Monday, October 31, 2011

Educational Masochism. . . Kids Who Study Too Much. . . .

Never did anyone accuse me of spending too much time on my homework. Nobody. Not teachers. Not my parents. Not even me. To be honest, I put in more time during my middle and high school years plotting how to NOT have to study and still graduate, rather than working hard to do my best. My teachers all could have used the same rubber stamp ("Walter does not work up to his ability") and saved themselves some time commenting on my report cards.

Perhaps that's why all this talk about what's happening in South Korea is so foreign to my own experience. The work ethic woven in and through Korean youth culture is off the charts. A few months ago I had the opportunity to speak at a Christian Camping training event in the Midwest. During one session, a South Korean couple relayed just how different things were back home. One of the greatest threats to youth ministry, building relationships, and spiritual development was the growing obsession with academics. The wife even told us about how she had been hired to conduct late night tutoring sessions for children as young as elementary age. As I listened, I realized that some of today's South Korean kids were up studying at a time that - when I was their age - I had already been asleep in bed for four hours or more.

I caught a news story this morning that reports on how South Korean children score among the highest in the world on standardized reading and math tests. The price for their success is what has now been labeled "educational masochism" as they punish themselves by studying and overstudying in preparation for university admissions tests. The pressure is so great that private tutors and test-coaching-schools abound. The government is so concerned about what's happening that they've instituted and are enforcing a 10pm curfew on coaching school classes and tutoring sessions. Some of the schools have shuttered their windows to keep going. But there's now a six-man force in Seoul that conducts after-hours raids in an effort to enforce the curfew.

Of course, the article cites the great irony that exists when one compares American students to South Korean students. Over here, we want our students to study harder in order to be more like them. Over there, they want their students to study less to be more like us. Hmmm. I remember people trying to use those kind of motivational tactics with me: "Walter, why don't you study more like_______?" Could it be there there were high-achieving kids in my school who may have heard their parents say something like, "Why can't you be more mediocre like Walter?!?"

The story should serve as a warning and reminder for our need to strike a balance. On the one hand, we shouldn't be creating a culture of educational masochism that leaves our kids pushing harder, harder, and harder to the point of burn-out, self-destruction, and realizing self-serving goals. On the other hand, we need to be encouraging our kids to work to realize their full-potential as they study to the honor and glory of God.

I'm wondering. . . what trends are you seeing among the students you work with? Are they pushed? And if so, who's pushing them? How are you working to instill a balance and to teach them to pursue their academics Christianly?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Katy Perry, Pastors, and Youth Culture. . . .

On Tuesday I get to spend the day with a group of pastors. Evangelical Theological Seminary is holding their annual Fall Forum and I have the privilege of speaking on Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture. It's always my hope that God will use our ministry at CPYU to challenge pastors to engage the kids in the pew. The potential they have to pull that off is huge. When that potential is realized, it's an even bigger thing. I've seen it happen, and it's exciting to watch!

One of the strategies I use to engage pastors in thinking more deeply about youth culture is to show them an "artifact" from the youth culture. . . something contemporary that's gotten some traction with kids. On Tuesday, I'm going to show them the catchy video from Katy Perry, "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.). In the video, Perry plays the role of a nerdy little 13-year-old girl who goes through an overnight transformation. . . which is a whole lot like real-life adolescence. Talk about traction. . . the version of the video I've embedded below has over 125 million views. In addition, Perry has built a little cottage industry with a host of little video clips featuring her 13-year-old character talking about her life. Those videos have accumulated tens of millions more views.

After showing the video I'll ask some follow-up questions: How many of you have heard the song before? How many of you have seen the video? I won't expect too many hands to go up. Then I'll ask two more questions: As pastors, what do we do with that video? After viewing that video, what are the youth culture realities we need to address?

Many of the youth workers I know wish that their senior church leadership and pastors would not only know more about youth culture, but they would love to see them respond to youth culture realities by bringing the light of Gospel to bear on the realities that exist.

Here's your chance to help me out and to get a message across to the pastors I'll be with on Tuesday. Give the Katy Perry video a look. Then, fire off a comment with a list of the youth culture realities portrayed in the video that you would like to see the pastors acknowledge and address through their ministries. I'll let them know what you've come up with.

Friday, October 28, 2011

CPYU's Best Kept Secret. . . And It's Free! . . . .

OK. . . we've got a secret. . . and we wish it wasn't so. Our secret is one of the many outlets we use here at CPYU to get information and analysis out to parents, youth workers, pastors, and others who desire to stay up-to-date on today's youth culture. The secret is our daily one-minute radio spot, Youth Culture Today. I'm thinking about this resource because I'm just a few minutes away from going into our studio to record the next 30 spots.

You may be wondering, "What can you say about a youth culture trend in 60 seconds?!?" I wondered the same thing when we got this started several years ago. Perhaps the best way to give you an answer is to have you listen to a spot. Just go to the Youth Culture Today page on our website, choose a show/topic, and give it a minute of your time.

