Turf worship by CPYU President Walt Mueller
INSIDE The developing teen brain and sex Page 6 The first year after high school Page 12 Resource reviews Page 14 Motherhood as vocation Page 18 Fingertip porn Page 20 New tobacco and alcohol trends Page 22 Text and chat acronymns Page 23 Three for 3-D Page 24 Hang 10 Page 28
Last May, my 22-year-old son walked off an athletic field for the last time. I had tears in my eyes because it was over for him. I had a smile on my face because he had been given the gift of play. A college senior, Josh had played his final game of collegiate lacrosse. Seventeen years in organized sports had suddenly come to an end. What choked me up was watching the door close on something my kid had loved doing his entire life. When he was a preschooler he showed normal boy interest in toys. But when given a chance, Josh always opted for activities that included throwing, bouncing, catching or hitting a variety of balls. The arrival of kindergarten brought enrollment in T-Ball and soccer. That led to years in a variety of sports including football (“Sorry son, not until you’re in middle school.”), baseball, soccer and lacrosse. At times we had to set limits because he wanted to do more. He still bemoans the fact that we drew a line and didn’t let him play ice hockey. Games and practice weren’t always easy for Josh. He put in a lot of hard work. But Josh would tell you he loved every minute of it. In hindsight, this last day that I knew would arrive—but “sometime far into the future”— showed up in the blink of an eye. Seventeen years later I look back to gain perspective, wondering what dividends an investment of thousands of hours of practice, hundreds and hundreds of games, a huge amount of money (uniforms, equipment, gas, fees, French fries at the concession stand, etc.), and lots of energy has paid. Because he was blessed to be led by coaches who—for the most part—put life lessons, teamwork and character building at a premium, I know his years as a player have shaped him in
powerful and positive ways. Now that he’s planning on someday moving into coaching, the inheritance will be passed on. But Josh isn’t the only one who came out a winner. My years spent with my son while coaching and spectating have shaped and molded me. As a Christ-follower raising a son who competed with others and found some success, I’ve had to face challenges and
temptations that when embraced, leave me looking less and less like an inhabitant of the Kingdom of God, and more and more like a faithful follower of our culture’s rapidly ascending idol of sport. It hasn’t always been easy. And, I haven’t always done a very good job at assimilating Kingdom priorities into my role as a coach, spectator, fan or athlete’s
Turf worship dad. The demons of pride, pushiness, diversion, escape and vicarious living are always knocking on the door of my life. At times I’ve allowed them to move in. Perhaps it’s that constant pounding from these beguiling enemies at the gate that’s combined with my role as a culture-watcher to force me to stare our culture’s idolatrous obsession with sports in the face and ask—over and over again—“What’s going on here?” and “Is there a better way?” With the advent of another school year upon us, our kids are not only heading back into the classroom, but onto the playing field. Fully two-thirds of America’s children and teens play organized team sports. Their parents will be in the stands. Then, there’s our ongoing obsession with following our teams. The start of the college and pro football season is upon us. Baseball playoffs are right around the corner. Talking about the intersection of faith and sport with your kids is not an option. It is a necessity. To lead your kids into a deeper understanding of what it means for Christ’s Kingdom to come and assume its rightful place in our play and spectating, it’s necessary to first come to terms with the changing place sport holds in our contemporary culture. Our spor ting landsca pe sporting landscape There are several trends related to children, teens and sport that must be recognized and understood. Amateurs no more. When was the last time you saw a kid riding through your neighborhood with a baseball glove hanging off his handlebars and a bat resting on his shoulder? There’s been a huge shift in the when’s, where’s and how’s of youth sports. It used to be that kids hurried home from school, changed into their “play clothes,” and went outside to wear holes in their knees through, well, play! My own little neighborhood gang of boys met every day after school and all day on weekends in backyards and driveways for pick-up games of baseball, football or basketball—depending on the time of year. Adults never organized or watched. Occasionally a dad or mom would come out to play. We structured and monitored everything ourselves. Captains would “shoot” it out for first pick. Somebody would inevitably get picked last … I know. But you’d suck it up, forget about it and play. Any structure that existed in our play came as we umpired ourselves and mediated any conflicts. The only matching jerseys we had were made of either fabric or skin. (“Dear God, please let me be on the shirts team!”) Games rarely ended with a last inning or final whistle. It all stopped when the dinner bell rang, but not before we would agree on a time and place for it all to begin again once more “after supper” or “tomorrow after school.” Of course, many of us also played organized community and school sports, but that happened in ways very different from the experience of today’s emerging generations. For today’s kids, the overwhelming reality is that they play in a culture where the “professionalization” of youth sports encompasses every minute of play from the time they are
enrolled in three-year-old soccer leagues, all the way through until high school graduation. The youngest of the young experience sports that are organized for them complete with regular practices, fancy uniforms, skill clinics, expensive equipment, summer camps, the best playing fields and arenas, coaches, paid officiating, aggressive game schedules, out-ofstate-travel, weekend tournaments, and, perhaps worst of all, screaming and yelling fans (more on that in a minute). The price they pay for all this “privilege” may be some of the very
things that make childhood what it is … like just being allowed to be a kid. In addition, our kids miss the important opportunities to play, to learn how to make their own fun, or solve conflict. And, all the running around cuts deeply into time together as a family. The pressure’s on. In Go Tigers!, the documentary about high school football in Massillon, Ohio, viewers learn that when a boy is born in the town, a Massillon football is placed in the infant’s hospital crib. Sadly, that football isn’t just a fun little decoration. Rather, it represents a pressure-filled expectation. One undeniable reality of youth sports in today’s world is the incredible amount of stress our kids feel to succeed. At the youngest levels of youth sports tryouts are held. Pushy parents are disappointed when their five-year-old has to play on the “intramural” or “rec” team instead of the “travel” soccer team. Kids quickly learn that their value and worth to both their parents and their community depend on their on-field performance rather than on who they are as a son, daughter or ENGAGE: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU
neighborhood kid. This pressure has led to early “specialization” as kids focus year round on developing their skills in only one sport—a reality critics say can lead quickly to burnout. Researchers at Michigan State University report that 70 percent of kids who play youth sports drop out by the age of 13. Sadly, many of these dropouts are gifted athletes who should be exercising their athletic gifts and abilities long into their teen years. Others are late-bloomers whose discouragement leads them to hang it up, causing them to miss out on the years of successful play that could be theirs if they would only be encouraged to hang in long enough for their bodies and skills to develop. Then there are those who continue on while allowing the pressure to excel to lead them to try to get an edge through cheating and/or performance-enhancing drugs. Parents, ugh! I recently shared a cab ride from the airport with a dad who was more than happy to tell me about his athlete-daughter. He informed me that she was so highly regarded as a soccer player that their family’s summer would be centered on traveling around the country to various showcase tournaments where she would be able to display her skills. In addition, he told me that his daughter was a highly successful baseball player. “Baseball? Not softball?” I asked. “Do they let girls play that down in Georgia?” “Yes,” he enthusiastically answered. “She’s leading the league with seven home runs.” I was impressed. Then I asked, “How old is your daughter?” “Six,” he replied. Ouch. God bless that little girl. The pressure’s even greater when parents live vicariously—trying to find redemption for their own athletic failures, unfulfilled dreams, or empty lives—through their kids. Many pressure and push in the hope that their kid will score the college scholarship that will lead to a professional contract. The reality is that college scholarships are few and far between. A pro career is highly unlikely. According to research from Dan Doyle at the Institute for International Sport at the University of Rhode Island, there are 475,000 fourth grade boys playing organized basketball in the U.S. At the same time, there are only 87,000 high school seniors playing basketball. Of those 87,000, only 1,560 will win Division I scholarships, 1,350 will win Division II scholarships, and 1,400 will play at non-scholarship Division III colleges. Of those 4,310, only 30 will make it to the NBA. Still, parents push, push and push some more. Do you want to know how bad it’s gotten? Go to a local soccer field where elementary-aged kids are playing an organized game. Don’t watch what’s happening on the field. Turn sideways and look down the sideline. And, just keep on looking and listening. Be prepared. It might break your heart. Character? Or characters? When a culture slowly slides into worshipping the idol of sport, those who have achieved the highest levels of success in their sport are revered as heroes and role models. Looking up to heroes and role models can be a good and positive thing if those heroes and role models exhibit the high standards of character and sportsmanship we’ve been told are the end result of participation in sports. But in recent years the output of this character-building machine seems to be progressively more populated by shady characters than people of high character. Kids are now able to look up to and emulate a growing number of professional athletes who trash-talk, taunt, perform arrogant scoring rituals, fight, spit, bite, cheat and retaliate. Then there are their highly publicized antics off the field! The National Institute for Sports Reform says that “at the professional level, there is no question that sportsmanship is at an all time low. Likewise, the behavior of many scholastic, collegiate and professional athletes off the field is both disturbing and disappointing.” If someone ever did something shady during our neighborhood games we’d protest with chants of “Cheaters never prosper!” That doesn’t seem to be true in today’s culture. These shady role models Fall 2008
About CPYU and ENGAGE This journal is produced quarterly by the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, a nonprofit organization recognized for taxdeductible giving by the federal government. We depend on private donations for our funding. We are a ministry working with churches, schools and community organizations to build strong families by equipping parents, pastors, youth workers and educators to understand the world of children and teens, by equipping teenagers to deal with the challenges of adolescence, and by equipping both parents and teens to live by the light of God’s Word. Our resources include parent education seminars, youth worker training, printed and audio materials, a Web site, and a daily syndicated radio feature. President Dr. Walt Mueller Vice President of Administration Cliff Frick
Associate Staff John Fischer Amy Flavin Marv Penner Paul Robertson Jason Soucinek
Research Specialist Director of College Doug West Transition Initiative Derek Melleby Research Assistant Chris Wagner Research Assistant Lisa Mueller Design Classic Editor Communications Randy Buckwalter ENGAGE September 2008 ©2008 All rights reserved To subscribe to this publication or for more information, contact us at: Center for Parent/Youth Understanding PO Box 414 Elizabethtown, PA 17022-0414 Voice: 717.361.8429 Fax: 717.361.8964 E-mail: email@example.com Web site: www.cpyu.org CPYU grants permission to copy any article, as long as the copies are distributed for free and they indicate the source as ENGAGE: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU.
Turf worship prosper with big contracts, endorsement deals and championship rings. Increasingly, the heroes our kids follow embody everything but high ideals of good sportsmanship and fair play. As a result, the American sporting machine is producing fewer and fewer young men and women of high moral character. Not surprisingly, the Josephson Institute for Ethics found that athletes cheat in high school at a higher rate than do non-athletes. Maybe all of this should be expected in a culture of relativism where sport is played to the glory of me, myself and I. Winning … the only thing. When my dad was coaching me in Little League Baseball his coaching style and expectations spoke this message loud and clear: “Winning isn’t everything. It’s how you play the game.” Sure, when we compete we should play hard and do our best in order to win. And, losing hurts. But when we fall into the trap of idolizing sport, losing is not an acceptable option. Our coaching, play and spectating become directed at that one goal, no matter what the cost. Scroll through the news headlines on the Web site of The National Alliance for Youth Sports and you’ll gain more than enough evidence of the place winning holds in our culture: “Soccer mom assaults coach with folding chair,” “Angry parent chokes referee,” “Parents brawl at youth football game,” “Coaches brawl at PONY league baseball game,” “Youth baseball coach arraigned for role in beating of player” and, believe it or not, “Little League parents attack umpires with pizza.” There’s nothing left to say. What about the church? While the church has increasingly gone to great lengths to address how a biblical world and life view speaks to things like our teens’ blossoming sexuality, disordered eating and concern for the poor, we’ve done very little thinking or talking about what—if anything—our Christian faith has to do with sports. Sure we can read inspiring books and magazine articles about Christians who are professional athletes. And, there are those evangelistic ministries that work to reach young athletes. But relatively little thought, writing or time has been dedicated to developing—with any depth—a theology of faith and sport. Maybe we like it that way. If we haven’t thought through a biblical theology of faith and sport, we don’t have to be challenged to live out that biblical theology of faith and sport. After all, the aforementioned cultural attitudes are just about as prevalent among people of faith, as they are in the cultureat-large. Sadly, there is little or no difference, except that we may start and end our competitive “fellowship” with token prayers. At the very time we should be saying something prophetic and different to the world, our sports practices betray attitudes that indicate we’re speaking and living with the world on this one. A Christian friend who’s a college basketball coach recently told me about taking his team to play at a Christian college. On the ride back to campus after the game, his players—none of them Christians—asked a question
prompted by the behavior of the host team’s players and fans: “Are all Christians hypocrites?” I wonder, what conclusion would they reach after attending a few typical church league softball or basketball games? What now? If we are really about facilitating total life discipleship in our kids, it’s time to start addressing these issues. Here are some suggested steps and strategies to enlist that will enable the kids you know and love to embrace and live an approach to faith and sport that will reflect “on earth as it is in heaven” priorities and commitments. Teach a theology of sport. Our mistakes in the past have been to either embrace the prevalent cultural attitudes without thought or question as to how those relate to our faith, or—to a lesser degree—to react against those realities with a pendulum swing that demonizes and ultimately dismisses sport as apparatus on the devil’s playground. We’ve already addressed the dangers of the former. But the latter is just as bad. Just because the good structure of sport (remember, God made all things good) has been polluted by our depravity, that doesn’t mean we throw out the baby with the bath water. As with all things, God has given us sports as something to celebrate, play and enjoy … to His glory. Our goal should not be to eliminate sport, but to cleanse sport of darkness and depravity wherever it exists. In this manner, we can begin to redeem sport and fully enjoy it once more. Play properly. No doubt sports and play make up a huge part of our lives—from pick-up games, to organized youth group games, to church leagues, to student participation in interscholastic athletics. The play we organize and facilitate should emphasize competition marked by grace, rather than cut-throat war. It should take into account the varying abilities of kids, encouraging those less gifted and able to achieve athletically, while encouraging those more gifted and able athletes to be encouragers rather than discouragers. And when the games are over, we should be able to embrace each other as everyone says, “Now that was fun!” View the scoreboard in light of eternity. The sting of loss is very real, whether you’re the fan of a team that just lost a championship (I know, because I’m a lifelong Phillies’ fan!) or you and your team just came up on the short end of the stick. We oftentimes put too much emphasis on winning, as somehow scoring more points than the other team will make us feel better about ourselves in the end. A win can never be our redeemer. A loss isn’t the end of the world. We must gain and teach perspective that is eternal in nature. As with all of life, we must view all things in light of eternity. And, we must realize that if our priorities are right, any sting or joy that exists right after the game will quickly disappear. Disciple kids into integrating their faith into their play. How often we forget this little principle in our youth ministries. Because of the time commitments required to play a ENGAGE: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU
sport, we see our student athletes and their respective sports as competition to conquer, rather than arenas in which to encourage them to play to the glory of God. We win if we can somehow convince our kids to drop the sport and get more involved in youth group. But are we really doing them any favors if they’ve been gifted by God with the skills, abilities and talents to play a sport? A more biblical response would be for us to take the time to disciple those athletes into understanding how to use what they’ve been given to bring honor and glory to God. Eric Liddell, the runner subject of the film Chariots of Fire integrated his faith into his sport. His perspective—“When I run I feel God’s pleasure!”—should be one we instill in our student athletes. Few youth workers take this challenge seriously, but it’s time to start.
