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1. Have You Heard Our New Podcast?

What it is: The Culture Translator Roundtable is up and running wherever you listen to podcasts—and now, you get to be a part of it!
Why the table is truly round: This newsletter is purposefully brief, but in the Roundtable we dive deeper into context and nuance for conversation with the next generation. This week, we’re also launching a Q&A feature on Slido so anyone can ask questions or make comments about the topics at hand. On the podcast, we’ll incorporate the most-upvoted questions and comments into the conversation. The link for this week’s Q&A is here; in the future, you’ll find it below, by the Roundtable logo. (The podcast buttons above now also link to the Culture Translator Roundtable podcast for your convenience.) We hope you enjoy!

2. The Most Hated Man on the Internet

What it is: A documentary on the rise and fall of Hunter Moore, the “revenge porn king” of the early 2010s, is one of the most watched things on Netflix this week.
Why it’s attracting so much attention: In 2022, most young people understand that any digital photograph, no matter how private its contents, could end up someplace public. But this three-part docu-series takes us back to a time when MySpace ruled social media and a young man from Sacramento could single-handedly launch his own porn-publishing empire without the consent of those whose photos he shared. Ultimately, Moore messed with the wrong woman’s daughter—it was an angry mother named Charlotte Laws who convinced the FBI that Moore was worth an investigation. The series is littered with disturbing details and explicit language as well as heartbreaking stories of victims whose lives were impacted. It’s a look back into an internet world that today’s teens didn’t grow up in, but with problems they can still recognize because they haven’t gone away.

3. Inflation Nation

What it is: People all over the world are feeling the crunch of increased prices, even teens.
Why it’s impacting teens: For many families, an extra $50 per week at the grocery store has budget repercussions that aren’t easily absorbed. Cuts to snack food staples, certain school supplies, and extracurricular activities are just some of the difficult decisions that families with children are having to make. Inflation at these rates is not something that teens have encountered before, so it might not be so easy for them to understand. If they look to TikTok to try to understand what’s happening in the economy, they’ll find that #inflation has 1.9 billion views—although few of those posts seem to offer information of value. Calm, honest conversations about household expenses can help younger family members make sense of hard budget choices, even when they don’t like the outcome.

Song of the Week

“Bad Habit” by Steve Lacy: propelled into the limelight by TikTok, this hazy, unique song is about wishing you had expressed attraction to someone, then eventually doing it and getting together with them. With lyrics like “It’s okay, things happen for / Reasons that I can’t ignore” and “You can’t surprise a Gemini,” the song seems to draw spiritual meaning out of why things do or don’t work out at particular times. Two f-bombs near the end give the song an explicit rating; full lyrics can be found here, and the music video here. 

Translation: The Most Hated Man on the Internet

The phrase “revenge porn” refers to sharing or posting sexually explicit images or videos of someone without their consent. And although Hunter Moore’s site has since been taken down, this sort of dynamic can be easily recreated in high schools via sexting. According to a 2018 study from JAMA Network, around 14.8% of teens have sent sexually explicit images of themselves to others, 27.4% have received such images, and 12% have forwarded such images without the senders’ consent. But just to state the obvious, in order to end up in a “revenge porn” situation, this sort of explicit content has to be created in the first place.

A friend of ours works at a large private Christian school in Philadelphia, where sexting had become an issue. One day, she called a meeting with the high school girls, and told them in so many words that if boys asked for naked pictures, they didn’t have to send them. The response? A passionate round of applause from the entire room. Apparently, up until that moment, no one had told these young women that they didn’t owe anyone access to their bodies—and that sexting amounted to giving out access.

In a previous era, abstinence was the cultural pressure, and people rebelled by acting out sexually. But when the cultural pressure is to be sexually active ASAP, the whole conversation changes: in a pornified culture, abstinence is agency. We now have the opportunity to present the Christian sexual ethic as a way to gain autonomy over and against the dehumanizing cycles our culture pulls us into. Christianity tells us that we are God’s image-bearers, which means that we were made with incredible dignity, and that we have the right not to be determined by our environment.

Of course, all of us fall short, and no-one perfectly lives into his or her role as an image-bearer. It’s also worth pointing out that when someone’s images are stolen or redistributed without their permission or knowledge, they are also being sinned against. Still, thankfully the gospel was never about qualifying ourselves, but about Jesus qualifying us on our behalf. There is no path that his grace won’t walk, and no rabbit hole it won’t chase us down. But obviously, avoiding this sort of complicated heartache is best. May God give us grace to wisely shepherd the next generation.

Here are some questions to spark conversation with your teens:

  • Do you know whether sexting has been an issue at your school?
  • What do you think would make someone want to send a picture like that?
  • As Christians, where does our worth come from?