Maybe you can hear Youth Culture Today on a radio station near you. We're currently on over 800 stations across North America. But to make it even more convenient, you can listen to the show online. We post two week's worth at a time. You can even look at the bottom of the page and subscribe to Youth Culture Today as an RSS feed or through iTunes. It's easy.

To our Youth Worker friends. . . I want to invite you to email or post the link to the show every day so that the parents of your students can tune in. It's one more way we want to help you be a hero to your ministry parents.

If Youth Culture Today is still a secret for you, change that! And remember, our purpose for the daily one-minute show is to make sure that youth culture secrets are secrets no more!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

She Drank Herself to Death. . . .

Maybe you already saw the news this morning. Word is that Amy Winehouse - the singer who was found dead in her bed on July 23 - drank herself to death. The coroner reports that Winehouse had lethal amounts of alcohol in her blood. . . 5 times the British drunk driving limit to be exact. My newspaper said Winehouse died of "accidental alcohol poisoning." The coroner is also quoted as issuing a verdict of "death by misadventure."

I wrote about Winehouse and her music a few years ago. More recently, I wrote an article on Winehouse's death - "Learning from Pop Culture Life and Death" - for the current issue of Youthworker Journal.

After reading this morning's news, I couldn't help but continue to feel sorry for Winehouse's family, people who suffer with alcoholism, and for those who have to live in the wake of a loved one's addiction to alcohol. I grew up separated from it. As I've gotten older, alcoholism has continued to touch me as it has touched and destroyed the lives of so many people I know and love. That's one of the reasons I don't drink. I guess it's a way that I can shake my fist at an industry that has exploited so many in so many different ways. (By the way. . . I don't think that it's wrong for people to consume alcohol in moderation.)

As I pondered the Amy Winehouse story one more time this morning, I tried to imagine the scene of death. Then, I imagined that scene next to the tens of thousands of scenes the alcohol industry has thrown at me through marketing over the years. Many of those scenes have made me laugh. Some of the commercials are crafty and humorous. But then I look at the ads with the scene of Amy Winehouse's death occupying the space between me and the advertising. Or, I allow the people and their families that I know - people who have suffered for years with alcoholism - to stand between me and the ads. When you try to look through and around the pain, the suffering, the sadness, the heartache, and the grip. . . well. . . that's when I want to shake my fist at the alcohol industry again and yell "Liar! Liar!" I'm guessing most of us - especially our kids - don't see it that way. Statistics bear that out.

After reading about Amy Winehouse this morning, I decided on a lark to google "Budweiser Ads" on the Google Image page. I randomly chose Budweiser as a way to remind myself of how this stuff is marketed. Go ahead. . . give it a try. . . and then spend some time looking around. None of the ads show pain, heartache, or death. Instead, they show laughter, joy, and life. In reality, they show relief and redemption. In reality, they really don't deliver on those promises either. In reality, they deliver just the opposite in the long run.

Here are two of the ads. One old. One new. The old one is from the season we find ourselves in. Do they really tell the truth in what they say and what they depict? And, how could we use these ads to spark some healthy conversations with our kids?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Youth Worker and Sexual Integrity. . . .

Two weeks from today I get to introduce my friend Jason Soucinek to a group of people who will gather to receive a day of training we're calling "Life Up Close: How To Challenge Teens to Embrace Sexual Integrity." I've been thinking about what I might say to kick off the day. Two of the facts I know I'll tell the folks in the room are these: 1. We are all broken and our brokenness has not left our sexuality untouched, and 2. There's not one of us who hasn't had to battle sexual brokenness and compromised sexual integrity in our past, our present, or our future.

Yesterday, my buddy Doug Fields posted a guest blog from my buddy Marv Penner that addresses these realities. In this case, Marv was writing to youth workers. Marv titled his post "Crossing the Line: 8 Warning Signs of Inappropriate Relationships With Students." PLEASE read it.

Folks. . . let me be blunt. This may be the most pressing yet ignored issue in the world of youth ministry and the personal life of the youth worker. I remember how easy it felt to point condemning fingers at Ted Haggard 5 years ago. That finger-pointing came on the end of arms attached to people who erroneously believe that 1) I'm not broken. . . at least not in this way, and 2) I would never do that! If you believe either or both of those lies, you are one or two steps closer to making that one simple little decision that today might be the only thing that makes you and Ted Haggard any different. Like Marv, I know too many first-hand stories. . . and the book of stories seems to get longer and longer every week.

It's taken me years to admit my brokenness in this and other areas. Maybe it's due to growing up in a Christian culture where this kind of stuff was denied and/or covered up. But I know I'm not above any of it in thought, word, or deed. Today, I thank Marv and Doug for reminding me and everyone else about that reality.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pastor Beatle. . . Something To Think About. . . .

A few weeks ago I was chatting with my friend Steve Rabey when he made a very bold statement that I'm not sure I bought, but that I've been thinking about ever since. I have to be careful what I say. After all, Steve is the editor over at Youthworker Journal and I have to pass my regular culture column through him every two months.