Put God in His rightful place. One of the first things I learned when I was a high school sophomore on the football team was the place that my team and the sport were to hold in my life. After every practice and before leaving the field our coaches had us circle up to recite our team creed. I don’t remember it all, but I do remember the horribly skewed message of the first few lines: “My team is my best friend. It is my life. I will love it as I love my life.” The North American idol of sport needs to crumble. No, sport doesn’t need to be abolished. We shouldn’t be lazy when we play. Nor should we forsake watching and cheering for our favorite teams. What we must do is realize that the “created thing” cannot take the place of the Creator in our lives. The “created thing” of sport has been given to us to enjoy, not reverence. Teach your kids through your words and your example that there is a huge difference between the idolatrous error of worshipping the god of sport, and the right response of worshipping God through our involvement in sport. Remind parents of a thing or two. I was excited when my youngest son Nate followed in his older brother’s footsteps and allowed us to register him for Pee Wee Baseball when he was seven years old. I was already a 10-year coaching veteran and I was looking forward to 10 more years with Nate and his peers. Fall 2008
Throughout the season Nate was largely disinterested and he complained that baseball was “boring.” I thought that time and some fatherly persuasion would heal his misconception and everything would work out just fine. We had to win our last game of the season to make it into the playoffs. We were ahead in the last inning, but the other team was mounting a comeback. From his position in center field I heard Nate yell, “Let them win! Let them win! If we win we have to come back and play tomorrow.” I knew right then and there that there was no sense in trying to encourage Nate to play a sport he didn’t want to play. We lost and that was Nate’s last-ever organized baseball game. Youth workers are uniquely positioned to remind parents like me that we shouldn’t push our kids beyond their athletic interests or abilities, that scholarships are few and far between, that play is meant to be done to the glory of God, and that their own parental identity must be found in Christ—not the athletic achievements of their kids. We’ve forgotten that all sports are games. Games are meant to be played. Play is meant to be fun. I’m glad my son had the opportunity to enjoy 17 fun-filled years of play. Sure, he’s got some wonderful memories of significant moments, accolades and great victories stored up in his head. But it’s ultimately not about memories and stuff that hangs on a wall. Our prayer is that, more than that, it’s been his heart that’s been molded and shaped by his time on the field. When his college lacrosse team and their families gathered for a final banquet of celebration, his coach addressed the crowd. He encouraged his players to step back and see their four-year experience in light of the whole picture. “God is very concerned about victories,” he said. “The one He cares about the least is the points on the scoreboard.” That’s some bright truth for our kids to grasp, love and live as they grow up in an increasingly dark culture of sport. One week later, his team, coaches and all their families gathered with the college’s entire athletic community for the school’s annual sports’ banquet. We drove out to campus, and at Josh’s request, brought along his baseball glove. When we walked out of the building after the banquet and into the dark night, my wife and I went to our car. I watched Josh walk over in his coat and tie and was reminded once again that my little boy had become a man in the blink of an eye. After grabbing his baseball glove out of the car and telling us “goodbye,” he walked to his bike, put his glove on his handlebars, climbed on his bike and rode off in the darkness back to his dorm. It was a picture that I’ll never forget as it served to sum up 17 fun-filled years of deep learning as the man—who’s still my boy who loves to play—pedaled away on his bike.
Dr. Walt Mueller is President of the Center for Parent/ Youth Understanding
Adolescent development The developing teen brain and sex By Dr. Joe S. McIlhaney and R. Freda McKissic Bush
“I wish I had said no. I wish I had been strong enough, and I wish my parents had helped me more. I had no idea that having sex would change my life so much.” —Karen, 20 The three-pound human brain is the most complex mass of matter in the universe. But just how does the brain develop? Can anything influence brain development for better or for worse? And how does the topic of sex fit into this discussion? We’re all familiar with the external signs of physical growth as a person goes from babyhood through childhood
and adolescence: loose teeth, shoes that don’t fit anymore, clumsiness and a voracious appetite—just to name a few. But how does the growth process affect the brain? After all, just as the rest of the body does, the human brain itself grows and develops from birth to adulthood. The maturation of the brain is in many ways more delicate, more unpredictable, more important and, until recently, less understood than that of any other part of the body. For many parents of adolescents, the phenomenon of the developing brain can be summarized in a single question: “Why in the world does my teenager act this way?” Historically, the scientific community was not able to respond to that question very well. In the past, most of the techniques for studying the adolescent brain were invasive or potentially damaging. Therefore, little was known about the activity going on inside a young person’s brain. Inside the adolescent brain Only during the past few years have scientists been able to use new technologies such as MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), fMRI (functional MRI), and PET (positron emission tomography scans) to study the brain in groundbreaking new ways. The technology called MRI, which relies on magnets instead of Xrays, has revealed amazing new information about adolescent brain activity. Since magnets do not hurt living tissue and therefore can be used over and over, this technology can be used to observe adolescent brains as they grow and develop.
A functional MRI uses similar technology to observe how much oxygen a given portion of the brain is using. When an area of the brain is “working,” it must have oxygen to fuel that work. That increased oxygen consumption is measured by functional MRI, revealing new data about what is happening in the brain. A PET scan is a medical imaging technique that produces a three-dimensional image or map of the brain by measuring the flow of blood to any given area. When an area of the brain is active, there is more blood flow, and the PET scanner can “see” that. For example, one fascinating finding reports that the brain center for “lust” is different than the brain center for “love.” Knowledge of this phenomenon is made possible by PET scans and other new techniques. Primarily with the aid of MRI, scientists have made an important discovery about the brain’s growth and maturation. The part of the brain that controls the ability to make fully mature judgment decisions is not physically mature until an individual reaches his mid-20s. In other words, the part of a brain that is responsible for complex assessments about future consequences and responsibility is still growing throughout the teen years and into the mid-20s. Most of us give little thought to where our decisionmaking ability comes from. To many, it seems to be an extension of our personalities and opinions. Simply put, we rarely think about how we think. Through studies of individuals who have either experienced brain trauma or undergone surgery on different portions of their brain, neuroscientists have known for years that our capacity for cognitive thought comes primarily from what is called the prefrontal cortex of the brain’s frontal lobes. It is located at the front of the brain, behind the forehead. This area is the source of thought that is responsible for setting priorities, organizing plans and ideas, forming strategies, controlling impulses, and allocating attention. This type of thinking is “cognitive,” which also includes initiating appropriate and moral behavior, anticipating how behavior today can affect one’s future, and sound judgment decisions. The adolescent years are critical for developing these functions. While young people can make some good judgment calls for themselves, it is impossible for them to make fully mature judgment decisions until their mid-20s, when their brains are finally mature. One of the best and most understandable evidences of this observation is that car rental companies will not rent their cars to a person under the age of 25 unless special arrangements have been made or a higher rate is charged. The reason given by these companies is that the risk of damage and destruction of their property is excessive when driven by younger drivers, regardless of education or employment. The finding, therefore, that cognitive maturity does not reach completion until the mid-20s does not mean that young ENGAGE: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU
people are somehow physically slow or that they do not possess the capacity for complex thought. It does mean that their brains are not fully physically equipped to make sound judgments and reason through long-term consequences of behavior they might become involved in until a little later in life. When people first hear this information they often take it to mean that young people are inherently less intelligent than
For many parents of adolescents, the phenomenon of the developing brain can be summarized in a single question: “Why in the world does my teenager act this way?” adults. This is a misinterpretation—young people can be extremely intelligent. For example, Mozart completed many compositions before the age of 14; Picasso painted the Picador at age eight; there are many other examples of people demonstrating intelligence and giftedness at a young age. Also, it does not mean that young people are not otherwise physically mature. LeBron James went directly from high school basketball to the NBA at the age of 19, a more physically gifted basketball player than many who were years older and far more experienced. The ability to make sound judgments, then, does not depend on one’s intelligence. What we now know about development of this part of the brain—the prefrontal cortex—is that during the explosive period of adolescent brain development, synapses (the connections that bridge the gaps between neurons) play an integral part in forming the mature brain. Research has shown that there are two periods in one’s life during which there is an explosive proliferation of connections between brain cells—during the last few weeks before birth and just before puberty. The brain manufactures far more of these connections (synapses) than are necessary. The interesting thing we now know about this excess of synapses is that some are meant to be strengthened and some are meant to die. It just depends on what we experience. As we have already seen, synapses that strengthen and proliferate are those that are used (think of “use them or lose them”). The synapses that are not used weaken or die. Setting the course Adolescent brains can be positively molded by structure, guidance and discipline provided by caring parents and other adults. This may include any number of positive inputs including loving, caring guidance, discipline (sometimes unpleasant, but not dangerous), and also behavior in which the teen is required to take a chance because the outcome is unpredictable: trying out for the high school football team, learning to drive, Fall 2008
going to college. These all carry certain emotional or even physical risks, but are necessary in order for the young person to separate from parents and grow into an individual. Adolescent brains can also be negatively molded by unstructured experiences or bad input such as neglect, poor guidance, poor structure or lack of discipline. For these unfortunate youth, this means that the guidance they receive and experiences they have come from the media, pop culture or peers who are as neglected, immature and poorly guided as they are. What is certain is that the adolescent brain will be molded by one or the other. The point here is that if young people are not guided by parents, mentors and other caring adults, but make their own decisions based on these less than optimal types of bonding, they often make poor decisions. As we’ve explained elsewhere, this information has many implications. One implication is that, as we have shown, young people can develop early bonding to someone they find attractive. If they feel that “this is the one for them,” they can enter into progressive physical contact with that person until they have had sexual intercourse and are then even more closely bonded to the person and “addicted” to having sex. Research has shown that these relationships eventually break apart far more often than they succeed. An obvious question is that if skin-to-skin or sexual contact causes such bonding, why don’t more of these young couples stay together? And the truth is that a few do. We all know examples of very young couples who become pregnant, get married and stay married for many years. We also know teenagers who become attached to each other and the relationship drags on for months or even years in spite of one person abusing, cheating on, or degrading the other. But for the vast majority, these relationships begun while the couple is young and unmarried are short-lived. The chance of the bonding growing tighter and more permanent, resulting in a lifelong commitment is not realized. These breakups are due to any number of reasons, including attraction to another person, boredom with the current partner, a family move, opinions of peers, the distraction of other activities, even parental disapproval, among countless others. But in spite of the brevity of these sexual encounters, research indicates that bonding does occur, even when a couple has only engaged in sex a single time. Further, there is evidence that when this sex/bonding/breaking-up cycle is repeated a few or many times—even when the bonding was short-lived—damage is done to the important, built-in ability to develop significant and meaningful connection to other human beings. Another negative consequence is that as young people experience these sexual relationships it affects their brains, molding them not only to damage their attachment ability but to become desensitized to the risk of short-term sexual
Adolescent development The developing teen brain and sex relationships, eventually believing that this behavior is harmless and acceptable, and does not involve the psychological and mental health part of themselves. In contrast, the relationship that continues long-term experiences a bonding that, in a sense, glues the two people together for life. This bonding is
It is a scientifically validated finding that emotionally healthy humans connect to each other. due in part to the oxytocin and vasopressin secreted into the woman and man’s brains as a result of their contact with each other. This is the deep, abiding love of a mature relationship. One long-term result of the mature love relationship that stays intact (and there are many such positive results, such as providing a stable home environment for child security) is a relaxed, trusting, loving, rewarding, faithful, sexual relationship. The healthy progression of relationship strengthens the brain cell connections associated with “attachment” of one person to another, helping to ensure the permanence of the relationship that finds its healthiest expression with sexual consummation in marriage. But this natural process can be short-circuited. During the intense early romantic period a couple wants to be together. This togetherness can obviously include physical closeness. The physical closeness will normally produce sexual interest. If individuals in this early phase of their relationship spend time with intimate skin-to-skin closeness and then become sexually involved, it will activate the oxytocin and vasopressin-induced bonding. Since this bonding has taken place before consideration of issues that could be divisive has occurred, the couple may break up when these very practical considerations intrude, as they always will. Then the breaking of the bond happens, with pain sometimes felt like physical pain, and the regrets occur. However, when a short-term relationship breaks up—and certainly when a relationship that is an early intense romantic relationship breaks up—it is felt in the same brain centers that feel physical pain and can actually be seen on brain scans. Like any other powerful experience, an intense romantic relationship molds the mind. The bonding process can also be short-circuited by a couple progressing immediately to sex. People involved in this behavior either don’t think about the risk or believe they can disconnect their sexual involvement from the rest of who they are. We have shown that this is impossible. Thus, unconscious damage also occurs because it violates the integrity of personhood, because anything we do involves the whole person, even if we don’t realize it. Finally, the finding that the brain centers that produce
