Issue 41 | November 20, 2015
THREE THINGS THIS WEEK
What It Is: Coordinated terror attacks on Paris, France by ISIS that unfolded Friday night, Nov. 13, leaving at least 130 dead and countless injured.
Why It’s Important: Reactions to the attacks came flooding in this week and are as polarizing as they are extreme. Accusations, judgments, stereotypes, and vitriol are being unleashed everywhere, especially on social media. So how is a student supposed to filter all of this according to the Christian worldview? On the one hand, violence and evil are bad. But what about loving your enemy? Should terror attacks cause us to stop being compassionate in order to protect ourselves? Students need the adults in their lives to help them process every facet of this tragedy!
2. OXFORD DICTIONARY’S WORD OF THE YEAR
What It Is: Drumroll please….an emoji! 2015’s “word” of the year is the “face with tears of joy” emoji.
Why It’s Important: According to their blog, the emoji beat out actual words because it “best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.” In fact, the use of emojis has increased tremendously in 2015. Hillary Clinton even took to Twitter to solicit feedback using 3 emojis or fewer about student loan debt. Not only is the dictionary’s choice a good indicator of the times, it also evidences how much influence young people have over culture at large. Adults need to speak their language (even if it consists largely of pictograms, often used as euphemisms), as well as help them appreciate the power and beauty of words (#EnglishTeachersUnite!).
3. HOW TO BE SINGLE
Why It’s Good: Sometimes it’s easy to wonder why students don’t enjoy following Christ or why they walk away from Christianity. This trailer is a perfect eye-opener. Films like this show a life that’s exhilarating, fun, mysterious, and frankly “better” than what they think the life of a Christ follower should be.
Why It’s Bad: Though a good reminder, it also rewrites the idea of normal for students, causing them to believe that this is the life worth living. It’s scripted and therefore not a good representation of real life, yet students have a hard time seeing past the beautiful packaging to the underlying lie. Their imaginations are easily hijacked into believing that something other than God’s design leads to flourishing and fulfillment. We need to help them see truth!
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2 (NO SPOILERS)
The final film in The Hunger Games series is at once both a tale of heroism and of human depravity. Juxtaposing sacrifice to save loved ones with insatiable thirst for power and control, Mockingjay Pt. 2 asks difficult questions about human nature, war, ethics, leadership, culture, and more.
In the books, Suzanne Collins crafts a world in which both 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley are simultaneously true. The social commentary weaved into the narrative is subtle, yet powerful, while the irony that we are made to identify with the districts/tributes but are in fact much more akin to citizens of the Capitol is brilliant. And the films managed to capture it. Part 2 brings us the conclusion, demonstrating that many situations aren’t black and white, that mankind has an immense capacity for terror and for compassion, and that our choices, no matter how small, have far-reaching and enduring effects.
Yet students are at risk of missing the message for the medium. The beautiful cinematography, sci-fi action scenes, and characters we root for can become distractions from the overarching lessons (#KatnissAndPeeta, anyone?). That is, unless we intentionally create space to ask the questions raised by the films/books and allow students to wrestle with the not-so-clear-cut dilemmas in a safe environment.
The series can be a catalyst for deep introspection, reflection on society/culture, and perhaps even for change, if we help them to be. For that reason, we highly recommend them for families to watch/read together when students reach an age at which they can properly process the dystopian world and its horrors. One caveat: all of the movies, Mockingjay Part 2 especially, have scenes that are downright scary and/or disturbing. If you have a student that is not yet ready to handle those images, it may be best to start with the books or wait.