Three Things This Week
1. Mount Zion
What it is: On Tuesday night, college basketball fans met one of the most jaw-dropping athletes of all time in Duke’s humiliating win over Kentucky.
Why we can’t look away: Interestingly enough, Gen Z already knew all about 18-year-old Zion Williamson. The 6’7”, 285-pound freakish athlete has 1.9 million Instagram followers and is a YouTube sensation for his thunderous dunks. Bill Simmons said, “He looks like somebody took an NBA2K character and turned up some of the strengths too high.” Zion is the rock that anchors Duke’s latest supersquad, a team with an outside chance of going undefeated this season. Zion is already on a first-name basis in pop culture (Beyoncé, Lebron), and due to his social media status, he might make more money from a shoe contract than an NBA contract.
2. thank u, next
What it is: Ari’s (already) back with a chart-topping breakup single after news of her split from fiancé Pete Davidson went public.
Why it’s a mixed bag: Unlike other breakup songs, Grande gratefully reminisces on past relationships and what she learned from each of them. Rather than throwing shade at her exes or viewing ended relationships as failures, she exhibits a growth mindset, learning from her past without beating herself up. But the lyrics are explicit and problematic in other ways, like espousing the idea that relationships didn’t work because someone wasn’t “a match” or that self-love is the answer (joining Carly Rae Jepsen’s new single “Party for One”). Our teenaged Ari fans can learn from the good in her song, but this is a great opportunity to guide their hearts and combat the unhealthy ideas that are mixed in by having open, honest dialogue about the track.
Why it’s not really church: While we really admire Smith’s desire to contextualize the Gospel for the next generation, the app forces us to ask some difficult questions about modern Christianity. How much should we leverage cultural trends and at what point do we push against them? In this case, what would virtual baptism or virtual communion even look like and why do those physical practices even matter? The Greek translation of Ecclesia (church) means a local community gathered in a specific place. As today’s teens struggle to form real relationships, perhaps the most practical way we can help them do so is by participating in a local church, thereby showing them the messy and transformative power of real community.
Motivated by governmental lies, the fear of outsiders, and militant nationalism, 80 years ago today ordinary men and women participated in a sudden and deadly campaign of terrorism, killing 100 Jews and destroying 7,500 Jewish businesses. Kristallnacht or “Night of Broken Glass” foreshadowed the legal and state-sanctioned annihilation of European Jewry. In 1930s Germany, “Racial hatred and hysteria seemed to have taken complete hold of otherwise decent people.”
And just when we think our culture is immune to historical atrocities, a 57% rise in anti-semitic incidents, white supremacist marches, (((echoes))) being used online to flag things as Jewish, and the murder of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh should tell us otherwise.
Kristallnacht and Pittsburgh aren’t aberrations that spontaneously erupted in a vacuum. The Holocaust didn’t originate in the gas chambers; it started with words. Language matters, fear-mongering matters, labeling people matters (“wingnut”, “invading horde”, “Thot”). Whether its on Instagram, the news, or in school hallways, help your students spot and stop dehumanizing language in its tracks. Because those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. Thankfully, the opposite of dehumanization is empathy, compassion, and the recognition that every human being—no matter their religion, skin color, or nationality—is made in the very image of God. Here are seven convicting reads to help you and your teen combat a culture of violence and intolerance.
- Dehumanizing Always Starts with Language by Brené Brown
- Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies by Marilyn McEntyre
- Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning
- Night by Elie Wiesel
- Boy 30529: A Memoir by Felix Weinberg
- Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi
- The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman (graphic novel, so might be a good way to engage those who don’t love reading)
10 PREMIUM INSIGHTS
A broader look at the world that teens inhabit.
Skim our summary or click the links to read more.
Engage your teens in conversation about their world.
They said it best:
1. “Music makes new memories, evokes the past, and instantaneously can transport you to another place.”
–Martin Lindstrom in his book Brand Sense and referenced in a larger conversation about the burgeoning background music industry. We’ve always said at Axis that music is powerful, and the men and women working in “background” music understand this as well. They know that music affects us on a deep level and can influence our behavior. Their clients use this power to get people to shop longer or buy more. However, it’s important for teens to understand that the music they listen to all the time—sometimes even “in the background”—is having an equal effect on shaping their lives. It would be wise to choose a playlist carefully.