feelings of romance and love are different and separate from the brain centers responsible for lust is a huge warning to adolescents and young adults. A selfish and manipulative person may have an intense desire to have sex with another person. To accomplish that goal, they may lie about being in love. It is important to know the desire someone has for sex can exist without any feelings of caring, love or romance. This is something that takes some life experience to recognize, which is why even young adults still need guidance. All this adds up to show that if adults merely provide adolescents with facts about behavior, but don’t give them guidance on how to act on this information, teens and young adults cannot make the very best decisions and often will make poor decisions. It is crucial that parents and other influential adults provide adolescents with the guidance to make the best decisions based on the facts that have been presented. Adolescent judgment, therefore, is in gradual formation and only will achieve true maturity when shepherded by the guidance of parents or committed and caring mentors. As children grow older, the need for adult guidance naturally decreases, and yet continued adult guidance is needed for longer than most of society has realized in past years. The need for advice and supervision extends through the collegeage years and for two or three years after. In addition, the guidance of parents and other caring adults can help structurally develop the brain of a young person, thus enabling her to make the very best decisions by the time she is fully cognitively mature. This guidance allows her to have the best chance of becoming who she is meant to be, the best chance of fulfilling her dreams. Responsible parents, and those who support them, can help adolescents and young adults avoid risky behavior that can damage them permanently. In fact, recent surveys of college students show that parents influence the decisions they make about sex more than even their friends do. The connection inspection While the brain and body need to develop to reach their full potential, humans also are born with certain traits built in from birth. These inborn characteristics are sometimes referred to as instinct, and include things such as the ability to understand meaning through facial expressions, or the ability to acquire language. A critical human trait, one that has enormous implications for sex and relationships, is the need to connect to other human beings. It is a scientifically validated finding that emotionally healthy humans connect to each other. It is felt in the strangest ways. Have you ever wondered why, when another person yawns, you often do, too? Have you ever thought about why you feel the pain of someone you love when they are experiencing devastating problems in their lives? Have you wondered why you can almost predict what someone else is going to say
ENGAGE: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU
before they say it? These and other thoughts, feelings and actions are evidence of the “connectedness” that is a common, necessary and normal aspect of human nature. Without this connectedness we would not only be emotionally but physically less healthy. This connectedness comes directly from the way our brains are formed and function from even before birth. For example, if babies are given adequate nutrition and health care, but are otherwise left in their cribs untouched, they usually do not thrive and even can die. This connectedness is not only something that exists in us as human beings but is there for a purpose—it contributes to our being fully human and to our being able to accomplish those things we
are capable of and want to succeed at, not just physically but emotionally, psychologically, relationally and so on. And as we shall see, it is the very first step in building healthy, meaningful relationships that are vital for a truly fulfilled life. The human brain is formed so that at birth it demands “connecting” to other human beings. Here is how Allan N. Schore of the UCLA School of Medicine puts it: “We are born to form attachments … our brains are physically wired to develop in tandem with another’s, through emotional communication, beginning before words are spoken.” Italian neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti discovered a certain kind of brain cells, “mirror neurons,” that help explain aspects of our connectedness to others. These neurons are responsible for allowing us to feel a loved one’s pain, or experience hunger when we hear someone bite into an apple. Mirror neurons also appear to be essential to the way children learn. In addition, psychologist Daniel Goleman explains that “imitative learning has long been recognized as a major avenue of childhood development. But findings about mirror neurons explain how children can gain mastery simply from watching. As they watch, they are etching in their own brains a repertoire for emotion, for behavior, and for how the world works.” This process is critical from birth, when babies bond and learn from their mothers, all the way throughout childhood Fall 2008
and adolescence. It serves as further proof that humans are profoundly social beings, who possess an inborn need to connect and bond with others. Connectedness, for the average, healthy person, is a part of who we are and how we function. It is wired into our brains when we are still in our mother’s womb. This connectedness is passed on by our genes and is necessary for us to survive and thrive as healthy, capable persons. If we have mothers who are highly nurturing, we develop better connectedness and we ourselves are more likely to nurture our own children better and help them connect better with others. The sex connection It is probably obvious by now what the natural and healthy inclination for connectedness has to do with sex. Studies show that the primary desire of adolescent girls in romantic relationships is intimacy. When a survey published in Seventeen magazine queried thousands of teen readers on sexual issues, fully 40 percent of participating teens reported that they had assured a potential love interest that they would consent to just a “hook-up” when what they really wanted was a relationship. In short, sex is an intense experience of connectedness. As we have noted, when people have sex, the act triggers the release of dopamine in their brains, thus rewarding them for engaging in such an exciting and pleasurable act. Oxytocin is released in the female as this behavior persists, bonding her to her sexual partner and creating a greater desire to repeat the activity with him. When a male engages in sex, vasopressin is released, bonding him to his partner and also stimulating the desire for more sex. Most important, the synapses that govern decisions about sex in both the male and female brains are strengthened in ways that make it easier to choose to have sex in the future, while synapses that govern sexual restraint are weakened and deteriorate. In short, engaging in sex creates a chain reaction of brain activities that lead to the desire for more sex and greater levels of attachment between two people. It may sound blunt, but if we try to eliminate this connectedness from sex, we remove the uniquely human aspect of it, and the sexual act becomes nothing more than raw animal behavior. However, when this connectedness is allowed to mature in the context of a lifelong committed relationship, sex is a wonderful, sustaining expression of love. Obviously, individuals do not carry the connectedness they have in infancy directly into adulthood, knowing exactly which person to connect with in a lifelong, mutually faithful monogamous relationship. There are some interim steps, as even a cursory observation will note. However, there are stages of emotional development leading to that point: • Infatuation or nascent love: this is the emergence of interest in the opposite sex during adolescence. An adolescent may have very emotional and strongly felt “love” for one
Adolescent development The developing teen brain and sex individual and a few months later, a similar strong feeling for another person. At this point, several divergent paths emerge. This is a critical juncture, where most people choose to engage in one of the following patterns of behavior: • Short-term sexual relationships—These are sexual relationships that have very little connectedness and, according to extensive research, the least satisfying sex. The normal connecting and bonding seems to become damaged by such relationships, often leading to a pattern of serial sex that can last for years. • Long-term monogamy outside of marriage—A sexual relationship that usually results in weaker connectedness, less
permanent relationships, sex with somewhat less satisfaction and bonding. • Love—This is the real thing and causes a couple to view each other as potential lifelong mates (or at least longterm mates). This emotion often occurs in young adulthood after the cognitive development of adolescence is largely completed. Though this relationship may not invariably lead to marriage, it often does. • Marriage—This is the sexual relationship in which connectedness is found to be the most long-lasting and strong, and the relationship associated with sex in which the greatest satisfaction, bonding, and healthy sexual addiction is found. Love … or infatuation? What can we possibly learn from neuroscience about something so indefinable and personal as love? As it turns out, we can learn a lot. What we learn can help us understand our own feelings and also can help us give guidance to our young people as they deal with the powerful emotion they often call love. But is it really? Infatuation refers to the incredibly exciting awakening of sexual awareness embodied in the focus on a person of the
opposite sex. However, infatuation does not befall just preteens and young teens. It can “hit” anyone of any age. We call infatuation the great imitator of true love because it appears that the same brain centers that signal “passionate new love” to an individual are the ones that cause a more immature feeling, that of “infatuation.” It is therefore impossible from brain study techniques as well as by social study techniques to say whether the feelings one has for another person constitute infatuation or legitimate early love. Since not even a study of the brain can tell the difference between true love and infatuation, parents as well as young people themselves should be cautious when an adolescent pronounces himself “in love.” This feeling of love can be intense, similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder, causing people to think of doing things they would not ordinarily do. This intense emotional state may last several months. (There is no specific cutoff time found by scientists.) This cutoff is not sudden and may in part be due to a gradual decline in the level of dopamine. Many couples break up during this time for any number of reasons, such as other priorities (education or job), lack of common interests, personality problems, disagreements over goals, religion, and so on. Some of the reasons people break up are difficult to define. They might be included under the term intuition. One or the other or both “just know” the relationship, as intense and exciting as it is, is not right in the long run. Having this information at hand, it is easy to see the advantages of patiently letting a relationship mature before committing to it through sexual involvement. Letting a relationship mature means taking time. Even though brain scans cannot tell whether initial infatuation will become true love or not, they can show the difference between the early passionate stage of romantic love and that of long-term, comfortable, and relaxed, loving attachment. One reason it is best to not become involved sexually before marriage is that statistics say that a relationship started prior to the age of 21probably will not be permanent. As any adult can attest, infatuation is usually short-lived, lasting only weeks or months and not years as does true love. Statistics show that if young people begin having sex when they are 16 years old, more than 44 percent of them will have had five or more sexual partners by the time they are in their 20s. If they are older than 20 when they initiate sex, only 15 percent will have had more than five sexual partners, while just over 50 percent will have committed sexually to only one partner. If people of any age become sexually involved before marriage, the intensity of the desire for repetition of sexual activity can overwhelm everything else in the relationship. Sex at this immature stage can keep a person from honestly evaluating the other person. Sex can make a person feel that the other person is the “right one” because the bonding and dopamine high it brings can blind one to honestly looking at the other’s faults and lack of compatibility. ENGAGE: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU
Hooked on love We have seen how experience produces brain molding, both in positive and negative manners. This process also is powerfully at work in sustained romantic relationships. As these intense and exciting relationships develop, they cause connections between brain cells to grow stronger and more numerous. As we know, when those connections grow and cause more pleasurable behavioral experiences, more dopamine is released. This abundant outpouring of dopamine is similar to what happens in other more commonly recognized forms of addiction such as substance abuse. “Drugs such as cocaine and amphetamine target dopamine neurons.” In other words, love, on a biochemical level, is a lot like addiction. The healthy addiction of a lifelong monogamous sexual relationship even has measurable physical benefits. Consider what these researchers found: Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser and her colleagues at the Ohio State University Medical Center conducted a series of studies examining the connections between close sexual relationships, especially those of married couples, and physiological processes such as immune, endocrine and cardiovascular functioning. These researchers report growing evidence linking relationship intimacy to better health, including stronger immune systems and physical wounds taking less time to heal. Conversely, high-conflict (anti-intimate) marital relationships appear to weaken the immune system and increase vulnerability to disease, especially among women, including worsening the body’s response to proven vaccines and lengthening the amount of time required for physical wounds to heal. In short, brain researchers and other scientists are now clearly mapping out what might be called the biochemistry of connection. Other research has revealed numerous benefits of individuals maintaining long-term connectedness to their mate. James Coan, in a study titled “Lending a Hand: Social Regulation of the Neural Response to Threat,” gave a mild electrical shock to married individuals. If they were holding the hands of their mate, their ability to handle the shock was much better than if sitting apart. While the physical contact made no difference in the way it felt to be shocked, individuals being comforted by their spouse were reassured and calmed. This is just a small example of how connectedness with a spouse is even found to be associated with better health. Love, romance and … lust? One of the most startling findings of all in this brain research about love and lust is that they are each handled distinctly differently by the brain. Recent studies showed certain brain centers to light up in subjects as a result of being shown pictures of their beloved. These patterns of brain activity were distinctly different from the brain activity associated with lust as shown by other experiments. Fall 2008
This means of course that a man (or woman) can be sexually attracted to another person, approach that person for sex, engage in sex, and yet have no sincerely love-motivated thought or interest at all because all their desire arises from the brain’s center for “lust.” Young men and women especially need to be aware of and alert to their own feelings and to those of a potential partner. A person might approach another with a show of warmth and consideration, acts of kindness, even with words of love and commitment. But all this can be based on lust—a counterfeit emotion designed to manipulate the other into having sex, with no romantic or love interest at all. While it is normal and not wrong for a human being to have lustful sexual urges—and lust in the context of a loving married relationship is certainly normal—it is the acting on lustful urges alone that is out of sync with human nature. This is critical to understand if we are to be emotionally healthy, and an understanding that is necessary for a future that is as free of problems as possible. To practice sex out of sync is to ignore the fact that healthy human behavior demands the integration of all of what we are—body, mind, emotions and spirit. Sex practiced inappropriately can both control and damage the relationship. As one writer puts it, a nonmarital “relationship is only as old as it is nonsexual. The relationship stops growing once it becomes sexual, because the erotic aspect will become the primary focus of [the couple’s] time together.” Not only is such a relationship damaged, but the two people involved also can be. On the other hand, in a relationship of true love and longterm commitment, sex takes its appropriate place—not at the center of the relationship, but as one of the natural outcomes of the healthy connectedness of two people. Sex will then be a catalyst to the full, healthy, long-term committed relationship it strengthens. These are the things that define us as human. True “love” includes applying this mature thought process to another in the context of romance, attachment, and bonding. Allowing such love to develop and then to guide us will lead to healthy and good decisions about behavior. Such decisions will then expand our horizons, help eliminate baggage that might weigh us down, and send us into true, life-fulfilling love. Dr. Joe S. McIlhaney is an obstetrician/gynecologist and founder of The Medical Institute for Sexual Health. Dr. Freda McKissic Bush is an ob-gyn and also serves on the board of The Medical Institute for Sexual Health. Together, they have written the new book Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children (Moody Publishers ©2008), which is available online in the CPYU Resource Center (www.cpyu.org). This article was taken from the book and is used with permission. The footnotes have been omitted due to space constraints. This excerpt is fully documented in the book.
