? Would you be ashamed of your actions? How would Jesus’ statement from Luke change your behavior?
KIM KARDASHIAN IS #SELFISH (PART 2)
As much as we’d like to think that Kim Kardashian’s “selfie” lifestyle is a deviation from the norm, she’s really not much different from us. Though we probably haven’t published books filled with hundreds of self-portraits, we share her desire to be known, to be loved. Most of us have some sort of vacuum in our soul, a kind of emptiness that keeps us from feeling fully alive and fully human. We try and fill this God-shaped void with all sorts of things: sex, power, money, popularity, or the latest technology. The more inward our focus becomes, the more we curve life in on ourselves. And strangely, our self-consumption actually makes us feel even more empty inside.
Into this culture of narcissism steps God in the flesh. The incarnation is critical to our search for significance. The fully human Jesus unveils not only the divinity to human persons, but He also reveals humanity to itself. Jesus is the mirror through which we see our own humanity as it should be. Therefore, if we keep in mind that Jesus reveals both the nature of God and the meaning of the human person, what does it mean that He spent the majority of His life in complete obscurity?
In short, Jesus achieved human fulfillment through downward mobility. Instead of self-promotion, He embraced self-denial. In Christ we experience the fullness of the divinity enfleshed in the ordinary. Loving God more than self is not some abstract ethic; it is overwhelmingly physical. “It means seeing in every person the face of the Lord to be served and to serve Him concretely.” In so doing, we may find that in losing our lives, we will find them. In giving ourselves away, we finally fill the hole in our soul. Then and only then will we know what it means to be fully human as we seek the divine.
LUV TO VAPE: STUDENTS’ E-CIGARETTE USE TRIPLES
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products recently released their annual National Youth Tobacco Survey, in which they found that use of e-cigarettes among high school and middle school students tripled in the last year.
According to the article, a report released by the Surgeon General in 2012 found that “about 90% of all smokers first tried cigarettes during [their teenage years], and that 3 in 4 teen smokers continue that practice into adulthood.” Dr Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, reminds us that “nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use.”
Other important findings from the study:
- Use among high school students increased from 4.5% in 2013 to 13.4% in 2014.
- Use among middle students more than tripled from 1.1% in 2013 to 3.9% in 2014.
- Usage surpassed all other tobacco products.
- Hookahs are the second highest use among students, also doubling in use, from 5.2% to 9.4%.
Frieden also spoke out against the marketing of e-cigarettes, equating it to the efforts to market tobacco in the 1950s: “Marketing is about sex, flavors, free samples. . . . Kids are now seeing e-cigarettes on TV . . . including themes of glamour, rebellion, celebrity, sports, music events, candy and fruit flavors.”
BAN ALL THE THINGS! RESPONDING TO TEMPTATION
In Issue 11, we examined why live-streaming apps like YouNow, Meerkat, and Periscope are gaining major popularity with teens. Though each of these apps has very specific rules about what content is and is not permitted, there are already many complaints about the amount of sexual content on them. So that means these apps are dangerous and we should prohibit students from ever using them, right?
In fact, this perfectly highlights something we said last week, that we should “come to an understanding of what the app does well and what it doesn’t, then learn how to put wise limitations around teens’ use of the app.”
The fact is that neither apps nor sex are inherently bad. We need to remember that apps, like sex, can be used either for good or for bad. What we need to help our students to grasp is that we’re the problem—not apps, not sex. Is Snapchat bad and sinful? No, but choosing to send naked pictures of yourself is. Selfies, though discussed elsewhere in this Translator as having their own set of problems, are the simple act of taking a picture of oneself. Is this wrong? No, but doing it excessively, for the wrong reasons, or at the scene of a tragedy probably is (or, at the very least, extremely insensitive).
With every new challenge we face in parenting and educating students in our ever-changing world, one thing to keep remembering is our desperate need for the saving grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is by His mercy and through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we are able to interact with the world at all without being buried in a mountain of sin. These apps were only around for a few weeks before things started to become pornographic. Humanity, in its fallen state, will always find ingenious ways to sin. But, by the work of the Holy Spirit, we can also find ingenious ways to redeem creation and to join God in continuing His work of restoring His world. We can use what God has given for His glory or we can use it poorly.
When we respond out of fear to new technologies and challenges that come along, students learn nothing. When we ban something that students enjoy simply because it might be used poorly, we alienate, anger, and frustrate them. It doesn’t have to be that way! Instead, it can be an open door for discussion, a way to help students grow into responsible Christians who choose to identify temptations and respond wisely on their own.
In the song “Twisted Logic,” Coldplay sings, “If somebody made it, someone will mess it up.” This describes our fallen nature well. Someone, everyone has been messing things up since the fall. Does that mean we should throw away the world? No. God didn’t do that. He’s working to redeem it. And we should be, too.
Is sex bad? No. Can it be used badly? Yes. Are live-streaming apps bad? No. Can they be used badly? Yes! Can both of these things be used to redeem and restore God’s creation? Absolutely!! Our aim should not be to tell students what apps to use or not use, what movies to see or not to see, what clothes to wear or not to wear, as has been the typical response of Christians in eras past. But rather we should strive to teach and guide them into a vision of what God’s kingdom looks like and help them start to make wise choices on their own, choices that build the kingdom, rather than continue the destruction of it.
(See Philippians 4:8 and Galatians 5:22-23)