Vol. 2 Issue 3 | January 22, 2015

THREE THINGS THIS WEEK

1. SUICIDE SQUAD

What It Is: The first trailer for the upcoming film.

Why It's Important: With the slogans “Worst heroes ever” and “Justice has a bad side,” Suicide Squad continues to blur the lines between good and bad, hero and villain, by creating anti-heroes whose very evil sometimes leads to good outcomes. (Others to do so: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, James Bond, Arrow, and Deadpool.) For Suicide Squad that means the newest version of the age-old myth that violence is both normal and salvific. Two ideas from the trailer are worth talking about with your students: 1. Some people are so evil, they are beyond redemption; and 2. Violence is justifiable if it turns out good in the end.

2. 75 MILLION USERS

What It Is: Netflix announced that it has reached 75 million users worldwide.

Why It’s Important: The company also revealed the release dates and trailers for many of its original shows, as well as a plan to produce 600 hours of programming that will be available in 200 countries in 2016. Clearly, Netflix has become a loud voice in the cultural cacophony, but do we know what that voice is saying? Here’s a helpful cheat sheet for setting up parental controls, but nothing can replace talking with students about the content and holding them accountable for what and how much they watch.

3. #DRAWTHELINE

What It Is: To mark the 43rd anniversary of Roe v Wade, the Center for Reproductive Rights launched their Draw the Line campaign, in which famous actresses tell abortion stories to “draw the line against attacks on safe and legal abortion.”

Why It's Important: Having celebrities tell stories that detail the experiences of women who chose to have abortions is powerful and formative. In the video with Elizabeth Banks, the woman is thankful that her friends and family supported her because “the life they were most concerned about was mine.” Powerfully deceptive. Do students know why this is misleading? Have we talked with them about the lifelong consequences of abortion? Do they know that we value the lives of unborn children and their mothers? Offer students a different vision, one in which Christians intervene on behalf of the lives of mothers and their children to bring life, not death.

MOVIE REVIEW: THE FIFTH WAVE

This adaptation of Rick Yancey’s 2013 novel pits humanity against global disaster at the hands of extraterrestrial invaders. Pick from a smorgasbord of apocalyptic scenarios—electronics failure, plagues, planetwide manhunts—then view them through the eyes of high schoolers who lose their families in the fray. All the dramas of normal teen life, from football practice and homework to unrequited crushes and social media tension, are replaced by one mission: “Protect Your Own,” as the movie poster declares.

Apocalyptic scenarios are a fantasy of simplicity—with civilization collapsing, life’s complexities are reduced to clear goals: survival, loyalty, family. We may become fascinated with these stories because we often get lost in the banality of our existence. We long for a clear purpose and mission, to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Life is so replete with the mundane that its difficult to recognize that grand adventure taking place all around us. Maybe that’s why this genre is so appealing to students. They long for a cathartic release from the normal, to experience a world in which their decisions really matter, where they have a real part to play in the salvation of the world.

But as followers of Christ, we do have a clear mission: To join God in His global rescue project. We are called to protect the oppressed, serve the unfortunate, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and heal the hurting. Being God’s agents of restoration is the most fulfilling mission objective there is!

Talk with your students about real-world suffering and think of ways your family/school/church can meet real needs in your community or beyond. The 5th Wave and other end-of-the-world movies can remind us of our real objectives and inspire us to act on behalf of the marginalized, giving new meaning and mission to daily life.

Correction: In last week’s issue, we incorrectly typed the name of Meghan Trainor’s new song. It’s called “Like I’m Gonna Lose You,” not “Like I’m Donna Lose You.”

Vol. 2 Issue 2 | January 15, 2015

THREE THINGS THIS WEEK

1. PEACH

What It Is: The social network flavor of the week. Basically a stream of emoji-laden status updates with some pizzazz.

Why It's Important: Social networks become “uncool” as soon as they become mainstream (Snapchat is the latest app to reach that status), so teens are always looking for the next thing. And while many apps have attempted and failed to become the next Instagram, this new app from one of the co-creators of Vine is generating buzz with students. As TeenVogue described it, it’s “like a secret club for your squad to communicate.” Be aware of the app and how it allows students to interact.

2. 21 DAYS OF PRAYER FOR LIFE

What It Is: A movement from the Colson Center to unite Christians in prayer for and understanding about the abortion debate. Download the prayer guide here.

Why It's Good: With all the name-calling, protesting, politics, and anger surrounding abortion, it’s easy to want to ignore it altogether. But every life deserves to be protected, through our actions and, more importantly, through prayer. Journey through the entire PDF with your students, including praying each day as suggested. Not only will this help students understand the biblical stance on life, it will also help them (and you) become part of the movement to create a culture that truly values life.

We’ve also created a virtual training series called “Life” that helps students understand how God views life. It can be used in churches, schools, and homes. To learn more, please visit axis.org/virtual.

3.SELFIE DRONE

What It Is: A new drone camera for $999 that follows you around taking HD photos and video of you.

Why It's Important: If the concept takes off, it will have major influence on teens, not to mention turning the selfie stick into the 8-track tape of self-love. Like all tech, its price will slowly drop, making it affordable for the mass market, especially younger generations whose very identity is now formed by and massively dependent on visual social media. Such a drone plays on the narcissism and insecurity of students by tempting them to turn in on themselves and seek significance through this innovative way of self-promotion. (Not to mention the privacy concerns…!)

