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1. A Dangerous Dance

What it is: A new documentary on Netflix called Dancing for the Devil explores the exploitative management practices and religious abuses of a TikTok talent manager in Los Angeles.
Why it’s relevant: This three-part documentary explores family dynamics, the pursuit of online fame, and going viral on TikTok. The series focuses on several popular TikTok dancers who became entrenched in the world of Robert Shinn, a pastor who allegedly used his influence to cut congregants off from their families, exploit them financially, and control them physically. Shinn appears to have created a hierarchy of power within his church where he was the ultimate and only source of real accountability, and to have infused his sermons with just enough of the real gospel for his congregants—many of whom did not grow up in Christian homes—to think he was a trustworthy source of God’s truth. Parents should know that the series contains some profanity and allegations of sexual assault.
Continue the conversation: What makes something a cult?

2. Hanging Up the Cleats

What it is: Some teen athletes will end their athletic careers within the next few months. As Rich Cohen writes in The Atlantic, for parents, this can be a particularly emotional moment.
Why it’s crushing for some: The end of sports can mark the loss of one of the last big things that a parent does with their teen, changing the focus of the relationship. Some parents may feel like being a “hockey dad” or “baseball mom” has become a big part of their own identity; traveling to games, signing up for tournaments, scouting out clinics, and seeking counsel from coaches can feel like it takes as much time and strategy as actually playing and practicing a sport. But most teens won’t go on to play at a college level, and the decision to enjoy their junior or senior year of high school with less pressure to perform might make perfect sense.
Continue the conversation: What’s your favorite thing about playing sports? What’s your least favorite thing?

3.  FindMySense

What it is:Location sharing” with friends and family members has become totally normalized. But does the practice actually keep us safe?
Why it’s contentious: On one hand there’s the idea that wanting privacy is akin to wanting secrecy—it implies that you have something to hide. On the other hand there’s the idea that the freedom to come and go unobserved is an essential component of human flourishing and happiness. (For more on this tension, check out our new Parent’s Guide to Teen Privacy.) Parents who track their teens’ locations may feel like they are averting potential disaster by adding that extra layer of accountability, and might scoff at the idea that they are actually just tracking to give themselves a sense of safety. Still, it begs the question: if your character is who you are when nobody’s watching, what happens when you’re always being watched?
Continue the conversation: Do you use “location sharing” with any of your friends? Why or why not?

Resource of the Week

7 Minute Video on Pride Month: Tomorrow is June 1, which means social media will soon be filled with rainbow-colored brand logos and flag-adorned profile pictures. For Christian parents, Pride Month often means having more conversations with teens about sexuality, gender identity, and LGBTQ+ people. At Axis, we believe God’s design for sexuality is good and holy. We also understand that it can feel daunting to wade through the multitude of cultural conversations to really speak to the heart of the teens in our lives and point to the freedom and joy God offers us. In our 7 Minute Video on Pride Month, we discuss the origins of the celebration, the ways that it relates specifically to Gen Z, and how the love of Jesus is available to all people, even those who don’t live by His teachings.

A Bridge to a Better World

Picture the sort of person who you think is dangerously wrong in their beliefs, their actions, and their sense of identity. They say things that seem absolutely wrongheaded, they live their life in a way you fundamentally disagree with, and they believe things that go against everything that seems to you to be clearly and obviously true.

Now imagine Jesus telling a story with that person as its hero.

This is essentially the effect that the parable of the Good Samaritan would have had on Jesus’ Jewish audience. The Jews regarded the Samaritans as ethnically impure heretics, among other things. Jesus wasn’t saying the Samaritans were right—He was Jewish after all—but He was modeling the posture of regarding Samaritans as more than just a bundle of wrong ideas. The proverbial Samaritan was an example of a human being with their own complex story, who would be worth getting to know on an individual level.

In fact, getting to know people with different viewpoints on a personal level first—including their likes, dislikes, and experiences—often makes it much easier to have deeper conversations about the things we disagree about.

“I think having a genuine friendship is the starting point to building a bridge to being able to talk about really important things like our faith,” argues Lindsey Medenwaldt, Mama Bear Apologetics’ Director of Ministry Operations. “And even if sometimes the arguments might happen or the conversations might get a little bit more heated, we’re more likely to recover from those conversations because there’s that foundation of trust that underlies the relationship.”

This is true even in our own homes with our teens. Spending time getting to know them and enjoying them as individuals helps pave the way for deeper conversations—something we’re passionate about at Axis.

We hope you’ll take the time to listen to our podcast conversation where we cover all of this and more, with Lindsey Medenwaldt. In the meantime, here are three questions to help spark conversation with your teens:

  • Who do you think Christians have the hardest time relating with?
  • Is it ever a bad idea to share truth with someone? Why or why not?
  • What does courage look like in conversations?