Issue 45 | December 18, 2015
THREE THINGS THIS WEEK
What It Is: Sheldon and Amy ("shipped" as "Shamy") consummated their relationship after five years of dating on Thursday's episode of The Big Bang Theory.
Why It's Important: The consistently popular comedy has been building the tension between the two for so long that it was almost impossible not to cheer and feel relief. Yet that is precisely what's so important. This is a perfect example of how media has the power to normalize a behavior: through stories and characters we come to love. Yes, something needed to happen with their relationship; but our imaginations have been hijacked if we hope and cheer for something to happen that's outside of God's plan for flourishing. And since it's the most popular comedy of this decade, there's a good chance that students are watching (read: being influenced by) it.
2. TOP GOOGLE SEARCHES
What It Is: On Wednesday, Google released its lists of the most-searched terms in 2015.
Why It's Important: These lists are another good indicator of the mood, mentality, and interests of our culture. As the New York Times points out, the list for the US reveals that we were "less interested in being uplifted than being distracted, preferably by something scandalous," demonstrated best by Lamar Odom being the top search of the year. What else do the lists for your country reveal? How do the lists illuminate the atmosphere in which the next generations are growing up?
3. VIRAL IMAGES
Why It's Important: Though we're all aware that images can be doctored, we tend not to be as skeptical as we should be (especially with social media). Reading through some of the stories is an eye-opening experience, even for an adult. And the younger a person is, the less likely he/she is to fact check. We highly recommend walking through some of the photos with students, asking if they saw/shared any of them and teaching them good strategies for discernment.
STARS WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
"I've always tried to be aware of what I say in my films, because all of us who make motion pictures are teachers, teachers with very loud voices." --George Lucas
In the biggest premiere of 2015, The Force Awakens is a jaw-dropping, immersive experience. For decades, the Star Wars films have held a high place in our cultural liturgy, and it's not hard to see why: good triumphs over evil in a way that is visually fantastic, backed by impressive technology and a cast of strange-yet-endearing creatures and personalities. The Force Awakens brings us that same sort of adventure, as a young woman named Rey starts discovering within herself an ability to control "the Force," amid a series of rescues and the Resistance's search for Luke Skywalker.
As with every work of art, the seventh installment in the Star Wars saga has the power to shape the imaginations of young and old alike. Because of the legacy into which this film is born, it may be even more influential than most. But just like the Force, that influence can be used either for good or for bad, depending on how we leverage it. Unfortunately, the current habit for most of us is to passively consume, talk about the awesome effects, quote some lines, then go on our merry way, never reflecting on or conversing about the deeper themes and how those might now be embedded in our minds, whether we want them to be or not.
So let's not waste this discipleship opportunity with our students. Instead, let's use the common ground of Star Wars to initiate constructive conversations about good versus evil, adventure, spiritualism, living in someone else's shadow, how to biblically resist evil, etc. The Force Awakens offers an exciting adventure to those who want one. But it can also be so much more than that. Let's embrace our destiny as teachers of the next generation, teachers who have more influence than we realize. As Lucas put it, "[Filmmakers] will never match the power of the teacher who is able to whisper in a student's ear."