Vol. 5 Issue 6 | February 8, 2019

Three Things This Week

1. Papal Confession

What it is: On Tuesday, Pope Francis finally acknowledged the global sexual abuse crisis that has haunted the Roman Catholic church for decades. Unfortunately, Protestants are equally culpable.

Why it’s fixable: The Pontiff admitted the root cause lies in the church’s propensity to see women as “second-class citizens,” not holding equal status with men as divine image-bearers. Thankfully Jesus reversed this patriarchal mindset, but we’ve had a hard time following His example. The sheer safety, not to mention the spiritual and human development of our daughters may never find complete maturation “in an environment that never seeks her opinions, her interpretations, her insights, and her experience of God. Whatever ministry she was born to perform never comes to light, is lost to the church, dies on the vines that were never cultivated.” How can you germinate an environment in your church (and home) where your daughter’s talents, ideas, and leadership are celebrated as a Judith, Joanna, or Junia, instead of dismissed as a Jezebel?

2. Spill the Tea

What it is: Private social media accounts dedicated to “spilling the tea” (spreading gossip) among students are starting to crop up at schools, even Christian ones.

Why it’s not harmless:Tea” has been around as slang for gossip for quite awhile, in phrases like “spill the tea” or “sips tea.” And gossip itself is nothing new, it just changes forms over time: rumor spreading, faking harmful images, burn books, etc. Sometimes, teenagers can be ingenious in their quests for revenge or harm. So at their core, these accounts are just a modern way to publicly smear others. Regardless of the term we use, it’s still bullying. Ask your kids if their school has a “tea” account. Do they follow it? Why or why not? Have they or their friends ever been hurt by the account? Do they know of other schools that have one? Our Bullying Conversation Kit and Parent Guide can help you continue the conversation.

3. Tax Day

What it is: Teenagers are often blissfully ignorant of the stress April 15 can bring…and it can be much to their detriment.

Why it’s an opportunity: Many Millennials (~22- to 37-years-old) complained of being unprepared for the real world and “adulting,” unsure of how things like credit card debt, taxes, and IRAs worked. It makes sense: Few schools, if any, offer classes in everyday things like time management, budgeting, or even car maintenance. So as tax day approaches, why not use this time to begin teaching your teenagers that coming of age doesn’t always mean they get to “do what they want”; often it means doing what is required. Most of Gen Z has yet to enter college or even the job market, so we have a great opportunity to give them the tools they need to thrive as adults and not repeat the mistakes of generations past.

Parent Guide Spotlight: What makes “shoot,” “freaking,” and “af” better than their explicit counterparts? Ever wondered? If profanity is so bad, why doesn’t the Bible ban specific words? When we get mad can we say whatever we want? Or should we never even say things like ‘shoot’?” Our brand new Parent’s Guide to Profanity asks all these questions, offering insight into a God-honoring way to regard the words that come out of our mouths (and nowadays, fingers).

Selfie Harm

A recent study of nearly 25,000 people found today’s youth are more perfectionist than ever in their desire for flawlessness. This juvenile pursuit of perfection is leading to higher rates of neurosis and an increase in self-loathing among teens. It’s something renowned British photographer Rankin tapped into recently on Instagram.

In a series of photos, he photographed teenagers, then handed them their images to edit and filter until each felt their picture was “social media ready.” After examining their photos, Rankin noticed the students were “mimicking their idols, making their eyes bigger, their nose smaller, and their skin brighter.” He hopes the series will call out the “damaging effects that social media has on people’s self-image” as we retouch and photoshop the smallest minutia of our appearance until it’s “perfect.”

As much as we should know better, most of us are haunted by the delusion of physical perfectibility. “We may not know what it means to be perfect, but we are secretly grieved because we are far from it.” Incredibly enough it was our very imperfect skin that Jesus took on when the Word became flesh. Isaiah tells us He had “nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” Was Jesus overweight or maybe bald? Is it possible in our high Christology to perceive the historical Jesus as someone who was far from physically “perfect”? Yet the central mystery of the incarnation is that God chose to work in and through our fallen humanity to dignify and redeem us—meaning we can forever cease the endless pursuit of external perfection. Because of Christ, we are no longer broken vessels but “noble creatures.” And like the students in Rankin’s experiment who ultimately preferred their unedited photos over the modified ones, may we ultimately choose to accept the inherent worthiness of our own humanity by believing that through God’s grace it is possible to “be perfect” as God our Father is perfect.

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:

“It is my growing conviction that my life belongs to others just as much as it belongs to myself, and that what is experienced as most unique often proves to be most solidly embedded in the common condition of being human.”

Henri J. M. Nouwen,Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life

Technology

Devices

1. New emojis will be hitting our devices in the near future. The emoji language continues to reflect our priorities, and 2019’s list of new symbols will be no different. Inclusivity continues to be the big trend, and symbols to denote wheelchair users, deaf, and blind individuals will be added to the text-picture arsenal. Also, finally, there will be waffles.

