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1. Under Review

What it is: The Cass Review, a comprehensive review of the medical literature surrounding transgender medical intervention for children and young people in the UK, has released its recommendations.  
Why it’s important to understand: The Cass Review’s final report could fundamentally change the way that the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK will treat youth gender dysphoria. The report concluded that there is conflicting evidence about youth gender medicine within the medical community and that the science on the benefits of interventions like puberty blockers is far from settled. The Cass Review then pointed out that many of the existing studies are “poor quality,” which in this case simply means these studies don’t present reliable indicators for providers making care decisions. Interventions for kids identifying as trans, the report says, should be holistic and based on individual factors, not broad guidelines. Encouragingly, the review’s authors also write, “For most young people, a medical pathway will not be the best way to manage their gender-related distress. For those young people for whom a medical pathway is clinically indicated, it is not enough to provide this without also addressing wider mental health and/or psychosocially challenging problems.”
Continue the conversation: Do you think our culture tends to regard a person’s body or mind as more important? Why?

2. Up All Night

What it is: Gallup polling data has found a huge spike in the percentage of Americans who say they get less sleep than they need. Survey results also indicate an increase in Americans’ daily stress.
Why it’s news you can use: This data indicates that when you interact with anyone—in a store, on the road, at work, or in church—there’s a decent chance that particular human is feeling both exhausted and stressed out. The odds of this stress/exhaustion matrix are even higher if you are conversing with a young woman aged 18 to 29. In 2001, 42% of young women in that bracket said they get enough sleep, but that number has dropped to 27%. Younger women are also the most likely to say they experience daily stress. Stress and sleep have a symbiotic relationship, and parents should understand how both factors play a role in teens’ mental health.
Continue the conversation: Do you feel like you get enough sleep?

3.  The TikTok Killer

What it is: The Biden administration may be losing its luster with Gen Z after endorsing policies like a TikTok ban and continued financial support for Israel amidst the Gaza Strip conflict.
Why it could be important: Political analysts (and people who are loud online) are now wondering what these policies will mean for Biden’s re-election strategy. On Wednesday, President Biden signed a bill that would effectively ban TikTok in the coming months. But his campaign is still posting on the app. The same bill promises $26 billion in aid for Israel (and, by contrast, $1 billion in humanitarian aid to Palestinians). Students at Columbia, UT Austin, Emory, Harvard, USC, NYU, and more have staged protests to show support for Palestine, some of which are still ongoing—a reflection of how strongly many young people feel that the US should demand a ceasefire and stop the flow of cash and weapons to Israel.
Continue the conversation: What are the political issues that young people care about the most?

Resource of the Week

The Generosity Project: There are over 2,000 verses in the Bible about money, making it apparent that God really does care about how we treat our wealth and where we place it. But a true understanding of generosity extends beyond our household budget. Axis recently partnered with Heartwork to create The Generosity Project, a 7, 14, or 21-day curriculum about how we spend ourselves—our time, our money, and our attention. The Generosity Project is designed to help individuals, families, and youth groups explore the heart of God and the generosity He invites us into.

Deep Dive: “The Tortured Poets Department” by Taylor Swift

This week on the Deep Dive, we return to our roots to talk about a new Taylor Swift album. But this isn’t just any album; this is “The Tortured Poets Department,” a 31-song, 2+ hour whirlwind of anger, heartbreak, manic excitement, true love, fake love, and everything in between.

“Tortured Poets” takes unexpected shots. Not only do Taylor’s exes and haters fall under fire, but so do her fans, and Taylor even turns her poison pen toward herself. In an Instagram post following the album’s drop, she makes that part clear: “Upon further reflection, a good number of [my wounds] turned out to be self-inflicted.”

There’s something satisfying—even if it’s not pleasant—about rehashing the same problems over and over (in album after album, let’s say). But at some point, it gets exhausting. And Taylor seems to have reached that point.

In her song “Clara Bow,” she comments on the way the world always seems to be on the lookout for the real thing. She ranks herself alongside silent film actress Clara Bow as well as Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks. Her fear of irrelevance is palpable in that song, and in the trending, aggressively boppy “I Can Do It with a Broken Heart.” Am I good enough yet? No? Of course not. Here we go again. Maybe this time around I can get it right.

Self-reflection is an important part of life. But lingering too long on it can trap us in a cycle—given too many mirrors, reflection does what it tends to and becomes recursive, surrounding us with new and different angles of the same problems but ultimately no solutions.

In Jesus’ John 4 conversation with the woman at the well, He identified that she was stuck in a loop: “You have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” But what He offered her was not clarity on the cycle, a place to vent, or advice. He gave her a way out. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.”

When the woman went back to her village to share what Jesus said, that’s the message she brought, and it is the gospel message: Here is the last thing you’ll ever need. Here’s the end of the loop. Here’s your escape, it’s the way home. It is a contrast to the lonely striving Taylor presents on this new album. As she laments never being enough, Jesus offers us all that we need.

For the full episode (with much more on the imagery, spiritualism, and language on this album), click here. In the meantime, here are three questions to help spark conversation with your teens:

  • What are your opinions about “The Tortured Poets Department” and the latest Taylor Swift era?
  • What do you think is the difference between healthy and unhealthy self-reflection?
  • What does it mean for Jesus to offer “water” that ends thirst?