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1. Instant Karma

What it is: Former child star JoJo Siwa has debuted an edgy look for her new song “Karma,” and people are distinctly underwhelmed (language and sexual content).
What’s going on here: Siwa got her start on the hit reality TV show “Dance Moms” in 2015, and rose to fame with a pop star persona tailor-made for little girls, decked out in bows, sparkles, and neon. She came out as part of the LGBTQ+ community in 2021, and has since been trying to find her way out of kids’ content. For the last several months she’s been teasing an edgy new persona, donning a sparkly black getup reminiscent of the band KISS and telling fans, “Just wait until I drop that F bomb.” Additional controversy surrounding Siwa’s mistreatment of underage employees and potential plagiarism of “Karma” has cast even more of a pallor on her once-colorful career.
Continue the conversation: What do you think it would be like to grow up in the public eye?

2. Paying the Piper

What it is: Research and investment firm Piper Sandler released their “47th Semi-Annual Taking Stock With Teens” survey, focused on modern teen trends.
Why it’s worth paying attention to: While the survey is primarily focused on trends for investment, their research does give us insight into the ever-changing winds of teen culture. The survey covers everything from social media usage, to which clothing brands teens prefer, to their favorite snacks (it’s Goldfish). Some of the more interesting trends include TikTok losing popularity with teens and Instagram regaining it, 85% of teens owning an iPhone, and “the environment” being the social cause most teens cared about (even though only 14% cared about it). We’ll see how these trends play out over the rest of the year and into the future, but for now, when your teen tells you they have to have the $1600 iPhone Pro Max, you’ll know, at least partly, why.
Continue the conversation: What are some other recent trends with teens you’ve noticed?

3. She Shoots, She Scores

What it is: WNBA superstar Caitlin Clark has hit the mainstream, fueling conversations about women in sports.
Why it’s a bigger conversation: The former Iowa Hawkeye has taken the world by storm, securing a spot with the Indiana Fever as the number 1 pick in the WNBA draft on Monday. She’s also secured a lucrative endorsement deal with Nike. The contract is worth more than $20 million, boosting Clark’s starting rookie salary, which has raised criticism for its low numbers. Without said contract, her salary would have been a little over $75k, whereas in the NBA, the first draft pick is expected to make around $10.5 million in year one. Despite this discrepancy, as well as some run-ins with weird reporters and creepy fellow-athletes, Clark has maintained a level head, saying she chooses to “focus on the opinions of the people inside our locker room. That’s what I really care about. The people that I love to death. The people that have had my back every single second of my career.”
Continue the conversation: What makes Caitlin Clark interesting to people who don’t necessarily watch basketball?

Song of the Week

“Too Sweet” by Hozier: In a follow-up to his album “Unreal Unearth,” Hozier has dropped an EP of songs not included in the original tracklist. The first track on the EP (which is fittingly titled “Unreal Unearth: Unheard”) is “Too Sweet,” a jazzy breakup song in which Hozier rejects a woman whose healthy habits seem to clash with his edgier preferences. In the chorus, which swept social media before the song was even released, Hozier declares he prefers to, “Take my whiskey neat/My coffee black and my bed at three,” and asserts, “You’re too sweet for me.” His apparent disdain for a woman who likes to wake up for the sunrise and take care of her body (which he describes as being guarded “like the TSA”) has drawn some questions from fans: what’s wrong with enjoying sweet coffee and a good night’s sleep? The overall reception, though, has been positive, continuing Hozier’s reign in the music tastes of the younger generation. For the lyrics, click here. 

Taboo Topics, Secrecy, and Healing Through Confession

In Galatians 6:2 the Apostle Paul writes, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” But of course, in order to carry each other’s burdens, we first have to know what they are.

This week on the Culture Translator podcast we spoke with Mike Novotny, whose new book Taboo is all about the secrets we carry, and the importance of the church being a place where people can be honest and vulnerable with their issues. Leading with his own story of addiction, Novotny highlights the scriptural wisdom of letting others into our struggles.

“The devil is the master of 1v1 spirituality,” Novotny argues. “If it’s me versus the devil, I rarely win. But if I have a couple of teammates with me… the devil is not very good at guarding 2 or 3 or 4 or 6 people at once.” In other words, when we’re by ourselves, the enemy can whisper all sorts of nonsense to us, and it will sound convincing. But coming together in prayer and honest conversation helps us break each other out of these spiritual echo chambers.

The Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria is attributed as saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Whether he actually said this or not, it’s true that everyone we meet carries some sort of burden. Maybe it’s a struggle, maybe a fear, or maybe a sin issue. But all of these are burdens that Jesus wants to alleviate—and one of his best ways is through the listening ear of someone who cares.

Part of passing on the legacy of faith to the next generation involves helping them to think clearly, critically, and biblically about taboo topics—as well as modeling the importance of letting others in on our struggles. For these reasons, we hope you’ll take the time to listen to our full conversation with Mike Novotny, available on our Culture Translator podcast.

In the meantime, here are three questions to spark conversation about these topics with the teens in your life:

  • Would you say that vulnerability comes more naturally to your generation? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think scripture encourages us to confess our sins?
  • Is there such a thing as being too vulnerable? When would that be?