Vol. 4 Issue 50 | December 14, 2018

Three Things This Week

1. Poor Professor

What is it:A viral video shows a professor, who threw a holiday party in lieu of a final exam, in a mostly empty room because no one showed up, prompting tons of love from the internet.

Why it’s crazy: It’s not real. The original tweet was part of an assignment to learn how hard virality is to attain. Only it backfired, so the students and the professor came clean. The students say they learned that “people are really easy to manipulate.” It’s such a clear example of “movie magic” and how it’s become the norm, not just on the big screen or on TV, but on the screens in our pockets. Ask your kids if they saw it. Then ask if they knew it was staged. How did they feel when they found it was staged? Did it make them question other videos they’ve seen? What about all the people who retweeted or posted reactions to it—were their motives pure or were they also trying to join the viral train?

2. Gen Z Lab

What it is:A free resource from the Impact 360 Institute that seeks to equip you to “help today’s teenagers navigate questions of truth, God, identity, social media, technology, gender, sexuality, the Bible, ethics, and theology in an always-connected world.”

Why we should all utilize it: Perhaps more than ever in history, generations struggle to understand each other (thanks, tech!). Yet it’s more paramount than ever that adults endeavor to enter teens’ worlds and engage them on difficult topics, lest someone else shape their thoughts, opinions, and hearts. The Gen Z Lab has over 10 hours of video content that tackles things like Doubt and Discernment, Holy Sexuality, Navigating the Transgender Moment, and more. We will be utilizing this resource, and we highly recommend you do, too! (No, they didn’t ask or pay for an endorsement.)

3. Instagram Party Accounts

What they are: Middle school through college students are using Instagram to organize parties away from the eyes of concerned adults.

Why you should know about them: Party organizers don’t use their personal accounts to hype the event; instead, they create a brand-new, private account (something like @ChristmasPartyy2018). From there, hopeful party-goers who are approved to follow the account are allowed to attend the event (though more stringent rules—e.g. must follow the hosts’ personal accounts—are often implemented). What’s also interesting: Many of these parties never come to fruition, sometimes because the “hosts” are just looking to gain more followers. This whole thing reminds us that: 1. Teens still need wise, calm guidance; 2. There are always ways around restrictions, and our tech-savvy kids will find them; so 3. We can’t stop having conversations with them (about exclusivity and how it impacts those who aren’t deemed “worthy,” the need for “followers,” partying, etc.).

Disagreement Makes us Civil

Our guess is your Facebook and Twitter feeds look a lot like ours and like your teens’ Snapchat and Instagram feeds: awash in the weaponization of words. “What idiots.” “How could someone ever believe that?” “This moron actually thinks…” “You’re so dumb, you should kys.” Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

Unfortunately, most of our discourse in America, both public and private, is filled with such sentiments. Any time someone disagrees with us, we write them off and refuse to listen to anything else they have to say. But it hasn’t always been this way. In fact, some argue that disagreement, when done properly, “is the most vital ingredient of any decent society.”

But somehow, we’ve come to conflate disagreement with conflict, hatred, and the idea that if you’re not with me, you’re against me. So we boil with anger, becoming even more convinced of our rightness and their wrongness. Now more than ever, we need to re-learn the art of disagreement:

To disagree well you must first understand well. You have to read deeply, listen carefully, watch closely. You need to grant your adversary moral respect; give him the intellectual benefit of doubt; have sympathy for his motives and participate empathically with his line of reasoning. And you need to allow for the possibility that you might yet be persuaded of what he has to say.

We also need to pass this mindset on to our kids, not only so that they can be kind and compassionate to others, but also so they can change the world through civil discourse, humility, and the ability to see that we’re all in this together.

For help fostering this mindset, read our brand new Parent’s Guide to Civility (written by one of our faithful Culture Translator readers!) for more on why civility matters and how to cultivate it in your own home.

8 PREMIUM INSIGHTS

A broader look at the world that teens inhabit.
Skim our summary or click the links to read more.
Engage your teens in conversation about their world.

They said it best:

“Marketing and consuming infiltrate every aspect of our lives and behavior. They filter all experience we have of ourselves. They become the standard of our final worth. Marketing and consuming ultimately reveal us to ourselves as things.”

