Three Things This Week
1. High School Sieg Heil
Why it’s scary: The original photo was tweeted with the comment, “We even got the black kid to throw it up.” It appears only one student, Jordan Blue, refused to go along with his classmates: “I knew what my morals were and it was not to salute something I firmly didn’t believe in.” Groupthink is dangerous, especially among teens. Gen Z is full of promise and hope, capable of amazing things, but this is a good reminder that they’re still young, susceptible to peer pressure, and easily influenced by the rise in racist rhetoric on a national scale. It’s a great opportunity to begin the conversation about doing what’s right, no matter the cost. The Holocaust and other atrocities were not perpetrated by monsters, but by ordinary people who passively conformed to social and political pressures instead of having the courage to dissent.
2. Instant Family
What it is:A funny drama in which Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne foster and eventually adopt three siblings comes to theaters November 16.
Why it’s worth seeing: Based on the real experiences of the film’s director, it puts flesh on a very human issue: the hundreds of thousands of children in the foster care system who need hope and a future. But it doesn’t glamorize it, either; it’s open about how it can simultaneously be messy, confusing, difficult, frustrating, and rewarding beyond measure. The movie beautifully demonstrates foster care isn’t something only “heroes” and super people should do; it’s everyday, normal people who can provide the loving home that these children need. Since it’s rated PG-13, it may not be appropriate for everyone in the family, and Christian viewers are bound to disagree with elements, making it a compelling and convicting conversation starter. Has your family ever considered foster care? Why or why not?
3. The Motto Method
What it is: In a long exposé (language), HuffPo looks into long-standing research on suicide treatment that utilizes a surprising approach: sending letters to show that you care.
Why it’s hopeful: As of 2016, the CDC reports suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., occurring at a rate of more than double that of homicide, and a recent study found that each successful suicide impacts 135 people. Yet professionals struggle to know how to treat it, and many with suicidal thoughts eventually refuse continuing treatment. Does that mean individuals dealing with depression or suicidal ideation are hopeless? The research suggests that, no, they’re not; in fact, the treatment may be as simple as sending texts and emails at regular intervals to show them they’re not alone. We highly recommend reading the article because none of us ever knows when our loved ones might be in need of just that.*
*Suicide is serious. If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and always seek professional help.
What Stan Lee Taught Us
Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee passed away this week at the age of 95. Starting in the 1940s, he was a prolific storyteller, co-creating some of our most beloved superheroes, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Black Panther, Daredevil, and Doctor Strange. Not only did his tales influence millions of comic book lovers over the past 7+ decades, the films, TV shows, and radio shows adapted from them have influenced even more. Truly, without Stan Lee, our modern entertainment landscape would be very different.
And yet, his sagas did more than entertain us; they moved us, taught us, and gave us hope. Regardless of whether we agree with the messages conveyed through Lee’s work or with his vision (which has been pointed out as problematic), it’s clear that he had and continues to have a meaningful, lasting impact on many lives, begging the question: Would he have been so influential without art and without the power of story?
His legacy reminds us—indeed, compels us—to not underestimate the role stories play to persuade and change hearts. Even video games have taken note, releasing to high praise games like Red Dead Redemption 2, which emphasizes narrative and story over action and quests.
As we strive to disciple the next generation, it’s tempting to believe abstract apologetics or moral arguments are enough to convince students to embrace Christianity. But more often than not, something else is needed. Thankfully God knew this as well, that’s why the Bible was given to us as a story, not an encyclopedia. “Storytelling is the most powerful way of putting ideas into the world.” Incredibly enough, God’s story isn’t simply one we read about, but one we participate in. Each day we’re invited to play our part in His ongoing story to redeem and renew all of creation.
9 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. “You manage things, you lead people. We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership.”
