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1. Missing the Target

What it is: A display of apparel meant to celebrate Pride Month made Target into the latest culture war target.
What actually went down: Target has prominently displayed Pride-themed merchandise for years. This year, some of that apparel was geared toward children. A black swim skirt for kids was tagged to “thoughtfully fit on multiple body types and gender expressions” while some adult female swimsuit bottoms were labeled as “tuck-friendly,” theoretically to conceal male genitalia. It was these swimsuits, in particular, that seem to have sparked a backlash against the company. Target’s stock tanked to the tune of $12.4 billion, and the retailer moved the Pride selection to the back of some stores after they claimed that disruptive customers were vandalizing the displays. A rapper named Forgiato Blow even recorded a song called “Boycott Target.” While ire at Target boiled over last week, it should be noted that this type of marketing is now widespread; Kohl’s, Carter’s, LEGO, and even Walmart sell Pride-themed products that are marketed toward children.
Start the conversation: What do you think about the backlash around Target. [Check out our new course, How to Talk with Gen Z About Gender and Sexuality, produced in partnership with the Jude 3 Project.]

2. All About Evie

What it is: Rolling Stone highlights and criticizes conservative women’s magazine Evie, calling it “Cosmopolitan for far right Gen Z.”
What is it really: The magazine was founded in 2019 by influencer Brittany Martinez and her husband. Martinez felt that traditional women’s media had harmed women by presenting femininity as a weakness, and she sought to provide an alternative. Evie publishes only one print issue per year, existing primarily online. Articles cover everything from fashion (“How to Style a Denim Skirt”) to relationships and sexuality (“Best Practical Tips for Your Wedding Night”) to culture (“Why Are Millennials Obsessed with Emulating Their Grandmothers?”), with the occasional celebrity or influencer profile. But unlike Bustle or Teen Vogue, this site publishes pro-life opinions, explores holistic medicine, and presents a decidedly pro-marriage and pro-family point of view.
Start the conversation: Would you say that our culture tends to celebrate femininity overall? Why or why not?

3. Making It Happen

What it is: The spiritual practice of manifestation continues to be popular with teens and adults alike. Two different articles offer a biblical reading on how our intention does and does not shape our reality.
Why it’s counter-cultural: #manifestation sits at 36 billion views on TikTok, showcasing an array of methods for attracting what you want. Rapper and singer Doja Cat is often associated with manifesting because she says she used the technique to bring a collaboration between herself and Nicki Minaj into existence; Lady Gaga, Drake, and Ariana Grande have all also spoken publicly about how they thought their dreams into reality. Lydia Sohn writes in The Atlantic that manifestation has a “fragile ethical foundation” because it can imply that when bad things happen, it’s somehow due to negligence on the part of the victim. Prayer, she points out, allows for a humbler point of view. “The practice of prayer presupposes that while we can express and pursue our preferences, we ultimately hand them over to someone with a perspective much broader and a love more generous than any of us can fathom.” In Christianity Today, Ken Shigematsu writes that the idea of “catching a vision” for ourselves can be a matter of clearing space for holiness. Instead of pursuing the law of attraction, he suggests, we should discard what doesn’t serve us—not in vain pursuit of earthly glory, but in favor of welcoming the purifying work of the Holy Spirit in us.
Start the conversation: How would you describe the difference between manifesting and prayer?

Song of the Week

“This Year (Blessing)” by Victor Thompson, ft. Ehis D Greatest: With both a sped-up version and a normal-speed version trending on TikTok, this is a song about manifesting, written by Nigerian worship pastor Victor Thompson. “Everything I be wanting, manifesting for my life,” Thompson proclaims. While the full song includes an allusion to God answering prayers before we pray them, the viral portion of the song is just the line, “This year, blessing, money, testimony / Go dey follow follow.” These lyrics slot comfortably into the spiritual melting pot that is #manifestation, and the accompanying TikTok dance ends up looking like an attempt to summon said blessings by hand-waving and dancing. For the full lyrics, click here. 

Culture: Translated

In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells the story of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus who he ignored during his natural life. As the rich man suffers agony in the afterlife, he looks and sees Lazarus at Abraham’s side, in paradise. The rich man begs Abraham to resurrect Lazarus to warn his family about their impending judgment so that they can avoid sharing his fate. Abraham declines, saying, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” It’s a sobering reminder of our limited understanding of the spiritual realm, as we remain insistent on believing what we want to.

Few among us can escape the lure of confirmation bias, the tendency to interpret new evidence and new experiences through the filter of pre-established assumptions. For those who try to practice manifestation, confirmation bias makes it seem like we can create the reality we desire.

But all of us are prone to confirmation bias, whether we realize it or not. And on its own, confirmation bias can neither be called wholly good nor wholly bad. It can work for good if the way we already thought was accurate, and it can be bad if the way we already thought was inaccurate.

When Lydia Sohn described prayer as handing our preferences over to “someone with a perspective much broader and a love more generous than any of us can fathom,” she was talking about the God of the Bible. But she was also alluding to the fact that there is an objective truth outside of us, which is bigger than us, and which does not change according to what individual people think. There is a way that God created and designed human beings to live, and nothing we ever say or do will make that untrue.

Part of our goal as Christians is to align our confirmation bias with the objective truth that has been revealed by God in scripture, and part of our goal as parents and caring adults is to help our sons and daughters do the same.

Here are some questions to spark conversation about these things with your teens:

  • What’s one thing you’ve changed your mind about recently?
  • What’s one thing you think you’ll never change your mind about?
  • When you hear the idea that human beings were “created and designed” to live in a particular way, what comes to mind?