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1. Cheering On

What it is: Netflix’s Cheer docuseries returned with new episodes on January 12.
Why teens will be watching: When we last left the cheerleading team of Navarro College, they were riding high after winning the NCA college nationals championship in 2019. No one could have predicted what would follow: a media blitz that took the team from Oprah to Ellen, an international pandemic that shut down indoor sporting events for six months, and allegations that one of the show’s most beloved personalities had distributed child pornography. The directors of Cheer didn’t shy away from any of it as they crafted a storyline for the much-anticipated second season of the reality show. Young people may not see themselves in the more bombastic elements of the show, like adjusting to viral fame. But this is the first major series to reflect on-screen what 2020 was like for teens, many of whom were robbed of big, meaningful experiences.

2. Activision, Acquired

What it is: Microsoft will acquire gaming studio Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in a move meant to further catapult the tech giant into a game-publishing powerhouse.
What it’s such a big deal: Not only will Microsoft own the Call of Duty franchise, World of Warcraft, and, uh, Candy Crush, they will become the publisher of future titles from the Activision studio. In fact, Microsoft anticipates becoming the third biggest gaming publisher, by revenue, when this deal is made official by the close of 2023. Microsoft says this huge acquisition is also aimed at the company being a major player in the metaverse. To put it simply, this move cements Microsoft as a media juggernaut poised to dominate the entertainment spaces that matter most to younger generations.

3. Slouching Toward Secular

What it is: Self-identified Christians made up only 65 percent of the US population in 2021, according to data published by the Pew Research Center.
Why we need to be paying attention: It’s difficult to discern what data like this “means” in terms of what people actually believe or don’t believe. The definition of what it means to be a Christian, and the connotations of that association, may have shifted just as much as people’s actual convictions over the past two decades. Regardless, the number of individuals who are readily identifying as people of Christian faith does appear to be dropping at an unprecedented level. Take this data point from Pew: In 2007, Christians outnumbered people of no religious affiliation (“nones”) by five-to-one, while last year, that number was down to a little over two-to-one. Christianity continues to be the dominant religion in the United States, but a few more years of stats could mean that isn’t true anymore.

Slang of the Week

IYKYK: “if you know, you know,” referring to a niche interest or an inside joke. (Ex: “We always order our burgers animal style. Iykyk.”)

Translation: Activision, Acquired

One of Jesus’ most sobering statements is found at the end of the Parable of the Talents, in Matthew 25:29. Jesus says, “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” Economists call this The Matthew Principle, and it’s often summarized as, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision is an example, at least, of the first half—an already massive company absorbing another massive company into itself, sure to gain lots and lots of new profits from the purchase.

Theologians have debated the meaning of The Matthew Principle. Did Jesus intend to convey that he saw this as a good thing that happened in our world, or was he just stating a truth about how the world works? Some may take his words as meaning that massive monopolies tend not to go away, and in fact tend to grow and become more common—or maybe as saying that the pursuit of pure communism means working against the fabric of reality. Some, including Jordan Peterson, have also interpreted his words as a moral axiom: “As you start to wander off the path, the probability that you will wander further off the path increases non-linearly… but as you improve, the probability that each improvement will produce a further improvement increases.”

We do know that Jesus cared a lot about the poor (as evidenced by the more than 2000 verses in the Bible about poverty), and He told at least one person point blank to sell everything he owned and give the proceeds to people in poverty. The early church often sold their belongings in order to be able to care for one another. But Jesus’ inclusion of The Matthew Principle at the end of the The Parable of the Talents makes these other verses seem strange. How do they fit together?

Here are some questions to hopefully spark conversation about that with your teens:

  • What do you think Jesus meant by his words in Matthew 25:29?
  • How does that fit with the fact that Jesus and God the Father clearly care a lot about the poor?
  • Do you think companies like Microsoft buying companies like Activision is good, bad, both, or neutral? Why?