–Grace Hopper on how to be in charge of people. We also once saw a blog post (that’s either now lost or deleted) from a man who put a more biblical spin on the idea. He claimed that, in the Bible’s original languages, the words best translating to “manage” were only ever used in relation to animals. In regards to other humans, “disciple” was the more common word. The difference is subtle but very important. One conveys a sense of control and ownership, the other a sense of care, responsibility, and partnership. How would you define your relationship with your teens? Are you trying to manage their behaviors, to control who they become? Or are you discipling them, modeling for them how to live, teaching wisdom, but not forcing them?
2. You already know that smartphones are everywhere. These photographers have captured what that looks like in the 21st century, illuminating both the good and the bad of the smartphone’s ubiquity.
3. Vine, the looping video app that was shut down a few years ago, was an extremely popular medium for teens to do silly and ridiculous stunts in 6-second snippets. It’s still missed to this day by young people. But the day may soon be coming when its replacement, Byte, arrives. Now teens will “do it for the byte.”
4. We’ve covered social media influencers before, but there’s a new kind of influencer in town: the nanoinfluencers (nanos). You may have thought that your teen has a small following and therefore would never have to deal with the whole influencer scene. But that’s not the case. Marketers are now reaching out to people who have a small number of followers to promote products just like well-known celebrities. Why? Because when nanos promote a product, it feels more like a recommendation from a friend rather than an ad from a big-yet-distant social media star. What are your teens’ thoughts about and reactions to nanos? Is it a sneaky practice to trick people into thinking their friends actually use a certain product or is it smart marketing?
5. It’s a sad and disturbing truth, but those fighting against pornography availability (note: political views) for the general population in the U.S. has all but dwindled to a few small voices. It’s terrible, but that reality also allows us to change our approach. Pornography is available, and statistically teens are most likely to see it at some point. And most experts still agree that pornography is bad for young people: “When it comes to kids and porn…sociologists are generally and increasingly in agreement that we are facing a multifaceted crisis.” So with that in mind, rather than trying to completely shield our kids from pornography, we must take steps to help them defend themselves against it. Knowing how to recognize porn and how to say no to it may be more vital skills than trying to avoid it all together. (Also don’t give up hope on those small voices trying to sound the alarm on the dangers of pornography. They may be fighting against the current, but they are still fighting the new drug.)
6. A student received two threatening messages in her cubby at school because she’s Muslim. She is 10 years old. No 10-year-old should have to deal with that. Yet is it any surprise in our culture of fear and exclusion? It’s now more than ever that we need to model loving our neighbors for our teens. Because there are plenty of voices telling them that we need to be afraid of our neighbors, to keep our neighbors out, locked away. Our teens need us to help them learn how to practice the second greatest commandment and to help them learn who exactly is our neighbor. It is the Samaritan, the outsider, the less-thans, the outcasts.
7. If we may mention unmentionables, it’s overall good news that Victoria’s Secret is losing its stranglehold on the women’s underwear market. The company’s focus on hypersexualization no longer fits with the overall culture shift to body positivity and inclusiveness, leading to a tumble in sales as teens and women in general shift to brands like Aerie (which ran an ad campaign featuring non-models that had visible disabilities) that align better with the new ethos. Teens are definitely paying attention to what a company stands for and choosing what to buy based on that, which is also overall good news. One possible discussion question is which brand values are most important? Being visually inclusive, like Aerie, or being fairly and ethically produced, like Pact?
8. The FDA’s pressure on Juul seems to be having the intended effect. Juul will no longer be selling flavored juice in stores, and it’s also deleting most of its social media accounts, which were accused of marketing directly to teens. Flavored vape juice will only be sold on Juul’s website, and they’re implementing stronger age-verification techniques. It’s a big win overall for the health of teens, though we wonder, with a new group of hooked teens, will there be some serious withdrawal scenarios, or will these teens go straight to other sources to get their fix (cigarettes, weed, etc)?
9. One of our teams is heading to Malaysia this coming week, and they’re giving a new presentation that is fire. But unless you’re going to be in Malaysia, you won’t get to see it. So as a consolation, this article does a pretty good (i.e. not quite as fire) job of summarizing part of the presentation. How do we and our teens engage with culture? Do we join it? Or retreat from it? Or is there another way?
Keep the Faith!
The Axis Team
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