2. Do your teens have to do some of their homework online? Do they feel doing so enhances their education or detracts from it? What about if they didn’t have internet at home? How would that affect their thoughts? Do they think using technology is necessary to get a good education? Or should technology only be used in very selective classes?
3. Instagram is one of the most popular apps that teens use. And it has had a profound impact on many areas of our lives. Quartz has a good selection of articles that detail how Instagram has affected our food, decor, art, fashion, and more. It has also changed bullying. And made it more pervasive, harder to combat, and as devastating as ever.
4. There’s a new communication etiquette to learn. Introduced several years ago, voice texting is starting to become more and more popular. Not to be confused with “voice-to-text” texting, voice texts are small snippets of a recorded message sent as a text. Like all new mediums of exchange it is slowly gaining its own rules of use, such as don’t just send a one work voice text like “yep”. Type it out instead, it takes longer to listen to the voice message than to read it. For some teens voice texting may always be an annoyance, but others think it offers a new layer of subtlety to an established form of communicating.
5. There’s a break in the action and fans wait in anticipation for a show of musical delight performed by their favorite artists. Is it the Super Bowl Halftime Show? No, it’s actually the latest eSports tournament. With 10-31 year olds more likely to watch esports than traditional sports, esports are starting to gain all the accoutrements of regular sports such as musical headliners and so called “shoulder content”, all the analysis and documentary shows that air on ESPN about American football players.
6. Your fashion-minded students might be keenly aware of the athleisure trend that has generally taken over everyone’s wardrobe. What they might not know is that athletic wear as normal attire is not new. In fact, most modern fashion has some foundation in athletic wear. If your students care about fashion, do they think the increasingly casual style is an improvement over, say, 19th century fashion, where almost every different occasion could have a different style of dress? Is there anything lost by not having any kind of formality for different activities? If they think that it generally doesn’t matter what we wear, then why do we still, in most instances, have very special clothes for weddings? Does fashion matter at all in the grand scheme of our embodied lives? Taken a step further, does the form and shape of our lives matter? Do our everyday “liturgical” choices affect us?
7. “Life hacks” are a popular YouTube video format and offer tips and tricks on everything from how to eat hamburgers to how to fix your lipstick. They can be fun, often silly, sometimes helpful. But they also offer a deceptive hope. Life hacks offer the quick fix to better life and promise efficiency in all areas of life. The only problem is that efficiency isn’t the point of life. Life is more than “a set of problems to solve and systems to optimize.” While helpful, being better at cutting your avocados does not bring fulfillment. It is often in the inefficient areas of life, in the messy relationships, the long cultivation of lasting friendships that we actually find joy and meaning. YouTube is one of the most popular apps that teens use. Help them navigate the false promises of hope that might be on offer there.
8. Thirst Trap – Thirst in this instance means a desire for attention. The trap is often a photo on Instagram, usually somewhat provocative, that is supposed to garner attention for the poster, thus sating (temporarily) their desire for attention and validation. Lexicographers are tracking the normalization of the phrase, so expect to see it more and more.
9. A couple weeks ago we included a quote from a morally courageous Japanese man who issued visas to save Jews in spite of being told not to. If that story didn’t connect with your teens then maybe you could try a negative example. Merck, the pharmaceutical giant, is ending an agreement to provide a lifesaving vaccine to children in West Africa. Their reason? “Supply shortages”. In other words, they are now allowed to sell the vaccine in larger markets (China) which is able to pay more than West African countries and therefore all available stock is being sold there. A smart profit move, but it also reveals moral cowardice. If your teens claim to truly love others, do they understand the moral courage that it would take to stand up to the pressures of profits at all costs?
Tip of the Week
10. Help your teens learn the power of the long game. Our culture is obsessed with instant gratification, usually to our detriment. It is a difficult choice to delay our satisfaction but it does often come with great rewards. Looking for one way to help instill this practice of waiting? Start thinking about celebrating Advent, the period of expectation before Christmas, instead of following the cultural trend and pulling out the Christmas songs before we even carve the turkey!
Keep the Faith!
The Axis Team
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