Vol. 2 Issue 33 | August 19, 2016
Three Things This Week
1. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
What it is: An action-packed sci-fi video game releasing Tuesday, August 23. It wrestles with the ethics of using technology to improve our bodies (artificial limbs for the lame, artificial eyes for the blind, cochlear implants for the deaf, etc.).
Why it's important: It’s easy to dismiss video games as “mindless entertainment,” but Mankind Divided proves that games, like movies or TV, can also create a space for ethical discussions. The company behind the game broadcast a conference with debates about the ethics of biotechnological augmentation (on Twitch, no less). And they’re partnering with a lab to make artificial limbs more affordable. The game can spark conversations about bioethics and the new situations and possibilities that arise with advances in technology and medicine. We can’t recommend the game because of its mature content, but if you know a student who is geeking out about it, it can be a great conversation starter.
What it is: Throughout the Olympics, gymnast Gabby Douglas has been criticized on social media, first for not putting her hand over her heart during the national anthem, then for her hair and her reactions to teammates’ performances.
Why it's bad: We use our screens as shields, not as protection from harm, but as protection from seeing the harm we inflict. It may not seem like a big deal to write 140 characters about how someone’s hair looks—after all, people have always done it, whispering hurtful comments as someone walks by. The difference now is that it’s no longer a whisper; it’s a virtual scream for the whole world to read...including the person it was about. And Gabby’s humble-but-hurt reactions show just how much devastation tweets can cause. With cyber-bullying an ever-present threat, this is a great opportunity to teach students the power of their words in every medium. Here’s a great Axis presentation on gossip to help (free preview available through Monday).
3. Is Music Inherently Innocent?
What it is: Each year, our traveling teams speak to students about the power of music to influence us both through lyrics and through the mood it sets. And without fail, students respond by saying music doesn’t affect them.
Why it's important: As this article points out, music has been used for all sorts of purposes, including torture, demonstrating that music does indeed have power. Yet students continue to claim that it’s neutral. Why? Often it’s because they think admitting its power means they’ll have to give it up. But is that really what God wants? To quote the article: “Renouncing music is not an option….Rather, we can renounce the fiction of music’s innocence. To discard that illusion is not to diminish music’s importance; rather, it lets us register the uncanny power of the medium. To admit that music can become an instrument of evil is to take it seriously as a form of human expression.” Think of ways to help your students come to grips with music’s influence and then proactively talk with them about how their music choices might be shaping their attitudes, beliefs, and identity.
The Cause of Addiction Is...
As the war on drugs taught us to believe, addiction is caused by the chemical dependency drugs create in our bodies. To avoid addiction, simply avoid putting drugs in your body. To break free from addiction, allow your body to go through withdrawals, then work really hard at saying no to temptation for the rest of your life.
But there’s a new theory, one that’s explored in the recent book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs (and here’s a great 5-minute video about it). Author Johann Hari investigates the idea that addiction is actually caused by the lack of meaningful human connection and love. Hari writes:
“Human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find—the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe...We should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether, and instead call it ‘bonding.’ A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else.”
Why do we have a deep need to bond? Because God made us for community. But, as Hari points out, “we have created...a culture that cut us off from connection, or offers only the parody of it offered by the Internet. The rise of addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live—constantly directing our gaze toward the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.”
As real, meaningful connections become rarer, we must fight that much harder to create them, especially for teens who are desperate to find their place and identity in the world. If we want to keep our teens from becoming addicted (bonded) to anything, we must focus on providing genuine, intimate, honest community in which teens feel they belong and are understood. The more true flourishing they experience through Christ and His people, the less they’ll look for connection elsewhere.
“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”