Vol. 4 Issue 14 | April 6, 2018
Three Things This Week
1. Condom Snorting
What it is: Not a typo, unfortunately. It’s this week’s latest viral news story about a teen challenge to film oneself snorting a condom up one’s nose until it comes out of one’s mouth.
Why it's hyperbolic: Though news outlets have gone nuts over the “craze,” it turns out that it’s actually not a new challenge, nor is it going viral among teens (most videos of it are over a year old, and searching #CondomSnorting on Instagram on Apr. 5 yielded only 155 results, most of which were talking about the “trend” and not actually videos of people participating). The only thing viral about it (currently) is the fear and alarm amongst adults. Yes, it is dangerous and shouldn’t be attempted, so if the tide changes and it takes off for teens, talk to them about the dangers. But until then, let’s give Gen Z the benefit of the doubt and use it as a reminder to not believe everything we hear!
2. Adios, Cosmo...sort of
What it is: Walmart decided to remove women’s magazine Cosmopolitan from its checkout lines.
Why it's a step: The mag has gained a reputation for its racy, sexually charged covers and provocative “women’s health” articles, prompting The National Center on Sexual Exploitation to approach Walmart about removing it. Though still for sale elsewhere in the stores, relegating it from its prominent position is certainly a “significant step toward creating a culture where women and girls are valued as whole persons, rather than as sexual objects.” So while this will prevent young eyes from unavoidably being exposed to these images, much of their content is still available through other avenues, the internet, and especially Snapchat. On top of that, pop culture at large is rife with examples of men getting away with and even being glorified for their predatory behavior, so we have a long way to go toward building a world in which teens aren’t taught conflicting messages about sexuality and consent.
3. In My Blood
What it is: A new song by Shawn Mendes, exploring mental health issues and unwillingness to give up.
Why it stands out: In a sea of Top 40 braggadocio (e.g. Ric Flair Drip,” “Walk It Talk It,” “Stir Fry,” and “Look Alive”—language in all) and posturing about power and success, Mendes’ new song is a breath of fresh air. Instead of mentioning his strength, he writes, “Sometimes I feel like giving up / No medicine is strong enough / Someone help me / I'm crawling in my skin.” But at the same time, there’s a determination to persevere, which another current hit “SAD!” by XXXTentacion lacks in its blithe suggestion that suicide should be the answer to (relational) hardship. Mendes counters his own temptation to give up by singing: “I just can’t / It isn't in my blood.” Even more beautiful the week after Good Friday is not just what isn’t in our blood, but the strength that comes from Jesus’ blood. Mendes’ posture is admirable; but in Christ we have limitless strength to lean on.
Responding to Abhorrent Behavior
It’s no surprise to anyone that teens sometimes do ill-advised, infuriating, ridiculous things. Films like the recent Lady Bird document this phenomenon. Internet fads like the Tide Pod challenge also make the case. And there’s no shortage of tales of teens in sexting scandals, talking to strangers online, driving drunk, etc., etc.
Though it’s nothing novel or new, we adults still struggle with how to react, how to help teens see the bigger picture, or how to get them to care about consequences. This YouTube video (language) shows parents hitting their breaking points with their teens using technology unwisely (who can relate?!). Yet probably any parent in the video would tell you that they wished they hadn’t reacted that way and that it didn’t actually help solve the problem (and maybe even made it worse). So what’s the answer?
A recent teen vandalism case may provide some clarity. After 5 teens were caught defacing a historic black schoolhouse with swastikas and the words “white power” and “black power,” the judge issued an unusual sentence: read books. After reading books like Night by Elie Wiesel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and The Kiterunner by Khaled Hosseini, one teen writes: “I will do my best to see to it that I never am this ignorant again.” What’s also telling is how he described that though he had studied the Holocaust in history class, the lesson only lasted a few days and didn’t actually capture his attention in a compelling way.
Two things we can glean from this: 1. Sometimes our teens’ frustrating behavior is the result of a failure on our part (boring history class, unfettered technology access, etc.), not because they’re the worst; and 2. Though a certain punishment is common and accepted (community service, jail time, breaking/taking away their devices, etc.), it may not be the best way to change teens’ hearts or address the true issues.
We want to encourage any and all adults who are frustrated with a teen right now: You’re not alone, you’re not crazy, and taking time to think like them may offer the perspective needed to radically change the conversation. Also, consider reminding them that they, too, aren’t alone. They are active members of the human community, and they have a part to play in bringing goodness, beauty, and truth into the world. That’s their role, their purpose in this life: joining God in the renewal of all things. Instead of wasting their lives being foolish because the world expects it of them, encourage them to have the eyes to see where God is already at work and then get to work joining Him in those places.
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