College Transition Initiative Life after high school: The first year One of the most helpful books written in the last year concerning college transition is Tim Clydesdale’s The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens After High School (Chicago University Press). A sociology professor at The College of New Jersey, Dr. Clydesdale conducted a six-year study following students from high school into their first year after high school. His reflections offer a window into the lives of American teenagers and his conclusions and recommendations have major implications for how we prepare students for college. What follows is an interview with Dr. Clydesdale (TC) and three important questions that I think he raises as we consider how to prepare students for college. CPYU: What motivated you to conduct the research for The First Year Out? TC: In short, I had limited resources and a false hunch. The limited resources were a function of being a new assistant professor without research funds, but realizing the one source of data that I had in abundance was eager and willing college freshmen. The false hunch was that Tim Clydesdale these freshmen would be undergoing as significant an awakening intellectually and religiously as I underwent attending Wheaton College after 12 years in the Philadelphia Public School system. Of course, I didn’t know my hunch was false until I began collecting data. Once I began hearing how little freshmen felt they did change intellectually or with respect to their faith, I had a puzzle I had to solve. CPYU: What was the most surprising thing you learned about teenagers from your research? TC: I would say it was how open teens were to talking to a sympathetic adult listener. It was as if they yearned for a sounding board—a listening and engaged ear—and once they found it in the interview room, they poured out their hearts. Neither their parents nor their peers provided an unfettered place in which the teens could talk; it seems that the adults in teens’ lives were more interested in telling them something than they were in listening to them, and that friends were likewise so caught up in their own concerns they didn’t listen very much either. This reveals something about American culture— that we nurture individuals so consumed with themselves that we as a culture are losing our desire if not our ability to listen. Even well-meaning folks like teachers, parents and youth pastors get so caught up in conveying a set of ideas that they rarely let up on the barrage of information. Teens are drowning in competing claims for allegiance, and no one, it seems, is providing the time and space to sort through all of this. CPYU: You suggest that most American teens keep core identities in an “identity lockbox” during their first year out.
by Derek Melleby
Briefly describe what you mean by “identity lockbox” and why you think this is a key insight into the world of today’s teens. TC: It is not so easy to “make it” in the U.S. anymore. Housing and transportation are less and less affordable, secure jobs with good benefits are rare, and achieving the “American Dream” has become a far more difficult accomplishment than it was, say, in the post-WWII era. Back then, a college diploma guaranteed one’s place in the American Dream; today, that diploma may not even get you a job with benefits. Consequently, American teens take a highly practical view of their college education, prioritizing, like Americans as a whole, the management of everyday life. Taking a moment to reflect about deeper matters, such as teen identities as persons of faith, as men or women, or as citizens, is not only distracting, it can be downright “dangerous.” That’s because such reflection can lead teens to an unpopular choice about one of these deeper identities, which in turn puts teens out of step with the American cultural mainstream, if not in jeopardy of never attaining one’s desired standard of living. In short, mainstream American life has become a relentless work-spend-borrowconsume cycle that discourages all questioning or reflection, and teens have become as caught up in this as adults are. CPYU: You write, “Few and far between are teens whose lives are shaped by purpose, who demonstrate direction, who recognize their interdependence with communities small and large, or who think about what it means to live in the biggest house in the global village.” Did you notice any difference with Christian students you interviewed, or would you say that this is true for most teens, regardless of religious affiliation? TC: I found this to be true of most Christian students, even those who say their faith is “very important” to them. It seems most Christian students want to keep their faith in a nice safe box: they attend church, they read the Bible & pray, but they largely pursue the same work-spend-borrow-consume lifestyle that their non-Christian peers do. The majority of Christian teens are content to sprinkle their suburban middleclass aspirations with evangelical faith (again, not unlike most adult evangelicals). I did find some Christian teens (say 10-25 percent) who are open to questioning whether these suburban aspirations represent the life of radical discipleship to which Jesus calls his followers. Such teens want to think deeply about their faith and engage it with the wider world. Unfortunately, few of these youth possess the mentorship that nurtures this sort of faith development, and without it, the tug of workspend-borrow-consume may ultimately prevail. CPYU: “College transition” is currently a hot topic in youth ministry these days. Churches are reporting that more and more students walk away from the faith during the college years. What do you think are the implications of your research for youth pastors as they prepare students in their youth groups for college?
ENGAGE: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU
TC: Those who “walked away” from their faith during college made the decision to do so long before their college years—they just waited for the freedom of college to enact that choice. In many cases, these teens reported having important questions regarding faith during early adolescence (12-14 years old) that were ignored by their parents or pastors rather than taken seriously and engaged thoughtfully. It is in early adolescence that faith trajectories (along with other life trajectories) are set, thus early adolescence is the point when preparation must occur. Middle and late adolescence are increasingly similar, as college represents less of a qualitative change and more of a quantitative change. In other words, there are few ideas and freedoms available to college students that are not also available to high school students—college students simply experience ideas and freedoms in greater quantity. Hence, early adolescence is the time when churches must prepare their youth, and must do so fully aware that youth now arbitrate among many claims for their allegiance. Sadly, most youth ministries are long on fun and fluff and short on listening and thoughtful engagement. The former produces a million paper boats; the latter produces a handful of seaworthy ships. Launching a million paper boats is an amazing spectacle on a clear summer day, but only a ship can weather storms and cross oceans. What are the takeaways? Here are three questions that I think this insightful interview forces us to wrestle with: First, are our youth groups seen as unfettered places in which teens can talk? Students need a listening ear and Dr. Clydesdale points out that many students lack a safe place to have meaningful conversations. This also confirms the important research Kara Powell is doing at Fuller Theological Seminary. She has drawn this conclusion from her current sixyear study of transitioning students: “The more students have the chance to express their doubts in high school, the higher their faith maturity and spiritual maturity in college. Thus the key is not to get kids to say the right things before they graduate to the ‘big bad world,’ but to help them think through the tough questions and verbalize some of their faith and personal struggles before they hit the ups and downs of the college transition.” As Dr. Clydesdale explains, “Teens are drowning in competing claims for allegiance, and no one, it seems, is providing teens the time and space to sort through all of this.” Keep in mind that many teens who “walked away” from faith in college “reported having important questions regarding faith during early adolescence that were ignored by their parents or pastors rather than taken seriously and engaged thoughtfully.” We need to make sure our teens are being heard. Second, do we preach a Gospel of radical discipleship to Jesus or one that allows teens to simply sprinkle their suburban middle class aspirations with evangelical faith? In all of
the discussion about students leaving the faith in college, this question is most pressing. What is the gospel that the majority of youth are responding to? There is a lot of activity among many youth ministries: large group gatherings, retreats and service projects. But are these events about connecting students to Christ or growing the numbers of attendees? I know this is nearly impossible to measure, and we certainly don’t want to exclude teens from taking part, but we constantly need to evaluate our motivations. Teens are not transitioning well out of many of our youth groups and that should force us to reconsider what is or isn’t being taught at our meetings. Third, are we intentional about countering the “workspend-borrow-consume” narrative of life? Many teens assume this cycle is simply the way the world is supposed to be. In the minds of many teens, to not live by the “American Dream” story, with its own demands and parameters, can be costly. Do we counter this idolatrous narrative or do we simply baptize it and present the Gospel as a nice “add-on” to a comfortable lifestyle? A life following Jesus is one of sacrifice and selfdenial, not comfort and materialism. Students who have embraced a counter-cultural Gospel of life transformation have a much better chance of transitioning well to college. As Dr. Clydesdale alludes, offering this message may not lead to a “successfully” large youth group, but it will lead to teens being successfully prepared for the challenges after high school.
Derek Melleby serves as director of the College Transition Initiative for the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. If you want to know more about CPYU’s College Transition Initiative, or to book a CTI Seminar at your church, visit CPYU on the Web at cpyu.org. If you’d like to learn more about the college experience, order Derek’s book, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness: A Guide for Students, from the resource center on our Web site.
