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1. Circling the Drain

What it is: A YouTube short series called “Skibidi Toilet” depicts a war between people who seem to live in toilets and their nemeses, people in suits with security cameras for heads. The shorts also live as a hashtag on TikTok, where #skibiditoilet has 5.2 billion views. 
Why it’s drawing in Gen Alpha: Imagine if a second grader’s sense of humor became sentient and downloaded some rudimentary animation tools. The result would be Skibidi Toilet. The average “episode” is less than 30 seconds long and the animation is choppy, surreal and grotesque. Human heads rise out of toilet bowls and slur slowed-down, vaguely haunting renditions of the song “Dom Dom Yes Yes,” while people who are dressed up, but also have cameras for heads, lob bombs at them. The series could be a high-concept satire depicting a conflict between humans and surveillance technology, but more likely, it’s simply absurdity for absurdity’s sake. Each episode features increasingly elaborate and ridiculous attempts by the skibidi toilets and cameramen to destroy the other side. There are hundreds of thousands of TikToks made by users that modify the shorts and add on to the series’ lore, and even a spinoff mobile game called Toilets Attack with over one million downloads. While Skibidi Toilet looks quite unsettling, that could be part of why young people like it.
Start the conversation: What do you know about Skibidi Toilet? Do you think it has a plot, or is it just meant to be entertaining?

2. Going Paul Out

What it is: Jake Paul had a successful career as a YouTuber before trying to make his name as a prize fighter. A new episode of Netflix’s sports documentary series, “Untold,” charts his efforts.
What viewers are taking away: The Paul brothers, Jake and Logan, were two of the original “influencers,” leveraging their rambunctious, prank-loving personas into hefty sponsorship deals. Logan Paul has pivoted to his “Impaulsive” talk show and selling Prime Energy drinks, while Jake has pursued professional boxing and co-founded a sports micro betting site called Betr. In “Untold: Problem Child,” Jake Paul makes several provocative statements, including one that implies his father was physically abusive. The episode isn’t just about Jake Paul wanting to be a boxer or even his family history; it’s about 2023’s swiftly changing media landscape, the rising popularity of boxing amongst Gen Z, and what it means to make a legacy. The documentary’s release coincides with a make-or-break fight for Paul’s career, a matchup versus Nate Diaz that will take place this Saturday night.
Start the conversation: Do you think Jake Paul is the main reason young people care about boxing now? Why or why not?

3. The Dechurched

What it is: Religious commentators and researchers are pointing to a “great dechurching” as Americans become less likely to have a church home they are deeply committed to.
How to fix it: Lifestyles focused on individual achievement, rather than growing in community, don’t often reward serious spiritual inquiry. And schedules that are packed to the brim with other obligations don’t have spare hours lying around to devote to what a church needs. Instead of asking for less from attendees, it’s possible the solution is to ask churchgoers for more, creating a church community that requires more of its participants, but also has richer discipleship opportunities to offer in return. Jake Meador, editor-in-chief for Mere Orthodoxy, points out how declining church participation correlates with all-time lows in mental health and personal fulfillment. “The problem in front of us is not that we have a healthy, sustainable society that doesn’t have room for church. The problem is that many Americans have adopted a way of life that has left us lonely, anxious, and uncertain of how to live in community with other people.”
Start the conversation: What does healthy church participation look like?

Song of the Week

“MELTDOWN” by Travis Scott feat. Drake: Travis Scott’s newest album “UTOPIA” released on July 28 and has already been dominating the music charts. “MELTDOWN” seems to have solidified itself as the most popular song on the album, reaching #1 on both the Spotify USA Top 50 and the Apple Music USA Top 100. At first listen, “MELTDOWN” might seem like just another song where rappers are bragging about their skills, accomplishments, and sexual prowess, but there is (slightly) more to it than that. The song is dense with references to both rappers’ upbringings as well as their music careers, including a reference to the crowd crush that killed eight people during one of Scott’s concerts in 2021. Yet for many listeners, these references might not land. From a musician’s standpoint, the song does have three distinct parts that make it interesting to listen to. For the lyrics, click here (language).

Culture: Translated

There is a saying on the internet: “Imagine trying to explain this to a pilgrim.” The idea is that things in our modern era are often so steeped in reference, technology, and layer upon layer of inside jokes that someone from an arguably “simpler” time might not even understand that you’re speaking English. Any of the topics this week would probably deeply confuse the passengers on the Mayflower. But the way we approach our spiritual communities that would likely confound them the most.

An attempt to unpack the wild twists and turns of Jake Paul’s career or give even a rudimentary explanation of whatever Skibidi Toilet is would certainly shock and appall our colonial forefathers. But it is the truth that very few people in our culture feel that their church is a key part of their lives, let alone the beating heart of their community, that would probably be the hardest thing for an early American to understand. For most of Christian history, our churches have never just been places to go for a few hours once or twice a week. They have been the heart of conversation, learning, child-rearing, and even sanctuary against danger for whole communities.

Somehow, though, be it the fault of anything from individualism to plain busyness, church has become an activity we have to make time for, rather than the home Christ built for us on earth where we commune with our greater family to worship and wait for His return. Nothing can quite fill that void, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t trying. Admiration of people like Jake Paul and the pure absurdity of Skibidi Toilet reveal our desperation to have someone to watch and something to talk about with each other, no matter how base or provocative. Record levels of loneliness and isolation prove this approach to community isn’t working.

The answer to our loneliness is not something we have to discover, but to remember. In the Apostles’ Creed, the core tenants of our faith are laid out in statements about what we believe. The creed declares the church to be established by Christ and empowered by the Spirit throughout all time. To be Christian is to believe that the church is more than a building or an activity, it is Christ’s still-beating heart. It is a place to find and know one another under the leadership of Him who found and knew us first.

  • Where do you see people turning for a sense of community?
  • Why do you think people aren’t making time for church?
  • Do you think the church could become the heart of our communities again? If so, how?