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1. Courting Toxicity

What it is: Johnny Depp’s defamation suit against ex-wife Amber Heard continues to dominate TikTok FYP pages, with #justiceforjohnnydepp at 7.6 billion views.  
Why it’s something teens are talking about: It wouldn’t seem like younger viewers would be all that interested in an aging Gen X star who they probably only know from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. And many don’t care—in fact, some internet observers have openly wondered why and how content related to this trial continues to make its way into their news feeds. But for others, the trial is a goldmine of memeable moments. Up to this point, Depp has put on a mostly charming performance for the court, even if really listening to his and others’ testimony puts his drug abuse and narcissistic behaviors on show. Heard, on the other hand, has presented as less than sympathetic and the majority of onlookers seem to see her as a histrionic villain intent on ruining Depp’s life (although her most recent allegation that he violently sexually assaulted her may change that perception). Sadly, it would appear that both Heard and Depp experienced deep childhood trauma, and neither knew what a healthy relationship should look like during their marriage. We can resist the urge to root for one broken person over another and instead talk about what a cycle of toxicity is, how to recognize it, and how to get out.

2. A World Without Roe

What it is: A leaked draft decision from the Supreme Court indicates that the days of Roe v. Wade are numbered.
Why it matters: It’s been just about 50 years since the landmark Roe v. Wade case, and many Americans don’t seem to understand what the decision’s reversal would actually do. That’s understandable, because it would be uncharted, and complicated, legislative territory. A viral tweet making the rounds implied that “forced birth” was just around the corner, and celebrities and influencers have been vocal in their demands for action, with a large group of TikTokers organizing an economic strike. The decision to return abortion rights back to the state level would be monumental—26 states have so-called “trigger laws” that would immediately place restrictions on pregnancy-ending procedures performed in clinics and hospitals. It’s also worth noting that rates of abortion have been dropping nationwide for several years, including among teenagers. We aren’t living in 1973 anymore, and the abortion landscape has changed. Clinics forced to close might not mean an end to abortion as we currently know it—after all, more than half of abortions today aren’t done in clinics, they happen at home with mifepristone and misoprostol, which can currently be mail-ordered in quite a few states. In other words, expect the end of Roe to mark the beginning of a conversation about abortion in your home, not the end of one.

3. In the Darkroom

What it is: A new short form video series called “Dark Room Faith” brings some of teens’ more difficult questions about Christianity to light.
Why it’s something new: “Dark Room Faith” brings professional production quality to scripts from today’s leading apologists as the videos tackle sexuality, doubt, and church culture. Back in the 1980s, leading evangelicals in the youth movement were reason-forward, spotlighting historical evidence for Christ’s life and Lordship. This made sense for Gen X, a generation grappling with nihilism. But Gen Z and Gen Alpha are different; they’re flooded with a constant barrage of information, and they can find out anything they’d like to know in an instant. That’s why this new series (as well as the He Gets Us marketing campaign) is well-suited to their interests; it takes a philosophical, no-holds-barred approach to conversations about faith, amping up how Jesus and the Bible affect teens on an individual level while also acknowledging how difficult it can be to hold and follow through on a conviction.

Slang of the Week

Mary Sue: An overly idealized fictional character, the phrase has been borrowed from comic books and fanfiction communities but may now be used to describe any person who presents as a sort of Pollyanna-esque figure. (Ex: “I’ve never seen that girl look anything less than perfect, she gets straight As, and everyone she meets adores her. She’s such a Mary Sue.”)

Translation: A World Without Roe

In January we mentioned an article in The Atlantic which said that many of the most fervent pro-life activists at the March for Life rally were 21 and under. Gen Z is often generalized as being “more liberal” on the whole than previous generations, which might make people assume that they would be unanimously pro-choice. But the reality is that Gen Z is as heterogeneous as any other generation. Conversations with your teen about their unique viewpoints are always better than assuming what they will think.

With that said, some of your teens may see overturning Roe v. Wade as a colossal failure. They may see it as a victory of regressive patriarchy over women’s civil rights. If conversations like these arise, ask your teens to define what they mean. See if these are viewpoints they’ve come to through careful investigation, or if they are political postures thrown on in order not to seem like “the other guys.”

As Drs. Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen point out in their book Difficult Conversations, “Changes in attitudes and behavior rarely come about because of arguments, facts, and attempts to persuade. How often do you change your values and beliefs—or whom you love or what you want in life—based on something someone tells you? And how likely are you to do so when the person who is trying to change you doesn’t seem to be aware of the reasons you see things differently in the first place?” For whatever reason, when we believe

others are trying to understand our point of view, our defenses usually go down, and we’re more willing to listen to their point of view. The rising generation is no exception.

Whether or not Roe v. Wade is finally, officially overturned, the Christian worldview will still insist that every human being—no matter their size, level of development, environment, degree of dependency, race, gender, or whatever other qualification we want to throw in—is made in the image of God, and is therefore deserving of honor, dignity, and protection. Being pro-life means more than just being pro-birth, but it by definition includes it. As the Psalmist puts it beautifully in Psalm 139:13-14, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

With that said, here are some questions to hopefully spark conversation about this topic:

  • What do you think about the Roe v. Wade draft?
  • What do your friends think about the Roe v. Wade draft?
  • Does Christ command us to protect the most vulnerable? Who might that be?