Resource reviews Narcissism exposed We need people who help us recognize the sacred cows that are so familiar to our lives that we don’t even know they exist. And, we need those people to take us a step further, helping us to catch a vision for smashing those sacred cows into oblivion so that we might grasp and live God’s grand vision for our lives. In his book, Deliver Us From MeVille (David C. Cook, 2008, ISBN #978-1-4347-0009-4), David Zimmerman takes us on an aerial tour of Me-Ville, the place where many North American Christians have laid down their roots and have called “home” for a long, long time. Zimmerman masterfully and simply exposes the lay of the Me-Ville land, helping us see how living there keeps us from living fully in the Kingdom of God. What Zimmerman delivers is a compelling call that we can either follow, or choose to walk away from—as the Scriptures tell us—with deep sadness. Deliver Us From Me-Ville is a timely and challenging guide out of worshipping and serving the contemporary “holy trinity” of me, myself and I, reminding us that our purpose only can be found in the relentless pursuit of Christ and His Kingdom. This is a book that you can read and teach, prayerfully asking God to challenge our materialistic and selfish American-Dream distortion of Christianity, while providing a road map to the place where we belong. —Walt Mueller
Creating culture For too long Christians have not understood nor have they assumed their place in God’s world. The debates over how to relate to culture have put us everywhere on the spectrum between the extremes of fearful retreat and mindless accommodation. Here at CPYU, we promote what we believe to be a biblical approach to matters of faith and culture, understanding that the will of the Father is for His followers to be in but not of the world. Culture is a fallen mix of elements, some that our faith requires us to challenge, and some that our faith requires us to affirm. At all times, we must be about the business of engaging the world with the Gospel. Inherent in this understanding—but not always communicated with great clarity—is the reality of the imago dei— or image of God—that is a part of our created makeup and which has deep ramifications for how we live as Godimaging creators in God’s world. In his new book Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (2008, InterVarsity, ISBN # 978-0-8308-3394-8), Andy Crouch lays out a new understanding of a timeless truth, specifically that all Christians are called to be culture makers. Believing that culture is “what we make of the world,” Crouch calls readers to celebrate their creativity and live the Kingdom of God by approaching everything from the making of a sculpture to the making of a western omelet as calling and doxology. This is a significant book for a variety of audiences. For the typical Christian reader, the book most likely will rattle your previously held theological assumptions—something that has to happen. For the parent and youth worker, the book will offer a framework that can and should shape the way you nurture kids, preparing them for a life of service to God and His Kingdom that will truly reflect their created purpose as human beings made to make. —Walt Mueller
Reality check Charles Murray claims his new book, Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality (Crown, 2008, ISBN# 978-0-30740538-8), is about public policy. It is, but it is about so much more than that. It is a worldview book. It forces its readers to ask big questions such as: What is education for? What ought a good education consist of? Do schools guide students to consider the meaning of life? Murray’s four simple truths are sure to attract criticism, but his analysis is thorough and perceptive. Truth one: Instead of fostering a romantic ideal about children, we should be honest that academic ability varies. Truth two: Calling on decades of research, Murray argues that half of the children are below average and nothing has proven to work in increasing their reading and math scores. Truth three: Too many students are going to college, making a bachelor’s degree meaningless and perpetuating a system of higher education that prolongs adolescence. Truth four: America’s future depends on how we educate the academically gifted. Murray defines gifted more broadly than most and insists that since the “gifted” shape culture, more effort needs to be put into educating them for wisdom. Real Education is an important book because education is vital to American society. Murray seeks to dispel many myths about the educational system, but he offers more than criticism. He writes, “When it comes to shopping for colleges, many parents of America’s brightest act like drugged-up pop stars on Rodeo Drive. They buy by brand name without checking quality, pay huge premiums without getting value in return, and, once they’ve ordered the product, don’t follow up to see whether the seller delivered.” Parents who take Murray’s message to heart not only will shape the educational future of their children, but also could change the course of educational history in our country. —Derek Melleby
ENGAGE: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU
Integrating sex and religion Donna Freitas discovered three things while teaching a college course on sex and dating: 1) Many students are unhappy with today’s hookup culture; 2) Students lack safe places to discuss an alternative; and 3) Many students who say they’re “spiritual” have no clue of how faith should enter the conversation. What she learned in the classroom led to her own study and book on the subject, Sex & The Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses (Oxford University Press, 2008, ISBN: 978-0-19-53115-5). The book’s central thesis is that “significant numbers of students across varying institutions of higher education want to have conversations about sex in relation to the soul.” At secular schools, including most Catholic colleges, students have nowhere to go to try to connect faith and sexuality. For students at secular schools, a hookup culture is all that is available. At evangelical colleges, on the other hand, students are often reluctant to talk about sex. For evangelical students, the abstinence movement combined with a mad rush to be engaged before graduation, has produced unhealthy and often damaging sexual views and practices. Freitas is calling all institutions of higher education to take this conversation more seriously. After several years of research on the topic, she is asking these questions: Do secular colleges provide places for students to discuss sexuality and religion? How do evangelical colleges care for students who have had sex and are now paralyzed by loneliness and guilt? Unlike many dry disseminations of research, Freitas’ book is refreshing. Her care and compassion for students comes through on every page. She offers gutwrenching stories of students who have been broken and abused by the hookup culture, as well as glimmers of hope from students who are bringing change to their campuses. —Derek Melleby Fall 2008
Too much If material things really make us happy, this generation of young people should be the most elated group on planet earth. They are pampered by pop culture but live with the paradox of privilege: they have so much but feel so empty. In The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids (Harper, 2008, ISBN # 978-0060595852), Madeline Levine begins with the damage that ever-interfering and over-giving parents can do to the identity formation of their own children. Most parents pay little mind to the relationship between providing too much and the creation of a sense of self in their kids. Levine systematically lays the groundwork for the impact of affluence on the mental health of our young people: “America’s newly identified at-risk group is preteens and teens from affluent, welleducated families. In spite of their economic and social advantages, they experience among the highest rates of depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, somatic complaints and unhappiness of any group of children in this country.” She then examines the role of materialism, parental pressure to perform and the emptiness of retail therapy in the creation of a generation of kids who lack purpose and direction beyond their immediate personal needs. Most of the book focuses on the ways affluent parents (or any parents) can raise healthy kids. Levine focuses on age and development stages, as well as the parenting strategies to guide their kids to maturity. Her analysis of the basic parenting styles and their effectiveness is well done. She also provides solid tips for discipline and control. The biggest surprise in reading this book is the fact that even though she focuses on affluent families, the content and advice given is great for any family at any income level. —Paul Robertson
The Schaeffer legacy It is easy to miss how God is actively involved in Hisstory. Perhaps the best way to be reminded of God’s presence in our world is by reading the stories of faithful Christians who have wrestled deeply with what it means to be a follower of Christ. Colin Duriez’s biography, Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life (Crossway, 2008, ISBN: 1-58134-857-6), is a testimony of a genuine man of faith who longed to see the power of the Gospel transform people and the cultures in which they lived. Who was Francis Schaeffer (19121984)? He was a Presbyterian pastor who became a missionary in Europe to expand a children’s ministry that he had started with his wife Edith. He also was deeply concerned with the “liberalization” of the church, especially the “higher criticism” approach to scripture. Not only did Schaeffer travel from city to city starting children’s ministries, but he also would lecture on the contemporary challenges to biblical, evangelical faith. In 1955, the Schaeffers started L’Abri (French for shelter), a place for “truthseekers” to come and ask questions, wrestle with faith, and study Christianity more deeply. People came from all over the world, many converting to Christianity and many being energized to live out their faith in powerful ways. Duriez’s biography is an excellent place to start to learn more about this remarkable man. I recommend it highly, not only for those wanting to learn more about Schaeffer, but for anyone who is interested in a deeper engagement with Christian faith and culture. Schaeffer’s story needs to be known for generations to come and Duriez has told it beautifully. —Derek Melleby
Resource reviews Addicted son … One of my favorite yet least enjoyable TV shows is A&E’s Intervention. Each episode tells the story of a drug addict, alcoholic or eating disordered person. The show alternates between showing the addict’s reality, and the toll the addiction has taken on those who love them. Then there’s an intervention, followed by a short report on how the addict is now doing. It is gut-wrenching TV that’s totally informative and not the least bit exploitive. Especially riveting and alarming are the stories of young meth addicts. Early 20-something Nic Sheff has battled alcohol and drug addiction. It started with getting drunk for the first time at the age of 11. From that point on, it’s been a constant and intensifying battle with pot, cocaine, Ecstasy, meth and heroin. Those of us who have never experienced the throes of addiction firsthand have no way of knowing what it’s like from the inside. But in the memoir of his short life as an addict, Sheff opens our eyes to a reality a growing number of kids and adults battle every day of their lives. The book is Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines (Atheneum Books, 2007, ISBN # 978-1-4169-13627), and it is a heartbreaking first-person account of life as a young addict. Sheff takes readers into the belly of the beast of meth addiction, how it leads you to think, act and relate … and it isn’t pretty. The church must hear, understand, speak to and minister to the growing segment of our population that’s fallen prey to this scourge. Tweak offers us an opportunity to hear and understand, that if taken, can help us shape our ministry response. These are complex issues that are not easily undone. For that reason, our understanding must go deeper than it currently does. —Walt Mueller
… Hurting father Nic Sheff, young meth addict and author of the memoir Tweak, has a dad. His name is David Sheff, and he’s done us all a great favor by providing a gut-wrenching peek into parenting a young addict in his own memoir, Beautiful boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction (Houghton Mifflin, 2008, ISBN # 978-0-61868335-2). If you’ve never had a son or daughter struggle with addiction, you just don’t know what it’s like. The elder Sheff takes you into the reality of that world. Sheff writes, “When Nic was growing up, I thought I would be content with whatever choices he made in his life … Now I live with the knowledge that, never mind the most modest definition of a normal or healthy life, my son may not make it to 21.” In Beautiful Boy, David Sheff guides readers on a journey from being the dad of a cute, lovable, creative and playful little boy, to watching that boy selfdestruct. The emotions of wanting to help, yet balancing that with the temptation to enable, alternate throughout the ups and downs Sheff recounts as he tells his side of the story. Hope alternates with heartbreak in this rollercoaster ride of a book. As people who care for and love kids, it’s my hope that we would endeavor to understand their world, along with the dynamics of the myriad of social problems they face. In addition, our callings to minister require us also to understand the family systems and network of heartbreak that emanate out from and sometimes feed the addict. Beautiful Boy does just that, always reminding us that the addict never stops being a person. For the Christian, a book like this should drive us to our knees for those who are hurting with those who are deeply hurt. —Walt Mueller
Never cool enough The authors of Chasing Cool: Standing Out in Today’s Cluttered Marketplace (Atria Books, 2007. ISBN # 978-0-7434-9709-1) sought to answer one question, “How do we make this thing cool?” In their journey, Noah Kerner and Gene Pressman interviewed dozens of innovative and creative people from key industries to discover the answer. Boardrooms across the world are full of people “chasing cool.” However, Kerner and Pressman suggest that if cool is something you have to chase after, then perhaps you’ll never achieve cool at all. Rather, cool comes out of the vision and innovation of individuals with great ideas who stick to their guns. On the surface, this book would be helpful to youth ministers because it provides case studies and examples of how companies have tried to achieve cool among today’s younger generation, and the marketing efforts they have used in the process. However, being cool seems to be so important to many youth workers that perhaps Chasing Cool’s greatest impact on the world of youth ministry can come if we take the time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves whether we are simply chasing cool for cool’s sake. Do our efforts to be cool and get students to show up to our programs mimic those in the business and marketing world? Are our ministry models intended to be sustainable for the long haul? Are we creating buzz, or are we making lifelong disciples? Chasing Cool speaks of creating a holistic aesthetic that blends form, function, atmosphere, etc. together to reflect a single vision. Are we presenting a gospel that simply displays the shiny appearance of cool, or are we modeling the life-changing Gospel that will permeate through our students for the rest of their lives in a holistic manner? Though not intended to, this insightful book may help us regain a proper perspective of what God would consider cool. —Chris Wagner
ENGAGE: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU
Breaking stereotypes There’s long been a debate brewing over whether or not adolescence as a life stage really exists. While it wasn’t a part of the human life span 60 or 70 years ago, very real cultural changes have combined with the very real pressures of teenage development to bring into being the unique life stage that exists in today’s world as adolescence. Some have used the emergence of this developmental stage as an excuse to lower the expectations for our kids, somehow believing that where they’re at and what they face makes it impossible for them to make good decisions and live Godly lives. Teenagers themselves, twins Alex and Brett Harris have taken on this notion in their teen-targeted book, Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations (Multnomah, 2008, ISBN # 978-1-60142-112-8). Challenged by their own parents to live a radical Kingdom-centered life to the glory and honor of God, the Harris twins have now turned to an audience of their peers, challenging them to stop falling into the trap of fulfilling the stereotype that accompanies low expectations. Instead, they want young readers to “reclaim” the teen years as a launching pad into life. The Harris’ “rebelution” is to be marked by doing five “hard things.” These include doing things that take you out of your comfort zone, doing things that go beyond what’s expected or required, doing things that are too big for you to do alone, doing things that don’t pay off immediately, and doing things that go against the crowd. If adolescence is truly a time to launch our kids into life as independent adults, then any challenge to start the launch sequence—especially when the button’s been pushed by a couple of teenagers themselves—is worth getting into the hands of our kids … and then talking about. Parents and youth workers should enlist this book as one more tool in their teaching toolbox. —Walt Mueller Fall 2008
Think, live, speak The term worldview is a very helpful concept. It reveals that Christianity is not just a private religion, but a public truth. A Christian worldview sees all of reality through the lens of Scripture, offering a vision of life and for life. But like any concept, once popularized, the term runs the risk of losing its deeper meaning. J. Mark Bertrand’s book, Rethinking Worldview: Learning to Think, Live and Speak in This World (Crossway, 2007, ISBN # 1-58134-934-3) is his attempt to reclaim the usefulness of the worldview concept. A faculty member at Worldview Academy, a summer camp program that seeks to help high school students better understand and apply the Christian faith, Bertrand found that many students no longer grasped the significance of worldview. In fact, many of his students were turned off by it. He writes, “A lot of simplistic scorecards are handed out so that unsophisticated young people can discern the ‘hidden agenda’ of the various scary elites. Worldview thinking has been co-opted by the culture wars, so it is no wonder that people disenchanted with those wars have grown indifferent to worldviews, too.” The book has three parts: worldview, wisdom and witness. The section on worldview looks at the concept from a multitude of angles, showing the reader how to properly understand the term. The section on wisdom explains how the term can be applied in our world. The final section on witness illustrates the transformational power of worldview, reminding readers that “any treatment of the intellectual dimensions of worldview that doesn’t lead into a discussion of how to profitably live and speak in this world is incomplete.” Whether you are new to the concept or a current “worldview” thinker, this book offers insightful reflections on what it means to be a Christian in our world. —Derek Melleby
Sex and the brain Parents and youth workers have consistently been concerned about teenagers and their sexuality. The culture sends a clear message that when it comes to how to understand and experience one’s sexuality, you can do whatever, wherever, however and whenever with whomever. That message is coming through so loud and clear that we have rightly been addressing the crisis in teen sexuality with a call to experience God’s best for His gift of sex. Now, there’s compelling new research on the wonderfully complex human brain that solidifies the case for a sexual ethic that calls young people to experience their sexuality within the parameters of a monogamous, lifelong, heterosexual marriage. Obstetriciangynecologists Joe McIlhaney and Freda McKissic Bush from The Medical Institute for Sexual Health have coauthored a wonderful book on the subject, Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children (Northfield Publishing, 2008, ISBN # 978-0-8024-5060-9). The authors state that “scientists are confirming that sex is more than a momentary physical act. It produces powerful, even lifelong changes in our brains that direct and influence our future to a surprising degree.” In fact, premarital sexual activity will change the brain in ways that affect that young person’s ability to connect and commit in future relationships. Hooked is must reading for anyone who wants to communicate a Godhonoring sexual ethic to developing kids. The book will add to your understanding of our complex physical and emotional make-up, while offering numerous teaching and talking points that we must pass on to young people who want and need to know healthy sexual parameters. —Walt Mueller
Parenting Motherhood as vocation In Washington, D.C., it is only a matter of time before the kind woman standing next to me at a party will turn from talking with my husband and ask the inevitable, identitytesting, status-gauging question I have come to dread as a new and mostly stay-at-home mother … “And what do you do?” For blessing or curse, I live in a city and a culture that is uniquely focused on work. People come to Washington from all around the globe to make a difference in the world. And while education and experience ought to matter for much of the important work done here, as a professional nose-wiper working on an advanced degree in banana-mashing, this preoccupation with achievement can feel daunting nonetheless.
