Vol. 2 Issue 32 | August 12, 2016
Three Things This Week
1. The “Honor” of Sexting
What it is: Axis Traveling Teams speak to approximately 30,000 students each year in person. And from what we have observed, sexting seems to be a normal part of dating, even among Christian teens.
Of course it's bad: But it’s important to observe that it’s becoming normal—so normal that girls who aren’t asked for naked pictures of themselves have told us, “I wish boys would ask me for pictures.” But they don’t necessarily want to send photos; rather, they see the request as confirmation that they’re beautiful, desirable, and “in” (and the lack thereof as confirmation of the opposite). In a nonchalant way, ask your students about sexting culture. Ask them if they or one of their close friends have ever been asked to send a picture (you may be surprised). New school year = new pressures. Begin the conversation now so that teens are prepared before the requests do or do not come.
2. Schoolwork > Following God?
What it is: At many venues, our teams also ask Christian teens if they ever find it hard to follow God and, if so, why. Students invariably say yes, but the reasons they offer vary greatly. One that continues to come up: “Because my schoolwork takes all my time.”
Why it's important: Wait...We’re telling you that Christian teens at Christian schools can’t follow God because of the work given them by Christian teachers? Doesn’t make much sense. Maybe it’s just a matter of reframing teens’ perspectives, as well as our own. As the new school year starts, help teens see that learning, diligence, hard work, etc. are all done for God’s glory. As parents/teachers, it’s easy to sacrifice eternal formation for the more immediate temporal demands. Think of ways to better prioritize formation of lifelong faith, not just information overload, even if it means sacrificing straight “A”s.
3. The Pop Song Professor
What it is: Liberty University adjunct instructor Clifford Stumme has a passion for explaining what song lyrics mean and why they matter to us.
Why he's important: He started a website and podcast dedicated to helping others understand pop music and the ideas embedded within lyrics. Though he doesn’t cover every song, he does a pretty good job of analyzing the latest songs from chart-topping artists, giving adults a great resource of biblically based analysis and discussion points for discipling students to love Truth and Beauty.
Thoughts on Suicide Squad
“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring.”
—Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace
DC Entertainment’s latest film Suicide Squad broke all sorts of records last weekend, despite its 26% critic approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and despite, as some are saying, being late to the “expanded universe” and superhero game. With an audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes of 71%, clearly average joes are willing to give it a shot...even to the point that a Change.org petition was started to express anger against all the negative critic reviews.
So what’s so appealing? Why are fans so diehard about these antiheroes? Like the comics, the Suicide Squad film features a band of metahumans who have all been imprisoned for using their powers for evil. But when the situation gets desperate, the government creates top-secret Task Force X, utilizing the metahumans’ powers to keep the world from being destroyed.
As all antagonist-turned-protagonist stories go, these antiheroes constantly vacillate between serving the greater good and serving themselves, between saving mankind and, well, not. And all the typical things can be said of this film: It glorifies evil; it makes being bad look good; it’s irreverent; it’s hard to tell who the real villain actually is; etc.
Perhaps what resonates most, even if only subconsciously felt, is the sense of belonging. As soon as the villains feel they are part of something, that they belong together, they begin changing for the better. On some level, we all long for this, even for other people, probably because we’ve all seen the ugly within and want to believe we still have a chance. This is the beauty of the Gospel: We each have a chance, not because of any good within us, but because God is so infinitely good!
This film, though not superb, can be used as an excellent—wait for it—evangelistic tool. Just as Paul quoted pagan poets in Acts 17 and used the Athenian statue as a way to point to God, we need to speak teens’ language by reclaiming whatever Truth is in the film as evidence of our need for God. Paul eloquently said he was “all things to all people.” We encourage you to use “all possible means”* to “save some” and to bring teens into a closer relationship with Christ.
*Please note that this means we encourage using the film with students who have already seen the film or who understand and love the comic book and superhero cultures. We do not encourage unnecessary exposure to the film for teens who are not yet ready to deal with the film’s mature themes.