Vol. 5 Issue 32 | August 9, 2019

Vol. 5 Issue 32 | August 9, 2019

Three Things This Week

1. Are You Uncomfortable?

What it is: In a recent survey, Protect Young Minds (PYM) found that one of the top reasons parents don’t talk to their kids about p*rnography is because they’re worried it will make them uncomfortable.

Why it’s eye-opening: PYM asked teenagers for their reactions, and it was clear: We need to get over it. One 15-year-old girl wisely said, “Wouldn't you rather your child be uncomfortable than making mistakes that will hurt them?” And if we’re honest, we often avoid things because it makes us uncomfortable. But as PYM points out, emotional resilience—i.e. the ability to deal with uncomfortable and challenging situations—is a skill we teach our kids not by avoiding them, but by showing them how to handle them when they arise. So what are you avoiding having conversations about because of fear of discomfort or awkwardness? When that happens, remind yourself that your child’s long-term spiritual health is far more important than a few moments of unease.

2. 8chan

What it is: Connected to El Paso’s recent shooting, this fringe online forum is under Congressional scrutiny as a breeding ground for white nationalism, terrorism, and hate crimes.

When free speech is harmful: Dubbed the “white supremacist killer’s platform of choice” for its connection to three shootings in 2019 (including the Christchurch Mosque massacre), the El Paso shooter posted his racist manifesto on the forum and encouraged the 8chan community to “do your part and spread this brothers.” Slate calls 8chan “a place for white supremists to indoctrinate others—mostly young white men—into bigoted ideologies.” Words matter. The words of politicians matter. The words in the locker room or cafeteria matter. The words on the dark corners of the web really matter. Words normalize ideas and incite action. As parents, “caring for language is a moral issue” directly linked with caring for one another. Sites like 8chan will continue to give itching ears what they want to hear; our task is to train up our children to turn a deaf ear toward a culture of lies, hate speech, and incendiary words.

3. I Will Be Your Friend

What it is: New analysis shows that the vast majority of mass shooters since 1996 experienced early childhood trauma, like abuse or severe bullying, and were described as “loners,” begging the question, “What difference could a few caring people have made?”

Why it’s a good question to ask: One 6-year-old boy intuitively understands this power of community and wants to wield it for good. When his mom offered to make him any shirt he wanted for the first day of school, he pondered for a bit then said, “Will you please make me a shirt that says ‘I will be your friend’ for all the kids who need a friend to know that I am here for them?” A victim of bullying himself, he understands the loneliness and isolation that often come, so he wanted everyone to know that he was there for them—even and especially the loners. His and our teens’ ability to notice and compassionately reach out to outsiders could make a world of difference.

Spotlight: For more help on how to deal with bullying and cyberbullying, check out our Parent’s Guide to (Cyber)Bullying.

Your Sons & Your Daughters Will Prophesy

When was the last time you read the Hebrew prophets? If you’re like us, it’s been a while. Our Bibles rarely “fall” open to Amos or Ezekiel probably because they almost always make us uncomfortable. Yet for the last several weeks, the prophets have been at the forefront of the lectionary readings in churches following the Christian calendar. And though written thousands of years ago, they read as if pulled from today’s headlines. Last week we heard Hosea’s lament: “The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests.” And this week Isaiah condemns the people of God for talking the talk but not walking the walk:

When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you;
Even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood…
Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed,
Defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

Like ancient Israel, we often limit our understanding of God’s justice to the afterlife, failing to join God in the prophetic task of renewing all things here and now. And in so doing we reduce salvation to some Gnostic activity that happens in the distant, disembodied future. Thankfully, both the prophets and, ironically enough, our kids won't let us get away with that. For them, the “good news” is not only preached but embodied, faithfully incarnated in the real world, delivering good news to the poor while setting the oppressed free from their economic, social, and political bondage.

Prophetically speaking, today’s students realize authentic faith propels us into the world as change agents, living out our beliefs by voicing radical criticism of systems and policies of death and dehumanization, while also being passionate advocates for societal change. Maybe our kids are the modern prophets among us, insisting the world can be different through their voices and activism, that it can be safer, more inclusive for outsiders, more compassionate to the weak, and more protective of the vulnerable. After all, that’s the salvation yearned for by the prophets and one we need so desperately today.

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

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