Three Things This Week
1. Mount Zion
What it is: On Tuesday night, college basketball fans met one of the most jaw-dropping athletes of all time in Duke’s humiliating win over Kentucky.
Why we can’t look away: Interestingly enough, Gen Z already knew all about 18-year-old Zion Williamson. The 6’7”, 285-pound freakish athlete has 1.9 million Instagram followers and is a YouTube sensation for his thunderous dunks. Bill Simmons said, “He looks like somebody took an NBA2K character and turned up some of the strengths too high.” Zion is the rock that anchors Duke’s latest supersquad, a team with an outside chance of going undefeated this season. Zion is already on a first-name basis in pop culture (Beyoncé, Lebron), and due to his social media status, he might make more money from a shoe contract than an NBA contract.
2. thank u, next
What it is: Ari’s (already) back with a chart-topping breakup single after news of her split from fiancé Pete Davidson went public.
Why it’s a mixed bag: Unlike other breakup songs, Grande gratefully reminisces on past relationships and what she learned from each of them. Rather than throwing shade at her exes or viewing ended relationships as failures, she exhibits a growth mindset, learning from her past without beating herself up. But the lyrics are explicit and problematic in other ways, like espousing the idea that relationships didn’t work because someone wasn’t “a match” or that self-love is the answer (joining Carly Rae Jepsen’s new single “Party for One”). Our teenaged Ari fans can learn from the good in her song, but this is a great opportunity to guide their hearts and combat the unhealthy ideas that are mixed in by having open, honest dialogue about the track.
Why it’s not really church: While we really admire Smith’s desire to contextualize the Gospel for the next generation, the app forces us to ask some difficult questions about modern Christianity. How much should we leverage cultural trends and at what point do we push against them? In this case, what would virtual baptism or virtual communion even look like and why do those physical practices even matter? The Greek translation of Ecclesia (church) means a local community gathered in a specific place. As today’s teens struggle to form real relationships, perhaps the most practical way we can help them do so is by participating in a local church, thereby showing them the messy and transformative power of real community.
Motivated by governmental lies, the fear of outsiders, and militant nationalism, 80 years ago today ordinary men and women participated in a sudden and deadly campaign of terrorism, killing 100 Jews and destroying 7,500 Jewish businesses. Kristallnacht or “Night of Broken Glass” foreshadowed the legal and state-sanctioned annihilation of European Jewry. In 1930s Germany, “Racial hatred and hysteria seemed to have taken complete hold of otherwise decent people.”
And just when we think our culture is immune to historical atrocities, a 57% rise in anti-semitic incidents, white supremacist marches, (((echoes))) being used online to flag things as Jewish, and the murder of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh should tell us otherwise.
Kristallnacht and Pittsburgh aren’t aberrations that spontaneously erupted in a vacuum. The Holocaust didn’t originate in the gas chambers; it started with words. Language matters, fear-mongering matters, labeling people matters (“wingnut”, “invading horde”, “Thot”). Whether its on Instagram, the news, or in school hallways, help your students spot and stop dehumanizing language in its tracks. Because those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. Thankfully, the opposite of dehumanization is empathy, compassion, and the recognition that every human being—no matter their religion, skin color, or nationality—is made in the very image of God. Here are seven convicting reads to help you and your teen combat a culture of violence and intolerance.
- Dehumanizing Always Starts with Language by Brené Brown
- Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies by Marilyn McEntyre
- Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning
- Night by Elie Wiesel
- Boy 30529: A Memoir by Felix Weinberg
- Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi
- The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman (graphic novel, so might be a good way to engage those who don’t love reading)
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