As a Christian, I find this vocational emphasis to be deeply fulfilling overall. I have come to believe, as the Reformers did, that all truth is God’s truth and all work is God’s work. Yet, in my transition from a very public, marketplace vocation working for leadership on Capitol Hill to a mostly private, familial vocation as a stay-at-home mother, I have become increasingly aware of how difficult it can be to find sufficient resources, conversations or even the vocabulary, to develop a coherent understanding and an intentional living out of this quiet, care-giving vocation that now defines the waking and working hours of my days. A few weeks ago I gathered around a beautifully set dinner table with a number of other mothers—some new and some sage—to explore this timeless, tenured vocation women have committed themselves to throughout human history. Admittedly, having only been a mother for five months, I had the least to offer and the most to learn as I listened to the mothers of three, four and five children (even twins!) talk about the lessons, tensions, books and relationships that sustain them in their work each day. The evening was part of a series of Vocare conversations hosted by The Washington
by Kate Harris
Institute and made possible by a grant from the Lilly Foundation, to bring together believers of a common vocation to discuss and learn how to better pursue their shared vocation in medicine or law or business or any number of professions, even stay-at-home motherhood. Thanks be to God. The evening’s conversation centered around Andi Ashworth’s excellent book, Real Love for Real Life : The Art and Work of Caring, as well as a tiny treasure of a book, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women’s Work by Kathleen Norris, a Catholic poet and novelist. The books highlight the creative, purposeful and skillful ways stay-at-home work is both a meaningful part of God’s design and also a meaningful part of society as a whole. Yet this both/and proposition is precisely where the tension lies for so many of us mothers as we seek to hold together a sense of identity and an intentional use of our education and abilities while acknowledging the needs and limits within each season of motherhood. Defining motherhood as a meaningful part of God’s work gives it honor. Though like any one side of a coin, it can also carry with it the implication that bearing and raising children is the only true and right way to do God’s work. The common impression within the church community that all “good women” will bear many children and proceed to raise them with a structure and intentionality that rivals Martha Stewart on speed, leads some to question their calling and, perhaps, even their faithfulness. Likewise, defining motherhood solely in terms of its market value can affirm the real contributions stay-at-home mothering offers families and society, yet it also can fuel comparisons that reinforce the sense that moms aren’t doing “real work” or work that is as important as doctors or lawyers or accountants, etc. Several women around the table noted this sense of being “just” a mom or recall friends asking, “But what do you do all day?” Sensing that motherhood falls outside the realm of real work leaves many feeling pressure to find other, market-based outlets for their gifts and abilities rather than looking for unique ways to apply their education and pursue their talents in creative ways alongside or within their primary role as caregivers. As is almost always the case, both emphases carry truths as well as falsehoods, but our challenge that evening was to find a way to hold together, and live within, the tensions of both in a way that acknowledged our common vocation as mothers, while also offering space for the unique talents and passions of every woman around the table—as artist or writer or convener or teacher or whatever the case may be. The conversation also sought to honor the various stages of motherhood. For example, one striking theme among the younger moms was the sense of having lost their identity, of not feeling purposeful or valuable, and frequently questioning the ways they spend their time, whereas the mothers of older children were quick to emphasize the seasonal nature of motherhood, encouraging younger moms to recognize the limits and demands of each ENGAGE: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU
stage of mothering, and to embrace the challenges and opportunities each new season brings. Two women, in particular, exemplified these inherent tensions in their own observations that night. One, a 25-yearold mother of two young children who is trained as a graphic designer and has recently started taking part-time classes toward a Master of Fine Arts, was frustrated by the feedback she was receiving from many of her fellow mom friends who applauded her new drawing classes as a good way for her to get a break from her kids. As she said, “When I paint it isn’t because I want more ‘me time’ like having a latte or getting a pedicure. It isn’t therapy. It’s what I feel made to do. I am a mother, but I’m also an artist so I have to believe I am a better mother to my kids when I make time to paint even if I don’t pursue that as a career.” For her it means putting her kids down at the same nap time every afternoon, brewing a pot of coffee, eating a bite of chocolate and painting for a few hours before they wake up. For another mother of five older children, she described an epiphany moment she had as she was frantically forcing three small, crying kids into the car for a Bible study she felt committed to lead as a way to “stay involved.” As she explained, “I finally realized this wasn’t worth it. My kids were miserable, I was miserable. I couldn’t help but wonder why I was insisting on this.” That night she sat down with her husband and they talked about what they wanted to be true for their family, what kind of family motto they wanted to have, what Bible verses they wanted to live by, and how to use those principles to make good decisions about their priorities and commitments. It also meant not doing Bible study for a while and spending that time doing activities with her kids instead. What I love about these two stories is how they demonstrate the uniqueness of every situation, and the importance of discernment within similar-but-not-identical circumstances. In both cases, these are women who have chosen to be full-time, stay-at-home moms and probably have similar commitments to drive and run errands and prepare meals each day. Yet, for my artist friend, part of her commitment to her family includes a commitment to her art. For my friend who learned to commit to principles rather than activities, faithfulness was taking a step away from the pressures of what a mother “should” be, in favor of what was good for herself and her kids for that brief season of time. Clearly there is no one “right answer” even though there are principles that matter for both. I often find myself somewhere in between these two stories, at times fighting the urge to commit for commitment’s sake, while also feeling the sense that I was made to engage certain work and relationships that may necessitate some time away from my child. For me, it has meant finding ways to bring my daughter along with me for most of the meetings and commitments I have, and working with my husband and close friends to create opportunities to do work on my own when Fall 2008
needed. For my best friend, who is a tremendously gifted thinker, writer and teacher (as well as a former dancer), she has learned to protect the Monday nights when her husband is home early, to either drop in on a dance class or to take that time to read and think and write over a cup of tea away from her home. Like my artist friend, her time away isn’t intended solely as “me time,” as much as it is a way to pursue her interests and steward her gifts in ways that fall outside her natural day as a mother.
In every case there is the commonality of care-giving right alongside the uniqueness of each woman as a person. For some, their natural gifts as a teacher, administrator, chef, organizer or nurturer may align very easily with many of the roles motherhood requires. Yet, for those who, like me, have less of a natural inclination toward some of the traditional duties mothers perform (except maybe throwing birthday parties!), my desire and commitment is still to care well for my children and to find ways I can allow my gifts and strengths to shape their childhood in unique ways, even as I rely on discipline and responsibility to do the equally important tasks (i.e. cleaning) that come less naturally to me. In this conversation, along with so many others, I come back to the things I first learned in Dr. Steve Garber’s excellent book, Fabric of Faithfulness, which argues that sustainable faith comes from having a coherent worldview, mentoring relationships and community. As I think about motherhood as a vocation from this lens, I can see where all three are essential for women—young or old—to find peace and sustainability in what is arguably a rather chaotic enterprise. Worldview affirms a mother’s place in God’s world, it gives her value and meaning not only for a season of babies or teenagers or empty nest, but over the whole of history. As one mother said at the table, “Parenting is a culture-shaping enterprise”—an idea that is rooted in a holistic view of the world and a mom’s place in it. Additionally, finding more experienced mothers to mentor and encourage you along the (continued on page 21)
Trend alert Fingertip porn
by Walt Mueller
“In your opinion, what’s the cultural change we should be most concerned about?” I was standing in front of a room full of parents and youth workers and the question came from the sponsoring youth worker at the start of the Q&A segment. “That’s a tough one,” I responded. Then, after scratching my head during a few moments of awkward silence, I answered. “As a husband, father of two girls and two boys, and a youth culture-watcher, I would have to say that one of the cultural changes that concerns me the most is the growing volume, pervasiveness and accessibility of online pornography. It’s shaping how an entire generation is thinking about themselves, about others and about the wonderful God-given gift of their sexuality. And to be honest, where I think it’s leading our kids is very, very frightening.” With the amount of time kids are spending online increasing, parents should be aware of the prevalence and easy accessibility of pornography. When it comes to pornography,
on Internet pornography from ProtectKids.com: Two out of five Internet users visited an adult site in August 2005. There were 63.4 million unique visitors to adult Web sites in December 2005, reaching 37.2 percent of the Internet audience. As of 2006, there were 420 million pages of pornographic material on the Internet. The Internet pornography industry in the U.S. generates $13 billion in annual revenue ($97 billion worldwide!)—–which is larger than the combined annual revenues of ABC, CBS and NBC. And perhaps most shocking, the largest group of viewers of Internet porn is children between the ages of 12 and 17.1 Curious about their developing bodies and sexuality, it’s not surprising that children and teens would be drawn to Internet pornography, especially since it’s so easily found. And, if they don’t find online pornography, online pornography just might find your kids. Not only is involvement in pornography wrong and a distortion of God’s wonderful gift of sexuality, but it has
our teenage world was nowhere near the same as their teenage world. I was 12 years old, naïve and very curious when I was first exposed to pornography. I also was hiding and huddled behind a neighbor’s stone wall with four of my childhood friends. We knew we were doing something wrong and we feared getting caught. We spent half of our time nervously looking at the magazine. We spent the other half fearfully looking over our shoulders. Today, even the youngest of our children—if they have access to a computer and know how to conduct an Internet search—have access to a world of online pornography that’s getting bigger every day. In cases where children have computers in their rooms and/or surf the Net without parental rules or supervision, the chances of them deliberately or accidentally accessing pornography are greater. Consider these facts
dangerous short- and long-term effects. First, we can expect a growing number of kids to be exposed to pornography at younger and younger ages … while they are alone. With so many kids accessing the Internet on home computers in their bedrooms, they will find or be found by pornography in an environment void of adult supervision and interaction. Most parents won’t be responding because they just won’t know. No one will be there to tell them it’s dangerous and wrong. In many cases, it will shape their values and attitudes long before they experience the sexual feelings and urges that come with physical maturation. Second, the envelope will continue to be stretched. When I was a kid the envelope was at a point where I was instructed not to use the word “pregnant” around my grandmother. To her, it was a dirty word. Not so anymore. While I don’t think
ENGAGE: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU
a convincing case could be made to support my grandmother’s bias, her bias does serve as an example of how much things have changed. Sadly, in today’s word, yesterday’s hidden smut can be an everyday reality for young eyes, minds and hearts. Based on this pattern, tomorrow’s smut will be unimaginably more extreme than today’s. Third, the more they see, the more desensitized they will become. In other words, sinful behavior no longer shocks. It’s become an everyday reality that is not at all surprising to them. In fact, what is surprising to our kids is that this stuff is alarming and surprising to us. In other words, expect your astonishment to be met by those words we hear all too often from our kids, “Mom, Dad, I’ve seen worse. You’re so old fashioned.” Fourth, pornography use will increasingly be a matter of personal preference, and decreasingly be viewed as sin. Our postmodern environment has combined with the pervasiveness of pornography to create a world where if you want to look at it, that’s perfectly okay for you. Do whatever you feel like and whatever works for you. And fifth, the sinful values and practices promoted in pornography will become normalized. I recently heard about a group of 10-year-old boys in the Southeast who were discovered by one’s mother as they took turns performing oral sex on one of their male classmates. The parents of the boys were
stunned. Some of these kids were from Christian families. Where did they learn to do such a thing? When all the facts were known, one of the boys had discovered pornography on the Internet. Over time, he went deeper and deeper into some of the more extreme sites, all the while inviting his naturally curious young peers to look over his shoulder. Before long, they were doing what they had seen on the screen. After getting caught, they were bewildered as to why what they were doing was wrong. As time goes on, Internet pornography will shape and normalize youthful behavior, impacting how young people view and treat each other both now, and for the rest of their lives. All of this adds up to create a situation that requires our parental awareness, diligence and ongoing attention. If we have no idea how and where our teens are spending their online time, we’re missing an opportunity to guide them away from the dangers of Internet pornography, and toward the joy of living within God’s will and God’s way. There are good reasons why the Apostle Paul warned Christ’s followers to avoid even “a hint of sexual immorality” (Ephesians 5:3). Our goal should be to teach teens how to be “imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1), steering them away from this horrible distortion of God’s wonderful gift of their sexuality. 1
“Statistics,” Protect Kids Page, n.d., www.protectkids.com, 3 March 2008.
