Vol. 4 Issue 49 | December 7, 2018

Three Things This Week

1. Lauren Daigle

What is it: The popular Christian singer put the Christian community in a tizzy with her recent response to the question of whether homosexuality is a sin.

Why it’s polarizing: Few things divide evangelicals from both progressive Christians and pop culture more than the issue of homosexuality. Instead of fueling the fire, Daigle refused an outright answer by saying “I can’t honestly answer on that…I have too many people that I love that they are homosexual…I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God.” She then encouraged listeners to read the Bible and find out for themselves. Before sharing your reactions, ask your daughter or son the same question and see if they answer similarly. Our guess is they might also filter the question first through the lens of personal relationships, and secondarily through Scripture.

2. YouTube Stories

What it is: YouTube has made its own version of stories available to creators with 10k+ subscribers.

Why it’s noteworthy: If the success of Snapchat’s and Instagram’s Stories are indicators, the feature will soon take off. YT’s version isn’t an exact replica of its predecessors (they last for 7 days, can be publicly commented on, and are only available in the mobile app), but they will change viewers’ expectations, which will impact both fans and creators. First, fans will be encouraged to spend even more time on the platform, as well as become more obsessive about the creators they follow. Second, creators will face even more pressure to never stop creating/filming, always be available, respond to every comment, and open up their lives even more than they already do. And if they make the feature available on YouTube Kids, the impact will start at even younger ages.

3. Video Game Oscars

What they are:The Game Awards 2018 happened Thursday night.

Why they’re important: They celebrate every aspect of gaming culture, including top video games, eSports players and teams, and Twitch streamers. Yes, Fortnite won a couple awards, but more importantly, the awards reveal just how thriving and influential the entire gaming industry has become. No longer a fringe niche in the entertainment world, it’s a full-fledged culture maker, with big names like Jonah Hill and Hans Zimmer lending their talents to the evening. Even if you don’t watch the entire 4-hour event, reading a few articles about them could help you better understand the world of gaming and why your teen is obsessed (or bonus, help you connect with him/her in new ways). See if your teen’s favorite games made the list of nominees and winners and ask him/her what makes a game worth playing and celebrating.

Should You “Live Your Truth”?

“Your truth”—a phrase that’s entered our lexicon with fervor in recent months and years, thanks to people like Oprah, the #MeToo movement, and a post-truth political climate. In fact, it’s quite a paradoxical phrase, since it combines something that can be subjective (“your”) with something historically considered wholly non-subjective (“truth”). But what do people mean when they say it? Are they referring to something different from “the truth”?

Reading articles like this one from HuffPo or this one from The Atlantic is simultaneously eye-opening, frustrating, and confusing because they challenge our assumptions. Yet it’s important to read these seemingly contradictory points of view in order to grapple not only with what we hear when someone says “Your Truth,” but also with what they actually meant by using it. When marginalized people or victims of injustice use the terminology, they’re giving voice to an alternative story that has often been silenced or dismissed. In this way, the phrase is empowering and can be healing. Of course, not everyone uses the phrase in the same way, but one thing becomes clear: What can be powerful and useful in changing our cultural dialogue can turn dangerous when taken to its extreme (e.g. what if someone’s “truth” is that it’s ok to be a pedophile?).

Regardless of how we feel about this topic, we need to engage it because it is impacting our teenagers. Beyond hearing the phrase or seeing it all over the internet, it’s also being normalized through media. For example, Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber recently said (language) that people shouldn’t be shamed for consuming p*rn, as long as it’s “ethically sourced” (i.e. doesn’t use coercion or trafficking). For teenagers who dabble in or are addicted to p*rn, this could easily be seen as validation of “their truth” that p*rnography is good for them.

Another example is Netflix’s new film Cam, a psychological thriller about a woman who makes her living as a sex-cam worker. As Relevant points out, the film subtly tries to validate her chosen profession as normal, good, even empowering. In a sense, she’s portrayed as “living her truth” that as long as it’s on her own terms, using her sexuality for gain is moral and empowering. Young viewers can easily internalize this under-the-radar message and use it to rationalize their desire to post sexy selfies, send nudes, or worse.

Trust us, walking down this path won’t be easy or clear cut, but it will be good, both for you and your teenagers. Here are some possible discussion questions:

  • What do you think “your/my/his/her truth” means?
  • What do you think other people mean when they say it?
  • Does it matter who says it?
  • How can it be good? How can it be bad?
  • How do we know the truth? What about with something the Bible doesn’t specifically speak about?
  • Why is it important to define our terms and choose our words carefully?

8 PREMIUM INSIGHTS

A broader look at the world that teens inhabit.
Skim our summary or click the links to read more.
Engage your teens in conversation about their world.

They said it best:

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming.”

Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember

Pop Culture

Sports

1. Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer announced his pending retirement immediately following the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. Meyer’s legacy is one of winning and enabling, a strange mix of virtue and vice that ultimately led to the end of an embattled college career. At least for now…

Social Media

2. Eight-year-old Ryan of Ryan ToysReview was the highest paid YouTuber in 2018, amassing $22 million in revenue. How is a kid filming himself playing with new toys so lucrative? Well, with 17 million viewers, advertisers are bound to place their products and their dollars on his channel. It’s incredibly ingenuitive, but it does pose some serious questions. Should parents profit off their children? Is Ryan being formed to believe that life is only lived and experienced in front of a camera? Would you monetize your child on social media? Why or why not?

3. On Monday, a Facebook bug accidently republished old chat histories between individuals all over the world, reminding users not only that the internet never forgets anything you say, but more importantly how awkward infinite online conversations can become. “While phone calls and in-person conversations start and end, most online chat systems adhere to a rigid standard format: the single, never-ending chat thread.” So, yeah, that online fight from 5 years ago continues to echo into eternity.

Trending/Memes

4. 2018’s YouTube Rewind released Thursday. Do you understand it? Watch it with your YouTubers, and let them explain all the references to you. Then talk with them about why YouTube makes these videos. Does it change their perceptions of them?

Music

5. Miley Cyrus’ newest song “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” mashes a Dolly Parton-esque sound with modern lyrics about gun control and racism into a germane lament sure to resonate with her listeners. Her attempt to critique culture is wrecked by her almost relentless pursuit to see just how naked she can be before becoming pornographic.

Global Awareness

6. Scientists have developed a 10-minute cancer test that anyone can take to determine if cancer cells are present in the body. Evangelicals have often unfortunately derided science as the antithesis of faith, but a proper understanding combines both reason and revelation into a holistic view of God and His world. It’s a great reminder of the incredible ability to harness scientific knowledge to protect and serve humanity.

Teen Culture

Video Games/eSports

7. Just Cause 4 and Super Smash Brothers Ultimate released this week, and odds are they’re on your gamer’s Christmas list. Check out their respective reviews here and here.

Tip of the Week

8. The world is not a safe place for many kids, who often live each day in fear. Even children who come from relatively stable, wealthy homes can feel this way, thanks to things like the Internet, social media, and school shootings. American teens have more anxiety than ever from social, emotional, and physical instability in their daily lives. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that there is no refuge from the storm for them because the storm rages 24/7 through the device in their pockets. So unless home is a safe place, where can they go to be themselves without fear? If home lacks a sense of security, then it will simply add to our kids’ sense of danger, rather than give them a place to truly rest. Thankfully, as parents, we have the opportunity to create a safe place in our home. And, since it’s almost Christmas, we want to give you our “Parent’s Guide to Making Your Home a Safe Place” as a gift this season. Click here to get your free guide today!