Three Things This Week
What it is: Releasing today on Netflix, this new teen dramedy focuses on a bullied, overweight girl who loses 70 pounds and becomes a vengeful beauty queen.
Why it’s not helpful: The show was designed to be a dark comedy discussing “unrealistic beauty standards and body-image from a woman’s perspective,” but in reality it misses the mark through incessant fat-shaming, pedophilia jokes, and cruelty. Vulture calls it “an equal-opportunity trainwreck.” In the shadow of the #MeToo movement, it’s hard to imagine a show being more tone deaf to sexual assault and misogyny. Fortunately, the show’s target demographic (teenagers) are not only the most socially aware generation in American history, but also highly compassionate and empathetic. We’re guessing your teens won’t find this fat-shaming show binge-worthy this weekend, at least we hope so.
What it is: Nicki Minaj’s long-awaited fourth album dropped today.
Why it’s toxic: Social media can’t get enough of the third track on the album, “Barbie Dreams” (warning: extreme profanity) where Minaj plays homage to The Notorious B.I.G. by explicitly roasting several prominent male rappers and athletes. Rap music blatantly flaunts toxic masculinity, but isn’t Minaj the ying to its yang? If toxic masculinity expresses itself in sexual conquest and violence, Minaj is mimicking this behavior by exploiting and amplifying her sexuality to subjugate men while objectifying herself. Toxic femininity isn’t the antidote to bad male behavior, it’s doubling down in a game where everyone loses. “Feminism without spirituality runs the risk of becoming what it rejects.” Does the song represent helpful or harmful expressions of female empowerment and why does it matter in our daughter’s age-old struggle for gender equality? After all, Christ-centered feminism should elevate both men and women into the full likeness of God as His divinely and equally created image-bearers.
3. Teen Tech Use
What it is: The Pew Research Center published five new findings on how teens use technology.
Why it’s eye-opening: In the study, 85% of teens say they use YouTube compared to only 51% who still access Facebook. This is why Zuckerberg’s social media empire recently launched a Youth Portal to bring back this coveted demographic. Good luck, Mark. More importantly, 45% of teens say they are online “almost constantly”. For most, “being online almost constantly is simply a means of social survival.” Read the report yourself and ask your teen if they agree with the findings. Check out our Parent’s Guide to Smartphones to help you set limits on screen time, encourage physical activities, and create tech-free zones in your home.
Today’s teens have been dubbed the “post-literate generation”, but to be fair, reading for pleasure has been declining for decades, even among older generations. Add upwards of 11 hours a day with devices, and there’s precious little time left to be still and absorb a great book. Pixels are more appealing than pages in a culture driven more by compulsion than contemplation. Thankfully, National Book Lovers Day is here to encourage all of us to pick up a new book or two and treat yourself to some quality reading time!
A good book can not only challenge, but transform. Reading has been shown to encourage empathy, ignite the imagination, cultivate compassion, foster humility, and discourage dogmatism. Franz Kafka once said, “I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us…A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.” With that in mind, here are 10 books that will challenge your teen’s faith by potentially transforming the way they see God, themselves, and the world around them. But remember, when you or your teen come across an idea that deconstructs preconceived notions about God or faith, resist the fear-filled urge to reject it as heretical. The spiritual life in Christ should be an emerging movement of growth and maturation instead of stagnation. Just because an idea is new to us doesn’t necessarily mean it’s new to other faithful believers. So, before school starts and the mandatory text book reading begins, grab one of these spiritually enriching works for your teens to kick-start their faith this school year.
- Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, & The Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright
- The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen
- Wisdom Distilled From the Daily by Joan Chittister
- Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew Hart
- Listening to Your Life by Frederick Buechner
- Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren
- The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
- The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey
- The Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard B. Hays
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