John Kavanaugh, Following Christ in a Consumer Society

Technology

Devices

1. Mashable released their “Best of Tech 2018” awards highlighting the top 25 devices that changed our lives this past year. Notice any trends? Either way, many of these gadgets will impact the future of tech and what kids will beg for in Christmases to come.

Pop Culture

Film/TV/Streaming

2. Schindler’s List is showing in theaters throughout the country in commemoration of the film’s 25th anniversary. Unfortunately, the movie is more poignant today than when it was originally released, due in large part to a rise in nationalism, anti-semitism, and xenophobia. If you believe your teen can handle the violence and historical rendering of genocide on film, we strongly encourage you to introduce the movie to the next generation. It captures both the horror and hope of the human experience by reminding us that monsters weren’t at the center of German-state-sanctioned ethnic cleansing, but rather ordinary men and women just like us.

Social Media

3. A new privacy feature on Instagram now lets users share pictures only with “close friends” by creating a seperate list of followers who have special viewing permissions. It’s a small attempt to reintroduce intimacy to the image-sharing app. “When posting a Story to Instagram, users will be able to differentiate between posting for everyone and posting to their group of Close Friends.” Ask your daughter or son if they’ve used the new feature and if it has helped foster deeper connection with their closest friends.

Politics

4. One man won what he called a “War on Christmas” with his homeowners association over his Christmas lights display after a jury ruled he faced religious discrimination from the HOA. Unfortunately, little about the story points to peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Standing up for our faith is a courageous act, but how we do it is vitally important. Before giving them your thoughts, ask your teens what they think about his situation. Is he right that “God’s name was lifted up” through his actions? Why or why not? How did he represent God to his neighbors? Could there have been a way to spread the story of Christmas without also alienating his neighbors?

Global Awareness

5. We often lament the negative influence pop culture has on the next generation, but Sesame Street reminds us that television can also build empathy and compassion by introducing viewers to a reality other than their own: Enter Lily, a 7-year-old pink muppet experiencing homelessness. She provides a lens by which children can humanize and empathize with those who are going through difficult circumstances.

6. Another 7-year-old made headlines this week for far more disturbing reasons. Hours after being taken into Border Control custody, a little Guatemalan girl died of septic shock and dehydration. Regardless of one’s policy views on immigration, as Christians, the growing crisis should be framed through the lens of this haunting question: “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”

Theology

General Observations

7. The GC2 Summit met on Thursday at Wheaton College as speakers Beth Moore, Eugene Cho, and Ed Stetzer responded to widespread sexual abuse allegations that surfaced because of the #ChurchToo movement. Critics argued the conversation didn’t go far enough to address the patriarchal theology and male-dominated power structures within church leadership that so often foster abuse. Ask your church if they have a plan to handle abuse allegations properly without shaming the victim into silence. Then talk with your son or daughter about the reality of grooming and abuse within the church. Do they know what to do if or when they see or experience it? Here are three questions to help you anticipate your church’s response to sexual abuse.

Tip of the Week

8. Chance the Rapper announced on Instagram that he’s taking a spiritual retreat to study the Bible. He’s leaving the country to spend time in prayer and Scripture, hoping to “just read and know His Word.” With over 1.4 million views to his post already, Chance is leveraging his celebrity status to encourage others to do the same. So here’s our question: When’s the last time you unplugged from life, went away by yourself, and spent time alone with God? We’ve all but lost this practice in American evangelicalism, but for thousands of years God’s people have actively disengaged from the world for periods of time to seek Him in solitude. “There should be a room, or some corner where no one will find you and disturb you or notice you. You should be able to untether yourself from the world and set yourself free…a place where your mind can be idle, and forget its concerns, descend into silence, and worship the Father in secret.”

If you cannot completely retreat from life to be alone with God, start by carving out spiritual moments within the busyness of the day by praying the “Daily Office.” (If you’ve ever wondered why all your pleading hasn’t motivated your teens to read God’s Word, modeling it in such intentional ways could be more compelling than anything else you’ve done.) And if you’re like Chance and simply want to kick-start your Bible reading, check out our Parent’s Guide to the Bible, which provides a theologically rich and practical guide to biblical literacy for you and your teens.

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

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