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1. Chasing Paper

What it is: Data from CreditKarma shows how Gen Z’s perception of money is increasingly skewed by how much they think they need to have.
Why it’s happening: According to a survey of 1,000 Americans, more than 44% of Gen Z (and a quarter of all Americans) say they are fixated on the idea of being rich. This fixation can mean young people often compare how much money they make to how much money it seems like others are making, and as a result, feel like they don’t (or may never) make or have enough money. This creates a conflict between their salary expectations and spending power versus the reality of how much money most people actually earn. Financial analysts are calling this phenomenon “money dysmorphia,” and the modern equivalent of “keeping up with the Joneses.” “Money dysmorphia” may lead young people to overspend, take on more debt, hoard their income, or be less generous with their giving. These young people seem to feel like acquiring wealth is necessary for their future comfort and happiness—but they have more “Joneses” than ever to keep up with because of social media, and climbing the class ladder in the US feels more out of reach than before.
Continue the conversation: How much money would you need to have before you considered yourself “wealthy”?

2. Declarations of Codependence

What it is: In a newly published survey, Pew Research found that young adults appear to be more dependent on their parents emotionally, physically, and financially than previous generations were.
What it reflects: This report shows us how the milestones individuals use to define themselves as “independent” are evolving. More young adults are employed full-time today than were in 1993—yet about a third of young adults live with their parents. Many are choosing to delay having children (and young men are more likely than young women to say they want to have children someday). Fewer than half of adults under 30 say they are financially independent from their parents, and the huge majority of those surveyed said they rely on their parents for advice and emotional support. One in four parents told Pew Research that they even use GPS if only on occasion, to track their young adult children. Interestingly, this dependence isn’t something young people seem to be resentful of; 82% of young adults define their relationship with their parents, on the whole, as good or excellent.
Continue the conversation: What do you think makes a person an “adult”?

3. Beef (Megan’s Version)

What it is: Megan Thee Stallion’s newest single “Hiss” has quickly ascended to the forefront of the music charts, sitting at #1 on both Apple and Spotify.
Why it’s trending: Megan Thee Stallion is perhaps best known for her duet with Cardi B,  “WAP.” (If you can’t remember it, don’t look it up.) Since then, she has continued to be known for her explicitly sexual lyrics and bombastic persona, and “Hiss” is no exception. It’s a catchy beat with three minutes of lyrics that are explicit in every sense of the word. Part of the song’s popularity comes from Megan Thee Stallion’s very public beef with fellow rapper Nicki Minaj. Their ongoing feud has been all over TikTok and other social media platforms and has a long, complicated history. Most listeners, including Minaj herself, believe the lyrics of “Hiss” are meant to directly insult Minaj and her husband. Minaj even went so far as to rush out a song of her own, “Big Foot,” in response to “Hiss.” It’s hard to look at “Hiss” and find something redeemable to talk about, but it’s also worth being aware of how public feuding—whether petty, provocative, or both—continues to translate to viral hits and ticket sales for today’s big artists.
Continue the conversation: Have you seen the song “Hiss” trending on TikTok?

Song of the Week

“FACTS” by Tom MacDonald (featuring Ben Shapiro): A rap song that features a popular conservative podcast personality doesn’t exactly go viral every day. But “FACTS” did just that, reaching #1 in the iTunes store quickly after its release on Friday. The song aims to be inflammatory, with a chorus that starts with “I don’t care if I offend you” and taunting verses aimed at everything from preferred pronouns to the “Defund the Police” movement. The song’s #1 status is perhaps indicative of how many young fans Shapiro has and not the quality of his or MacDonald’s rapping. As high school boys are trending more conservative than previous generations, it makes sense that “FACTS” would find a following. (Lyrics here.)

Deep Dive: Percy Jackson and the Olympians

The season finale of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” premiered on Disney+ this week. The show, by all metrics, was a massive success. Based on the popular book series by Rick Riordan, the first season introduces audiences to a world where the Greek gods and goddesses are real. Protagonist Percy Jackson is a twelve-year-old “half-blood,” a child of a god and a mortal human. His quest is to travel across the United States to find and return a stolen lightning bolt to Zeus.

But a basic plot synopsis doesn’t capture why the Percy Jackson series is so beloved by Gen Z. We reached out to some high-schoolers about why they liked the Percy Jackson series, and one told us that she fell in love with the series because it’s “practical/attainable and yet so layered and interesting.” This student also appreciated the “emphasis on the characters just being kids” at the beginning of the story.

In this week’s episode of the Deep Dive, we wade into one of the more unique aspects (and perhaps draws) of the Percy Jackson franchise: its portrayal of the gods of ancient myth. Zeus, Poseidon, Ares, and many more directly influence the fantasy world where Percy Jackson takes place, setting the stage for the story and upping the stakes when they appear. As Christians who generally try to follow the first of the Ten Commandments, it can feel strange to engage with a series that puts other gods, whom an ancient people really did worship, front and center. But the portrayal of these gods of myth provides an opportunity for conversation about the living God we serve.

In the world of Percy Jackson, the Greek gods often look pretty …human. Sure, they’re more powerful and they represent fundamental forces like air, water, and wine, but they also struggle with things like anger, frustration, lust, and pride. These gods are made in the image of mankind. Yet, as Christians, we believe the opposite: that mankind is made in the image of the one, true God. He is not created, but the Creator.

God’s omnipotence and perfection can make Him feel foreign to us. It can be tempting to imagine a God who looks like us, agrees with us, and approves of all that we do and desire.  But that’s not at all what we are called to do. As God told the prophet Isaiah, there’s just no comparison between the ways of humanity and the ways of the one true God. His ways are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth.

As we submit to God’s call on our lives, we are the ones who are transformed. As we change to be more like Jesus, may we have Paul’s encouragement to the Romans ringing in our ears:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

For the full discussion, click here. In the meantime, here are three questions to help spark conversation with your teens:

  • What do you think of the Percy Jackson show? What’s something that stuck out to you about it?
  • What are some ways that you see humans trying to make God in our image in the modern world?
  • Jesus was human and God, but he felt different from the gods in the show. Why do you think that is?