What it is: Tom Holland, the Gen Z Spiderman, stars with Mark Wahlberg in a movie adaptation of the popular Uncharted video game franchise.
Why it might flop: Uncharted is a series of video games based around an epic treasure hunt for ancient artifacts. The themes of these games, and now the film, are similar to those you would find in a movie like National Treasure. Mark Wahlberg was originally attached to play Nathan Drake, this film’s main protagonist, but he grew too old to play the part while the movie hit a series of production delays. Early reviews note that while Holland and Wahlberg are good in their roles, both seem to be playing versions of characters we’ve seen them in already. (To paraphrase one astute YouTube comment, it’s just Spidey in a different shirt). Gen Z doesn’t have too many theatrical-only options these days, which might be the biggest thing the movie has going for it. The film is likely coming out way past what would have been it’s prime moment — the trailer only has 12 million views which, compared with 44 million for the recent trailer for Jurassic Park: Dominion, is a harbinger of box office doom.
2. Is Deconstruction The Enemy?
What it is: At Desiring God, Jon Bloom breaks down the term “deconstruction,” which has come to be used on social media as a synonym for “deconversion” from evangelical Christianity.
Why it’s worth taking time to understand: “Deconstruction” has become associated with a movement that sees evangelicalism as a force for harm in the world. But, as this article explains, that’s only one definition for a word that has become quite complicated. “Deconstruction,” in the academic sense, comes from Jacque Derrida’s critical theories of language and meaning. To deconstruct one’s faith might be to dismantle and discard the meaning it once held for you personally, but it also can refer to having a crisis of faith that gives you a new understanding of God. Bloom’s article is especially helpful because it doesn’t condemn people who identify as being in the midst of “deconstruction.” As young people gravitate toward using “deconstruction” to describe their faith experience, it’s important to understand that uncertainty and doubt are not always an enemy of faith, but can be instead the shadow as we walk further toward light.
3. Remote Reiki
What it is: An alternative health practice called Reiki is trending on TikTok, with over 700 million views on #reiki.
Why teens are watching: Reiki claims it can tap into a universal energy source and divert that energy into power or healing. In-person Reiki came to America from Japan in the 1920s as a way to reduce stress and anxiety through physical touch. TikTokers specializing in Reiki practice hold up their hands to the camera while reciting mantras or empowerment phrases. Crystals and sage-burning sometimes figure into the practice, and soothing or punchy songs are often playing in the background. These posts make provocative claims about what they can do for those watching, promising to make you irresistible to your crush, help you lose weight, or give you clear skin. Any case for so-called “distance Reiki” actually working is paper-thin, which even #reiki viewers seem to know; the #asmr tag indicates that videos are meant to soothe and comfort, not necessarily facilitate some sort of magic. But when someone falls down the New Age rabbit hole, the idea of a powerful energy that can be controlled by people and not guided by God becomes easier to buy into.
Slang of the Week
frag: refers to successfully killing another player in a video game (Ex: “He tried to sneak-attack me with a grenade but I threw it right back.” “Nice frag.”)
Translation: Remote Reiki
In Matthew 10:8, Jesus sends out his disciples with the following instructions: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” While Jesus is known to have facilitated remote healing on occasion, the first disciples lived with the expectation that healing would happen to people through prayer and the laying on of hands. Some Reiki practitioners seem to be operating under both concepts—that of healing in-person, and that of healing from a physical distance.
That’s not to imply that Reiki is simply Christian healing in disguise. In fact, at the time of their “attunement” many Reiki practitioners talk about receiving a “spirit guide” whose task involves helping them reach a “meditative state, maintaining a clear channel for the Universal Life Force energy, and guiding our hands to the best positions for the needs of the client.” In Christianity, whatever healing we experience comes from the Father through Jesus—the source of all life and goodness, who is decidedly distinct from everything dark and unholy in our universe—and not from a catch-all Universal Life Force.
There are complicated conversations to have about why prayers for healing aren’t always answered today, especially in the cultural West. (There are also numerous stories of “medical anomalies” which Elijah Stevens explores in his new documentary Send Proof.) But the prevalence of Reiki on TikTok seems to suggest a hunger for a more experiential spirituality in the rising generation—one where healing can be tangibly experienced in this life and not just relegated to the next one. This is hope that the gospel offers us—even if it doesn’t always look the way we think it will. As Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Here are some questions we hope might spark conversation about this with the teens in your world:
- Have you ever heard a story of someone being healed?
- If not, do you believe miraculous healing is possible today? Why or why not?
- If so, how has that story shaped your faith?