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1. Defining the Situationship

What it is: With Valentine’s Day approaching, many young people are defining their relationships as “situationships,” according to Tinder’s “Year in Swipe” data report for 2022.
What it means: A “situationship” is a relationship that is not exclusive, but not quite casual; a way of getting to know someone without a lot of pressure to define where things are headed. Tinder saw a 49 percent increase in users listing “situationship” as something they were looking for on the app. The lack of definition in these types of dating relationships means that they can drag on (and on) without any clarity on if the other person sees potential for something serious. Casual meetup settings like bowling and outdoor activities are becoming popular substitutes for the age-old “dinner date,” are also on the rise—dating trends that make sense when you consider that situationships straddle the line between a friendship and a romantic interest for indefinite periods of time.

2. On Deaths of Despair

What it is: A new paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that spiking levels of “deaths of despair” could be correlated to the decline of religious practice in the United States.
Why it’s significant for the Christian community: “Deaths of despair” are defined as deaths by suicide as well as other deaths connected to mental health conditions and substance use disorders. This paper links the loss of significance of faith communities, beginning in the 1980s, with when these types of deaths started to significantly increase. As evidence for this connection, the paper demonstrates that states experiencing the largest decreases in religiosity from 1985 to 2000 had the largest gains in the rate of deaths and despair during that time period. In a grim underscoring of that point, in 2020—a year of loneliness and loss of all types of in-person community—186,763 Americans died this way. Christianity Today points out that without the church, we are not able to have full knowledge of God, we lack full communion with Him, and we lose access to full, redemptive community with other people. Christians should know that hurting, lonely people can still experience the hope of Jesus in a church setting, but they need to feel welcome, wanted, and invited in.

3. Seeing Red

What it is: Singers Sam Smith and Nicole Petras brought satanic imagery on stage to perform their collaboration “Unholy” at the 2023 Grammys.
Why it’s got everyone talking: “Unholy” is a song about being unfaithful in marriage. There’s no trace of Christian virtue in the lyrics, but its subject material—which details promiscuous sex and materialism—is still pretty standard fare for radio pop in 2023. Whether or not the song condemns or glorifies the act of adultery is even, perhaps, up to interpretation. So when Smith appeared on stage bathed in red light, surrounded by a circle of submissive dancers and singing a version of the song that sounded like a ritual dirge, people weren’t necessarily expecting it. (Although maybe if they’d paid attention to the controversial music video for Smith’s more recent single, “I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends,” they would not have been so surprised.) Nicole Petras performed in character as what appeared to be a caged demon. Even people who aren’t in the Christian community expressed shock at how explicitly satanic this performance was—a far cry from Smith’s 2014 hit about longing for love that lasts, “Stay With Me.”

Song of the Week

“Just Wanna Rock” by Lil Uzi Vert: Reaching #6 on Spotify and #10 on Billboard, this sounds like the sort of song that someone’s brain might have created in a dream state. The music completely changes several times, the sections are broken up by prolonged auto-tune, and the second “verse” is just Lil Uzi Vert yelling “buh” into the microphone over and over. Definitely ask your teens what they think about this song and why they think it’s still trending. For the lyrics, click here (language).

Translation: Seeing Red

First of all, if it isn’t already clear, Gen Z doesn’t usually watch the Grammys. Part of the Grammys’ current PR plan seems to involve manufacturing a lot of hype and controversy about performances so that people will at least want to watch clips after the broadcast. But on the whole, teens today aren’t tuning in to the actual award show in the same way that previous generations did.

Gen Z isn’t tuning in to an award show that doesn’t strike them as novel or interesting. And we don’t have to tune in, either. It’s not a cultural requirement to subject ourselves to spectacles like Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ performance of “Unholy.” The truth is, our imaginations are going to be shaped in some way by the things that we spend our time with, and it actually is possible to have our imaginations shaped according to God and His design. It’s actually possible to consume media that uplifts us rather than scandalizes us. We don’t have to be drawn in by appeals to edginess or by the controversy around whatever latest line was supposedly crossed. In short: we don’t have to participate.

However, even if teens today don’t care very much about the Grammys, many may be drawn in to viewing because of “edginess” or controversy. Young people often want to test the boundaries they’ve been given, explore the limits of reality itself, and sometimes, just see what they can get away with. Spectacles like this may be inherently fascinating to your son or daughter, which means that it creates an opportunity for conversation. And the best way to converse is, as always, calmly—without fear, without scaremongering, and without catastrophizing. As 1 John 4:18 puts it, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”

Here are three simple questions to get a conversation going with your teens:

  • Did you hear about Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ performance at the Grammys?
  • If so, what do you think about it?
  • What do you think it says about our culture that performances like theirs get so much attention?