Motherhood as vocation (continued from page 19) way can offer hope and practical advice when sleepless nights feel overwhelming. Likewise, engaging relationships with younger or newer moms to encourage them with what you have learned or endured through your own experience is equally important. Finally, community is critical for moms, especially young moms, whose care for young children can often, by its very nature, be isolating. I find that the ability of women to meet the practical needs of fellow moms is astoundingly rare—helping scrub a bathtub after a friend’s kids have been sick, taking half a frozen lasagna to a friend whose husband is having to work long hours, calling a neighbor while you are out-and-about to see if you can grab a gallon of milk for them. And beyond practical needs, community is providing a place for women to talk with each other about their needs and limits, to talk about the unique challenges childrearing introduces in marriage, or to laugh about the sheer grossness of caring for messy little kids who vomit far too often for no good reason. Leaving the table, I was reminded of the wonderful observation by G.K Chesterton in his book What is Wrong With The World in which he asks, “How can it be a large
career to tell other people’s children about the rule of three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No. A woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.” As I think about what it means to faithfully pursue my work as a mom, I hope myself and others can commit to this larger vision of our role as “culture shapers” who can hold our own beside PhDs and playwrights, lest we be tempted to think our daily occupation as nose-wipers and shuttle drivers is anything less than a grand enterprise.
Kate Harris serves as the Director of Membership and Events for the Clapham Group. You can visit their Web site at www.claphamgroup.com Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on the Web site for The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture (www.washingtoninst.org), an educational center in Washington, D.C.
Trend alert Two new tobacco and alcohol trends The tobacco and alcohol industries are continually finding new ways to market their products and increase their revenues. Unfortunately, teens are an easy target. Though, in most circumstances, it is illegal to market alcohol or tobacco products to children underage in the United States, the industries still manage to explore the boundaries of what is and isn’t off limits and learn ways to target teens in the process. One way in which they attempt to toe the line is to seemingly market their ads and campaigns to adults while making the product itself especially attractive to teens. Following are two new trends that you should be aware of for the sake of monitoring your teen’s behavior and sparking discussions with them in regards to alcohol and tobacco use. Alcohol: ShotPaks ShotPaks are new, single-serving shots of alcohol that are sold in laminated-foil plastic pouches. Touted on their Web site as a “Party in a pouch,” the packaging resembles that of CapriSun, or other juice drinks marketed to children. Each pouch holds 50 ml. or 1.7 ounces. Some ShotPaks contain straight liquor like vodka, rum or whiskey. These are labeled as “STR8UP,” using teen friendly “text speak” to tout what’s inside. Others contain a small mixed drink such as vodka mixed with fruit juice, or a minty drink mixed with rum known as a mojito. Others also are given creative and even provocative names typical of mixed drinks, like Kamikaze or Purple Hooter. The size, colorful and innovative packaging, kid-friendly names, fruity flavors, and portability could prove to be very appealing to teens. The small shots can easily be hidden in
pockets, backpacks or purses. And because they are so new to the market and resemble children’s juice drinks, teens could easily get away with drinking them in public without anyone realizing. Promoting their products on teen-friendly Web sites like MySpace, and using sexually charged images to do so (though, according to reports, they have toned down the images due to industry trade group standards) only further suggests that ShotPaks are being not-so-subtly marketed to teens.
Tobacco: Sn us Snus Declining cigarette sales and a continued increase in smoking bans have caused the tobacco industry to seek ways to attract new customers and expand their market as well. Although smokeless tobacco is not new, this category has seen increases in recent years while cigarette consumption slowly wanes. Cigarette companies have been purchasing smokeless tobacco
by Chris Wagner
companies in hopes of using this category to further their profits and introduce new products to the market. One such product is known as snus. Unlike traditional American snuff, which is fermented and needs to be spit out, snus—popular in Sweden—are not fermented and can be bought in packs containing pre-portioned pouches. The pouches are
like miniature tea bags and are designed to be placed under the upper lip. Of course, for teens who already smoke or use smokeless tobacco products, snus may prove attractive because they can be used in public settings where smoking may be banned, or where spitting isn’t feasible. Snus might also be used discreetly during school where lighting up is not an option. Impressionable young people also will be attracted to the different flavors available, such as mint and spice. Many also perceive smokeless tobacco products as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking. Teens may buy into this half-truth knowing that certain health risks, such as the effects on the lungs, are indeed reduced. However, studies have linked snus to pancreatic cancer and they still contain nicotine, making the product extremely addictive. As reported in USA Today, “many health advocates see the new smokeless alternatives as an attempt to create a new generation of tobacco users.” Undoubtedly, the pressure on our teens to use alcohol and tobacco will further increase. Start talking to your children about substance abuse earlier, rather than later. Teach them a proper respect of the law, and help them understand the legal consequences of underage drinking. Explain the physical risks associated with drinking alcohol and using tobacco products. Instill in your children and teens a biblical understanding of our bodies and what it means to take care of them in a Godhonoring manner. Finally, keep your eye out for other new and emerging trends in alcohol and tobacco marketing; more are surely on the way. When you notice something of importance, take the opportunity to continue the positive discussion you’ve already started with your teen. Chris Wagner is a research assistant at the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding ENGAGE: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU
Trend alert Text and chat acronyms They’re doing it everywhere. They text message each other while in school. You see them locked onto their phone screens as they leave school at the end of the day. A growing number of kids are engaging in the dangerous habit of typing messages to each other while behind the wheel of a car. They instant message while sitting at the computer, and sometimes text message through the night when they 8 143 182 2nite 459 420 ADR AEAP AFC ALAP ASL banana BBIAF BBL B/F BFF BFN BRB BRT CD9 C-P CUL8R CWYL DUM DUSL F2F F2T FB FMLTWIA FOL G2G GF GNOC GYPO HAK IF/IB IIT ILU ILY IMIEZRU IWSN J/O KFY Kitty KOTL KPC L8R LD LMIRL
Oral sex I love you I hate you Tonight I love you Marijuana Address As early as possible Away from computer As late as possible Age/sex/location Penis Be back in a few Be back later Boyfriend Best friend forever Bye for now Be right back Be right there Code 9, parents are around Sleepy See you later Chat with you later Do you masturbate? Do you scream loud? Face to face Free to talk F*** buddy F*** me like the whore I am Fond of leather Got to go Girlfriend Get naked on (Web)cam Get your pants off Hugs and kisses In front or in back? Is it tight? I love you I love you I’m easy, are you? I want sex now Jerking off Kiss for you Vagina Kiss on the lips Keeping parents clueless Later Long distance Let’s meet in real life
should be sleeping! It’s a new kind of communication that’s got a rapidly developing language all its own. This new texting language utilizes a growing dictionary of acronyms and abbreviations largely unknown to parents and other adults. In an effort to help you stay in touch with the kids you know and love, here’s a short list of some of the most common text acronyms you should be aware of. LMK LOL MOOS MOSS MorF MOS MPFB NALOPKT N-A-Y-L NAZ NIFOC NM NMU OLL OMG OMFG OSIF OTP P911 PAL PAW PIR POS PRON QT RN ROTFL RU. . . RU/18 RUH RUMORF S2R SITD SMIM SMEM SO SorG SWDYT TDTM TOM TS TTFN UR? WFM WTF WTH WUF WYCM WYRN
Let me know Laugh out loud Member of the opposite sex Member of the same sex Male or female? Mom over shoulder My personal f*** buddy Not a lot of people know that In a while Name/address/zip Nude in front of computer Never mind Not much, you? Online love Oh my God Oh my f***ing God! Oh sh*t I forgot On the phone Parent alert Parents are listening Parents are watching Parent in room Parent over shoulder Porn Cutie Right now Rolling on the floor laughing Are you. . . .? Are you over 18? Are you horny? Are you male or female? Send to receive (pictures) Still in the dark Send me an instant message Send me an e-mail Significant other Straight or gay? So what do you think? Talk dirty to me Tomorrow Tough sh*t Ta Ta for now You are. . . ? Works for me What the f*** What the heck Where are you from? Will you call me? What’s your real name?
CPYU looks at three big blips on today’s youth culture radar In this column, we’ve filtered three popular media expressions through our How To Use Your Head To Guard Your Heart media evaluation resource. We encourage you to use our analysis as a springboard for your further examination. For copies of How To Use Your Head To Guard Your Heart, please log on to our Web site at www.cpyu.org.
Movie/DVD: The American Mall Background/summary: This late-summer 2008 made-forMTV movie musical from the producers of High School Musical follows the relationships and aspirations of a group of high school kids who work at the fictitious Huxley Mall in Springfield, Ohio. The film is an obvious attempt to meld the
formula that worked so well with the smash-hit HSM franchise, with over-the-top product placement in order to create a new musical phenomenon that will not only build a bridge for young HSM fans from The Disney Channel to MTV, but will serve as a marketing bonanza for the network and its advertisers. The simple and predictably plotted film originally aired on MTV on Aug. 11, and was released straight to DVD the next morning. The debut viewing audience was small, but the film may catch on virally now that it’s on DVD.
Discover: What is the message/worldview? • High school senior and aspiring musician Ally Shepard works for her mom at their struggling Huxley Mall music
store. An idealistic singer/songwriter who wants to make it to the big time, Ally’s biggest impediment is her realist mom, who once found—and very quickly lost—musical fame as a one-hit wonder 20 years earlier. Mom doesn’t want Ally to go down the same disappointing dead-end road. Longing to share with her mom the fact that she secretly applied to and was accepted as a student at the New England Conservatory, Ally sadly caters to her mom’s desire for her to attend Ohio State to major in accounting. • Secretly pursuing her dream to write and sing music, Ally hangs out at the mall after hours, writing and practicing her songs when she thinks nobody else is around, that is, until she meets Joey, a musician who is moonlighting along with his aspiring band mates as an overnight janitor. Joey has collected lots of Ally’s trash over the course of time, including several sheets of music Ally’s penned. He knows the music so well that he is able to sing along. • Ally and Joey’s blossoming romance and musical collaboration hits a roadblock when Madison Huxley, the spoiledrotten, neglected, and narcissistic daughter of the mall’s owner, decides to pursue her own retail and romantic dreams by commandeering space from the Shepard’s barely-making-it store, as well as buying Joey’s attention through the promise of helping him and his band score new instruments (to replace those that had been stolen) and a record contract. • The formulaic plot culminates in an end-of-the-summer mall performance known as “The Summer Slam.” Madison plans the event with herself as the featured centerpiece, singing a song she’s stolen from Ally, while fronting Joey’s band. • The film closes with the necessary and predictable happy ending as Joey listens to his conscience, sees the light, undoes his compromise and reconnects with Ally. Madison’s heart is turned and everyone finally gets along, happily performing together in a final onstage number. Discern: How does it stand in light of the biblical message/ worldview? • God has created us in His image. The imago dei manifests itself through our God-given gifts and abilities, particularly those of creativity, which we should exercise with a celebratory spirit that’s committed to excellence so that we might honor and glorify God. Ally, Joey and the film’s other characters strive in the face of great odds to develop and use their gifts. This is to be applauded. • The film sends several clear messages to kids that are common in films of this genre. Included are things like “follow your dreams,” “listen to your heart” and “don’t give up.” The danger lies in the erroneous cultural motivational message so many of our kids hear and accept, which is that you can achieve whatever it is you put your mind to. Reality debunks that myth. Instead, the Scriptures call us to understand God’s ENGAGE: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU
call on our lives, depending not on our youthful idealism, but prayerfully trusting in the guidance that comes from those who have been granted authority in our lives and who have the wisdom that comes with experience, so that we might become who God desires us to be. • Good and evil battle it out in The American Mall, mirroring the spiritual reality that is oftentimes ignored, forgotten or denied in our relativistic culture. The Apostle Paul reminds us that the world, the flesh and the Devil are in constant conflict with the Kingdom of God. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12). • We are called to forgive and show grace to our enemies and those who have hurt us. We are to forgive as we’ve been forgiven. Ally shows grace to Madison in a situation where catty teenage revenge might be expected or seen as appropriate. • Our identity and value should be found in Christ and Christ alone. Because it’s a marketing tool and 100-minute commercial for a variety of retailers and their products, The American Mall delivers a subtle yet strong and clear message regarding the place that shopping and consumption have come to hold as the source of identity in American culture, particularly American youth culture. This dangerous thread can easily be overlooked because it’s embedded in a feel-good film. • The Scriptures teach that perseverance, hope, spiritual maturity and even salvation come through suffering. Life is difficult and there isn’t always a happy ending. While formulaic fairy tales like The American Mall can be fun for kids to watch, they send a message that can easily become a dangerous and destructive part of our theology—that life is meant to
be happy and without pain. The reality is that life is difficult, and that sometimes hard situations are never resolved during our days on earth. However, ultimate redemption will come for those who are in Christ. Decide: What do I do with it? • The American Mall offers parents and youth workers a valuable peek into the map media and culture are laying out for our kids. Our role should be to watch films like this with a critical and biblically informed eye, noting those themes and messages that we can celebrate, and those themes and messages that we should challenge with the truths of the Gospel. • With the exception of an innuendo-filled scene featuring a seemingly sexually ambiguous male Weinerland food court worker dancing in a rather suggestive costume during The Summer Slam, the film is void of any explicitly objectionable material. This makes the film a great piece to use with younger teens. View the film together, and then filter it through CPYU’s How To Use Your Head To Guard Your Heart 3D Media Evaluation Guide, which is available online at cpyu.org. Encourage students to look for the less objectionable yet equally concerning worldview messages related to identity, vocation, calling and materialism. • This film can be used by youth workers as a tool to unpack marketing strategies with their kids, particularly product placement. It is not at all coincidental that the film debuted during prime back-to-school shopping days, featuring Sears as part of the company’s strategy to reinvent and remarket itself to the highly valuable audience of young teen and child spenders.