BONUS: What it’s like to “date” as a teen in 2016.

TOP 10 SONGS

1. "Sorry" by Justin Bieber
Theme: Apologizing for past mistakes; might be Bieber’s apology to fans for his past behavior.

2. "Hello" by Adele
Theme: Reaching out to an ex to apologize and possibly to see if he still cares.

3. "Love Yourself" by Justin Bieber
Theme: Breaking up with a girl, telling her all the horrible things she did and to go love herself instead.

4. "Hotline Bling" by Drake
Theme: Regret over letting a girl go and seeing her move on and become something other than what he knew her to be.

5. "Stressed Out" by Twenty One Pilots
Theme: Reminiscing over how easy it is to be a kid and how being an adult today tends to lead to stress, pressure, and caring about the wrong things.

6. "Same Old Love" by Selena Gomez
Theme: Breaking up with a guy because loving him only leads to a broken heart.

7. "Stitches" by Shawn Mendes
Theme: Recovering and healing from a break up; acknowledging the pain. (A more positive approach than the previous 3 songs about breakups.)

8. "What Do You Mean?" by Justin Bieber
Theme: Trying to figure out what a girl wants when she’s always saying she wants opposite things.

9. "Here" by Alessia Cara
Theme: Teenage girl regretting going to a party, saying she doesn’t want to be part of what’s considered “cool” because it’s shallow.

10. "Like I'm Donna Lose You" by Meghan Trainor ft. John Legend
Theme: Not taking someone for granted and “loving with no regrets” since we’re not promised tomorrow.

Volume 2 Issue 1 | January 8, 2015

THREE THINGS THIS WEEK

1. MAKING A MURDERER

What It Is: A viral 10-part Netflix documentary released on December 18 about the controversial conviction of a man and his nephew for murder.

Why It's Important: The series claims the defendants were framed. Subsequently, two petitions to exonerate them (here and here; ~475,000 signatures combined to date) were created and circulated. Yet the lead prosecutor for the case claims the documentary left out crucial facts and doesn’t present the whole picture. This is a perfect example of the power of media to influence our beliefs, as well as our willingness as a culture to form snap judgments without knowing all the facts. But we are responsible for how we allow media to influence our beliefs. Watching the series with your students could be a great teaching tool, opening the door for conversations about justice, media, news media, why we shouldn’t base opinions on one source, how to find truth, social activism, and the blurring line between entertainment and real life. (Bonus: Digg’s list of things to read once you’re done watching the series.)

2. NEW TWITTER RULES

What It Is: Twitter has updated its rules to clarify what it considers to be “abusive behavior and hateful conduct” in order to protect users from harassment while still upholding freedom of expression.

Why It's Good: As we’ve seen with other social media platforms, anonymity and lack of monitoring lead to increased cyber-bullying and violence. For Twitter to continue to revamp its rules demonstrates the company’s willingness to create a positive online community.

Why It's Bad: Enforcing these rules could easily turn into censorship, especially against those who take a stand for something they believe in that goes against current cultural norms. In addition, Twitter’s current restrictions could simply be seen as a nuisance and are easily worked around for those who wish to continue harming others. Clearly, bullying is increasing, not decreasing, indicating that the problem runs deeper than behavior.

In light of this, we’ve created a helpful virtual training series called “Gossip” to address the heart of the matter. It can be used in your school, church, or home. To learn more, go to axis.org/virtual and watch the trailer here.

3.PEOPLE'S CHOICE

What It Is: The 2016 People’s Choice Awards aired Wednesday.

Why It's Important: Though only the first of many awards shows of the year, the People’s Choice Awards are one of few to be determined by a public vote. Therefore, the winners and nominees in the 65 categories may reflect what the public watched, listened to, followed, and cared about more accurately than any other awards show. Glance through the list to get a great idea of who/what influenced us in 2015 and will continue to in 2016.

SOMETHING TO KNOW:
OUT OF THE WOODS

We recently asked our millennial interns to find a piece of media that had hijacked their imaginations when they were younger into believing that something outside of God’s plan for their lives would be more fulfilling and satisfying than what God offered them. Should we have been surprised when 75% of the girls chose Taylor Swift songs, all mentioning that her music had made them crave the kind of relationships and romantic love she described?!

It’s safe to say that Swift’s music’s ability to “raise the next generation” is only increasing with her popularity. So her newest music video for “Out of the Woods” is an interesting—albeit slight—departure from her usual fare. The video begins with the words, “She lost him,” then ends with her finding herself (literally) instead of “him,” followed by the words, “She lost him, but she found herself, and somehow that was everything.”

Yet she paints a different picture with the lyrics, which describe a relationship that is exciting at best and tenuous at worst. As she explained in an interview, though the relationship seems doomed from the start, she still believes it’s worth it: “Even if a relationship is . . . fragile and full of anxiety, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t worthwhile, exciting, beautiful.”

These two visions of fulfillment are contradictory, but they’re both compelling. And wrong. Fulfillment doesn’t come from romantic relationships, but it also doesn’t come from ourselves. Yes, romance can be part of our journey, and God can use it to teach us so much about ourselves, others, and Him. But we can have abundant life without it. Yet we don’t find the answer within ourselves, either. True fulfillment comes only from perfect Love. Yet if we’re not showing that Love to students, showing them constantly how God’s fulfillment is beyond anything we get from ourselves or others, then one of Swift’s visions—which are always in their ears—will win their hearts and minds, as our interns can attest.