Apps/Websites

2. You probably already know that Facebook is declining in popularity amongst teens. New data from the Pew Research Center shows us that while almost all teens still have a Facebook, usage of the once-indomitable platform has flagged by up to 20% in the 13- to 17-year-old demographic. YouTube is now the app that teens are most likely to say they use the most. While none of this data is surprising if you’re monitoring your teen’s social media habits, it’s interesting (to say the least) to note that the teenage herd is moving swiftly toward platforms that hinge less on their input and digital footprint and more toward information they can passively consume, like YouTube videos.

Other

3. Stanford University has become known as a direct pipeline for undergrads who are looking to become employees of Silicon Valley tech giants. That’s why they’re trying to become the center of debates and information on the ethics of developing technologies. Of course, it’s hard to drive a conversation about morality and tech when the moral center is a moving target. While the undergrads are quoting Spider-Man (seriously) to define why tech ethics might be important, it’s possible that a conversation with your teen could spur an interest in what is sure to be an expanding, complicated field of study.

Pop Culture

Trending/Memes

4. Nancy Pelosi had quite a week on social media. First, it was revealed that her “favorite,” oft-quoted “Bible verse” might be a biblical sentiment, but it’s not in the Bible. The professing Catholic says she keeps reading the Bible and looking for it, but she can’t find it. No matter because she’s moving forward as though it is.

Then, at the SOTU on Tuesday, Pelosi became the Internet’s meme-du-jour when she “applauded” President Trump with arched eyebrows and a condescending clap reminiscent of The Baby Shark dance. Regardless of our politics or how meme-able it was, condescension is not really a good look. When leaders are applauded for their contempt of other leaders, it’s an opportunity to talk to your teen about what it really means to stand up for what you believe in for righteous reasons and in righteous ways.

Sexuality/Gender

5. Newlyweds Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin landed a Vogue cover story and a photoshoot with the legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz, and a lot of people are talking about it. The married couple revealed that they decided to remain celibate during their whirlwind romance last summer. Bieber admitted that sex had been a problem for him in the past and told Vogue that he sees Hailey’s partnership as a “reward” for his improved behavior. While that claim is… dubious, there are also positive messages about marriage, faith, self-improvement, and commitment in the couple’s interview.

Teen Culture

Latest Statistics

6. Will your teen be opting out of Valentine’s Day this year, either by participating in a “Galentine’s Day” or similar friendship celebration, or by boycotting altogether? The decline in “Day of Love” participation will continue this year, according to estimates by the National Retail Federation. Not that Americans will spend any less on the holiday; that same survey projected a 5% increase in Valentine’s Day spending. If your teen is inclined to drop some cash on a girlfriend or boyfriend, it might not indicate that they’re taking the relationship super seriously as much as that they’re excited (or feel pressured) to participate in a “romantic” adult ritual (do it for the ‘Gram!). And a teen that outright declares Valentine’s Day to be a consumerist scam? Well, he or she is actually right on trend.

Media/News

7. In 2014, Michelle Carter enthusiastically and unceasingly encouraged her boyfriend to go through with killing himself. Tragically, he succeeded, and Carter has been trying to avoid jail time ever since. Now her state’s supreme court has ruled against her appeal. When this story first made headlines, some legal analysts (and Carter’s lawyers) believed that the appeal would be successful. But in the time since she was first found guilty, our understanding of how cyberbullying works—and how widespread it is—has expanded. It’s important to keep talking to our kids about what forms bullying can take so they can seek help when they’re the victim and also understand if they’re the aggressor. Consider our Parent Guide to (Cyber)Bullying for more tips on how to talk to your teen about this topic.

Theology

Parenting

8. If you’re frustrated and confused by the seemingly endless list of things you should be able to provide for your child but can’t, you’re not alone. “Intensive parenting” is now the norm in the US. A host of sociologists have suggested economics, the surveillance state, and societal pressure as reasons why parents hold themselves to a higher (read: more impossible) standard than ever. What we’re finding out is that what parents think they should do doesn’t differ much between working-class and wealthier-class individuals. But what parents are able to do is vastly limited by financial and societal class structure. Ironically, “good” parenting really hinges on your kids witnessing grace. That includes them witnessing you giving grace to yourself when you’re simply not able to be involved in every single second of your child’s life.

Going Deeper

9. An explainer in Vox details what they call “the rise of the cool Christian celebrity.” This article isn’t all that different from other pieces from big outlets curious as to what could possibly lead a person of money and influence to be drawn to the stability that faith offers. What remains notable might be Big Media’s fixation on explaining the flaws in a celebrity’s (or anyone’s) statements of faith.

Writer Laura Turner (a pastor’s daughter herself) muses, “But what about the celebrities who are part of this narrative? Do Pratt, Bieber, and Baldwin belong to Bible studies? Are they ushered in and out of services by an entourage? What do they find appealing about being there?” Questions like hers are great conversation starters to talk about what makes a faith genuine and real.

 

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

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