Song/Video: “Piece of Me” Background/summary: Recorded in 2007 and released in January 2008 as the second single off her album Blackout, this Britney Spears’ song garnered three 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, including the coveted Video of the Year. Spears’ history and evolution as a pop star has been highly publicized, from her start as a relatively innocent 16-year-old pop singer, to her scandal-filled high profile life of more recent years. “Piece of Me” was written in response to the media attention focused on her private life. Spears told an interviewer, “Wherever you go, there’s a lot of people who ask questions, and sometimes you don’t know their intentions … it’s kind of a cute way of putting it out there … like, ‘You want a piece of me?’ … in a cool, cute, and clever way.” The video is Spears’ most popular of all time, and the song charted worldwide, including at #1 in Ireland. Discover: What is the message/worldview? • The video intersperses shots of Spears’ dancing and singing her message about relentless paparazzi pursuit and the hassles of fame, with the paparazzi pursuing Spears at every turn. In a strange and ironic way, Spears complains about all the attention, but more or less exposes herself physically through a collection of typical Spears short-on-modesty large-on-skin outfits. Fall 2008
• As a crowd of photographers pursues Spears as she leaves her apartment and heads to a club, she explains that, “I’m Miss American Dream since I was 17/Don’t matter if I step on the scene or sneak away to the Philippines/They’re still gonna put pictures of my derriere in the magazine.” As she vents she tauntingly sings the songs tagline question, “You want a piece of me?” • Spears says she’s been labeled “Miss Bad Media Karma,” with each new day bringing another drama about her life. She explains that she sees no harm in working and mothering at the same time. She refers to herself by a variety of negative labels that the media has placed on her including, “Mrs. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” “Mrs. Oh My God That Britney’s Shameless,” “Mrs. Extra! Extra! This Just In,” “Mrs. Most Likely To Be On The TV For Stripping In The Streets” and “Mrs. She’s Too Big Now She’s Too Thin”—all referencing some of the snowballing stories that she’s been hammered by over the years. • In the video, she continually blows off the paparazzi. At one point she takes a handsome young man who’s showing interest in her on the club dance floor into the ladies room. Viewers see Spears seductively throw him down on the couch, ripping
his shirt off in what appears to be a passionate frenzy. However, this time she’s ripping off the shirt to expose the small camera around his neck. He, too, was trying to get a scoop. • Her distaste for the tabloids is treated both lyrically and visually. As she exits a car, she knocks over a photographer. But, as she walks over him he snaps a photo up her short skirt. While dancing for the camera, she takes a tabloid cover, wrinkles it and discards it as trash over her shoulder.
• We live in a culture where celebrities serve as the most powerful role models for children and teens. They teach values, attitudes and behaviors through their art and lives. As role models, these celebrities encourage our kids to pursue that same course as the be all and end all in life. The Scriptures call humanity to seek first and pursue the Kingdom of God. This is a message that desperately needs to be heard, but is largely non-existent in today’s world.
Discern: How does it stand in light of the biblical message/ worldview? • The Scriptures, from start to finish, remind us through stories and propositional teaching that money, sex and power can easily corrupt, becoming idols that we worship and pursue in place of the One we were created to worship and pursue. In the end, the very things we come to believe will give us life, wind up devouring us. While we might not like how the media has treated Spears, it appears she has pursued a lifestyle of fame and fortune that has come with a deep, deep cost. • The video and song do nothing to challenge the oversexualized stereotype of Spears that has been influencing a generation of young fans for years. She continues to promote an image that is contrary to a biblical sexual ethic, while not considering the consequent challenges or costs. Sadly, the visual image promotes female objectification, an image that is contrary to a God-centered sense of personhood, dignity, respect and identity. • There is no doubt that Britney Spears has been pursued and exploited relentlessly. Our current cultural values encourage us to mock and even crucify those whose lives are falling apart. The Scriptures teach us to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Turning our backs with mocking derision on the lost (rich or poor, famous or unknown) can never be justified and is a clear sign of Pharisee-like hypocrisy. We are called to love sinners as Jesus loved them. And while loving them, we are to speak and live the truth about sin in ways that are compelling to a lost and hurting world.
Decide: What do I do with it? • Perhaps more than any other pop star of the last decade, Britney Spears offers a powerful case study in a variety of cultural realities, including creating pop stars, developing starpower and sustainability, media messages, and the human condition. “Piece of Me” should be viewed and deconstructed within the context of Spears’ life story, music catalog and worldview messages. The fruit of this type of exercise will yield numerous talking and teaching points that can be used to educate parents and youth workers, preparing them to contextualize the unchanging Gospel for our rapidly changing world. • Use the video with kids to spark discussion on the price of stardom and celebrity, sexuality, the consequences of decisions, and how to treat others in a Christ-like manner. • “Piece of Me” should be used to help kids see the irony of a star complaining about too much exposure, yet the tendency to expose one’s self through stardom in a variety of ways. • Process the video with teens by using these questions: Does Britney Spears have a right to complain about media attention? What decisions has Britney Spears made in her life that are positive or negative? Are there any costs associated with celebrity? How are we, as Christians, to react to and treat stars who struggle and suffer? Do our behaviors have consequences? What do you think God would say to Britney Spears if He were to sit down with her for an afternoon?
ENGAGE: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU
Movie: The Dark Knight Background/summary: Directed by Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, Momento) and starring Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman and the late Heath Ledger as the Joker, The Dark Knight has taken comic book movies to a new level. Released in July, the film set a new opening weekend record by earning $155 million, breaking the previous record held by Spider-Man 3. Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker has been considered by many to be Oscar-worthy. The Dark Knight is a complex film covering a wide range of themes. A full review would require more space than is available in this format. What follows is a 3-D approach to the film’s portrayal of good and evil.
Decide: What do I do with it? • The Dark Knight is rated PG-13 and because of its mature themes and violence should probably only be seen by mature viewers. • The Dark Knight provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the existence of evil and the importance of moral responsibility. Is it okay to intentionally do something wrong
Discover: What is the message/worldview? • The setting is Gotham City. It is a “moral universe,” where good and evil not only exist, but where the people on the side of the good have a moral responsibility to rid the city of evil. • But this is not your typical comic book movie. The lines between good and evil are blurred. Batman has to make tough ethical decisions that call his own character into question. • The Joker sees the world as inherently evil, where people ultimately make moral decisions based on self interest. • The Joker’s mission is to not only reveal Batman’s identity as Bruce Wayne, but to reveal the hidden darkness and selfserving motivations within Bruce’s own heart. • The brilliance of the Joker’s strategy is to put the “heroes” of the movie in positions where they must compromise their integrity in order to achieve a greater good. • Evil does exist in the world, but it is often difficult to remain pure while being a force for good. Discern: How does it stand in light of the biblical message/ worldview? • We live in a fallen world. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Dark Knight affirms the existence of evil and reveals the natural outworking of those who follow their sinful nature. • The Joker portrays a sense of human frailty with no sense of hope. For him, no one is capable of living a morally perfect life. For Christians, there is hope found in putting faith and trust in Jesus, the one who covers our imperfections through his perfect work on the cross. • In his quest for justice, Batman takes matters into his own hands and disregards the law. God calls us to obey and respect authority figures and the “laws of the land” as they are appointed by him. • In order to make Gotham City a safer place, Batman and law enforcement use force to rid their streets of evil men. For true change to take place, People’s hearts must be changed, and this can only be done through God’s saving grace. We will not fully experience a world without sin and evil until God brtings the new heavens and new earth through the return of His son.
in order to have a good result? Is breaking the law ever morally acceptable? Try to create a safe place where teens can wrestle with these questions using examples from their own lives. • Ultimately this film is about integrity. It forces viewers to make judgments on the integrity of the “hero” Batman and the “villain” The Joker. What is integrity? Who has it in our world? Is it possible to live a life of integrity? Many teens are asking these kinds of questions already and this movie provides a helpful way to start that important conversation. • The Joker places Batman and other characters in very difficult moral positions. Ask teens to discuss what they think they would have done if faced with similar challenges.
A list of 10 interesting and helpful sites to check out next time you’re surfing the net
The 10 Day Journey www.the10dayjourney.com A new online ministry launched by youth pastors Joseph Castaneda and Andy Hartfield, this family based youth ministry is aimed at trying to connect parents and teens together through 10-day devotional guides.
Culture11 www.culture11.com The goal of this organization is “to build a community around irresistibly interesting perspectives on life in America.” The site includes thoughtful writing on everything from pop culture and politics to faith and family. American Academy of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry www.aacap.org As many as 12 million American youth suffer from mental, behavioral or developmental disorders at any given time. The AACAP is the leading national professional medical association dedicated to treating and improving the quality of life for children, adolescents and families affected by these disorders. Fuller Youth Institute http://fulleryouthinstitute.org The mission of Fuller Youth Insitute is to translate research into resources that transform youth and family ministry. The site has a growing body of research and resources on youth ministry, urban youth ministry, college transition, intergenerational ministry, etc. Some of the best youth ministry content on the Web. Life In Student Ministry www.timschmoyer.com Set up by Minnesota youth pastor Tim Schmoyer, this site is an online community where youth workers come together for conversations among those passionate about teenagers. The site features articles and resources on all things youth ministry, and contains information on youth ministry training opportunities. Another youth ministry site worth bookmarking.
Edopter www.edopter.com Another new development in our rapidly changing culture, this is a site dedicated to “social trendcasting,” where visitors discover and share new trends in fashion, music, lifestyle, design and “pretty much anything else.” The site is a virtual soapbox for visitors to tout and promote the next big thing.
Inside Higher Ed www.insidehighered.com The online source for news, opinion and jobs for all of higher education. Whether you’re an adjunct, a vice president or a grad student, this site is what you need to thrive in your current job or find a better one: breaking news and feature stories, provocative daily commentary, areas for comment on every article, practical career columns, and a powerful suite of tools to help higher education professionals get jobs and colleges identify and hire employees. Reformed Youth Ministries www.rymonline.org RYM exists to reach junior and senior high students for Christ and equip them to serve Him in the church and in the world. A series of blogs and articles—along with other resources— provide food for thought on youth and family ministry. WiredSafety www.wiredsafety.org WiredSafety provides help, information and education to Internet and mobile device users of all ages. The group helps victims of cyber abuse ranging from online fraud, cyber stalking and child safety, to hacking and malicious code attacks. In addition, parents can find help for dealing with the parenting issues related to developing technologies. Youth Media Reporter www.youthmediareporter.org YMR is the professional multi-media journal that serves practitioners, educators and academics in the youth media field. YMR offers insight to the degree that young people and their adult allies use media to make a difference, address a point, enhance creative imagination and match leadership with voice. YMR engages a variety of stakeholders to define issues, pedagogies and challenges to the youth media field. CPYU does not necessarily endorse, support or condone these sites and their sponsors. Some are listed for informational and research purposes only as they are prevalent in youth culture today.
Links to these sites and many others can be found at www.cpyu.org!