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1. Alien Activity

What it is: A former US intelligence official said in a congressional hearing that the US government possesses proof that there is life beyond our planet.
What it means to teenagers: The discourse surrounding these revelations has taken on a tone of incredulity. Some people think this entire hearing is a way to distract from more pressing political scandals. Others seem to enjoy the spectacle of a bipartisan hearing on aliens, reveling in specific details that seem straight out of a sci-fi film. But for American teens, this mostly just boils down to an opportunity to do the things they love the most: speculate, wonder, and of course, make hilarious memes. As of this writing, TikTok’s own data reports that #aliens has received around 60 million views in the last seven days, and it’s likely that discussions on this topic will become even more ubiquitous in the weeks to come.
Start the conversation: Do you think aliens exist?

2. De-Generation

What it is: The Pew Research Center recently decided to stop using generational labels in their data collection, adding to a host of other voices that say making generalizations about people born within a certain block of time is neither helpful nor scientific.
What it means: The idea of “generations” is pretty well embedded in our culture at this point, with statements about Millennials and Boomers being used frequently as shorthand to describe large swathes of people. (If you’re interested, our Parent’s Guide to Gen Z dives deep into the distinctions behind each generation and what the research shows about their tendencies). But some social scientists, including the ones at Pew, think that this type of grouping does a disservice. A piece at Insider points out that the concept as we know it is less than a century old, and that today’s generational terminology is much newer than that. Generational stereotypes may also carry an upper-class bias, according to Pew, and they tend to focus on perceived differences instead of measuring, say, how similar today’s teens might be to Gen Xers when they themselves were teenagers. Experts agree that measuring “cohorts” of people who have shared cultural experiences during their formative years seems to be a valuable tool, they just might lean into using less presumptive terms to have these discussions.
Start the conversation: What’s something you think people get wrong often about your generation?

3. Destination Uncertain

What it is: New Gallup polling shows that the percentage of Americans who believe in spiritual “entities” like heaven and hell is continuing its steady decline.
How it breaks down: The poll asked respondents to answer whether they believed in five spiritual concepts: God, heaven, hell, angels, and the devil, while giving them the option to say if they were unsure. Only 51 percent said they believed in all five. Belief in the entities that might give us the most hope—God and heaven—has taken the biggest hit in these polls since 2001, when Gallup began asking these questions. It’s worth noting, though, that only 12 percent of adults say they don’t believe in God at all, meaning that the vast majority of people still hold a belief that there is a God present in the universe.
Start the conversation: Between God, heaven, hell, angels, and the devil, which do you think people your age are more likely to believe or not believe in?

Song of the Week

“Barbie World (with Aqua)” by Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice: The age of the star-studded Barbie movie soundtrack is upon us, with three songs from the record already in the Spotify Top 10. Leading the way is Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice’s collaboration “Barbie World,” reaching #1 on the Spotify USA Top 50 and #3 on the Apple Music USA Top 100. With a sample of Aqua’s 1997 hit “Barbie Girl” underscoring, this hip-hop track focuses on the prestige of being a Barbie in a Barbie World. In the song, the benefits of being Barbie tend to mostly be about sex and status. This isn’t particularly surprising, as Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice have built their careers around braggadocious lyrics that emphasize their sexual exploits and lavish lifestyles. “Barbie World” plays during the end credits of the Barbie movie, but doesn’t really seem congruent with the film’s messaging about the complexity of gender dynamics and the significance of bringing meaning into the world. For the lyrics, click here (language).

Culture: Translated

The Bible is full of passages about angels, the devil, heaven, hell, and of course, God. But while some have speculated that some “alien” sightings could have actually been angelic or demonic beings, the Bible doesn’t directly address the topic of extraterrestrial life.

Questions about aliens and individual spiritual entities only scratch the surface of deeper worldview questions that can lead to fruitful conversations. A more all-encompassing question might be, “Just what sort of world are we living in here?” Is our world a cold, closed system where nothing ever gets in and everything works like a giant clock? Or is there more to life than just what we can see, smell, hear, taste, and touch? Could there be a spiritual realm beyond what we are currently able to understand—and if that existed, does it make more sense that it would be empty, or that something might be alive in it?

Gallup’s polling found that “adults without a college degree are more likely than college graduates to believe in each of the five entities,” and that “frequent churchgoers, Protestants (including nondenominational Christians) and Republicans are the most likely subgroups to say they believe in the five spiritual entities.” Of course, some of these findings could be self-perpetuating; if people already associate belief in spiritual beings with a lack of education, those beliefs might seem to be discredited even further (perhaps without questioning the underlying worldview of said education). Polling this way brings us interesting information, but also runs into some of the same stereotyping difficulties that Pew has been trying to address. Even though noting trends like these can be helpful, not all Republicans will necessarily be Christians, not all Democrats will necessarily be skeptics, not all college graduates will walk away from their faith, and not everyone who goes to trade school will stay faithful.

Of course, as important as spiritual beliefs are, they’re not the whole point for Christians. As James 2:19 puts it: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” A faithful Christian witness in our world does not just involve insisting on the existence of spiritual beings, but it involves being the hands and feet of Jesus in a world full of pain. And in the end, this sort of faithful presence might provide better evidence for the existence of God than a debate about “spiritual entities” ever could.

Here are some questions to open up these conversations with your teens:

  • Do you think some people are more likely to believe in spiritual beings than others? If so, who, and why?
  • If we found definitive proof of alien life, do you think that would affect your faith? If so, how?
  • What’s one thing you think would be crazy to believe in, and one thing you think would be crazy not to believe in?