So Steve tells me that he's just finished writing a piece on George Harrison. Then, he tells me that he believes that no other musician has addressed themes of spirituality with greater consistency and intent over the last fifty years than George Harrison. I wasn't able to disagree on the spot, although a flood of names started passing through my brain, each of them possible challengers to Steve's theory. I've been pondering the claim since then. To be honest, I wanted to agree. After all, nobody has influenced the shape of music since 1960 like the Beatles. . . collectively and individually. If you weren't around when the Beatles first showed up, you have no idea. Just ask your parents. Honestly, there's been nothing like them since. In a world bursting with musical choices, it's nice to be able to sit back and say "I remember," while hearing the influence of the Fab Four in just about everyone and everything musical these days. The 1960s were an amazing time in pop culture history.

After reading Steve's article - "How George Harrison Changed the Way We Believe" - I have to admit that Steve's bold statement was probably justified. In fact, Steve writes, "Harrison was the most explicitly and consistently theological rock star of the last half-century." Please give the article a read. Three things that Steve wrote really jumped out at me. . .

First, there was Harrison's interest in Eastern Spirituality and Hinduism opened the curtain for all of us to a world that we really didn't know existed. We were ushered into that world by Ravi Shankar and his Sitar. I remember how weird and abrupt it all seemed and sounded. . . like an old friend (The Beatles) had just gone through a complete makeover. Steve tells us that Harrison knew that drugs weren't enough to answer his yearnings. Thus, his journey to the east. Harrison was pop culture's "exhibit A" in the evidence locker that pointed to the Apostle Paul's universal "groans" of Romans 8. We were, indeed, made for God.

Second, there was Harrison's recognition of the disjointed hypocrisy in the American church. Sure, Harrison was looking for something more than his experience of the Catholicism of his youth. But his assessment holds true today. When he was in Bombay he said that "the difference over here is that their religion is every second and every minute of their lives." We don't only yearn for God. The relationship we yearn for with God is a fully integrated relationship that touches every nook and cranny of life. Sadly, Harrison might even be more accurate in his comparison today.

Finally, Steve's article reminded me of the sad day when I heard that the Beatles had broken up. It was early in the morning and I was standing at the bus stop waiting for the school bus to pick me up for another monotonous day at Huntingdon Junior High School. 8th grade to be exact. I can still remember Steve King walking quickly to our stop from his house. He was about 100 feet away from us when he asked us, "Did you guys hear about the Beatles?" Then, he broke the news. It was appropriate that this talented young drummer in a band fronted by his older brother was the one to break the news. After all, these two guys were the first in our neighborhood to emulate the Beatles in their haircuts and dress. The news he broke broke us. Turns out, there was nothing at all monotonous about that day. Steve Rabey's article mentions the last song the band ever recorded: "I Me Mine," a critique of narcissism written by Harrison that continues to describe a growing condition in our culture today, over forty years later.

So. . . thanks to Steve Rabey for his statement, his article, and for allowing George Harrison to say things that challenge me in my Christian faith once again.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kids, Condoms, and Crafting a Response. . . .

Recently the CDC released another in what seems like a never-ending stream of reports on kids and their sexual activity. Perhaps you saw an article on the report's findings that was published last week. After reading the article in our local paper, I asked CPYU Associate Staffer Jason Soucinek for his response. Jason runs Project Six19 and is working closely with our Sexual Integrity Initiative here at CPYU. He'll be coming to Central Pennsylvania to lead a one-day training event - Life Up Close - How to Challenge Teens to Embrace Sexual Integrity - on Tuesday, November 8.

Here's what Jason had to say about the CDC's latest findings:

Last week, the CDC released a new study, Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth which gives conflicting data. There seems to be a continued increase in the number of teens that are choosing to not have sex. However, there continues to be an increase in number of teens that contract STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) each year.

Teens already bear the burden of 50% of all new cases of STDs. Yet they only comprise 25% of the total population. Notably, the study points out, girls ages 15-19, have the highest rates of Chlamydia, a common STD. This is troubling since this statistic overlaps the time frame when most teens receive sex education instruction.

What makes the rise in STDs even more surprising is that this report shows that condom use among teens has increased since 2002. If condom use is increasing among teens, but STD rates continue to rise, teens may be taking sexual risks because they have been taught that condoms offer adequate protection from the physical consequences related to teen sex.

We live in an age of paradox. These statistics dramatically demonstrate this. On one hand we are seeing the rise of condom use. Which we might think would cause a downturn in STD contraction. However, as this report clearly shows, that is not happening.

For years, sex education has focused on the condom as the cure all for all physical consequences. But over and over again that is proven false. Condoms can be an effective barrier in the contraction of an STD and preventing pregnancy, but it is not the most effective. There are three things worth noting about a condom and its effectiveness. First, in order for the condom to have any impact it has to be used. As you are probably aware teens are not the best at being prepared “in the moment”. The CDC states that in order for a condom to be effective it has to be used correctly and consistently, which means every single time they have sex. Any guess how often a teen uses a condom correctly and consistently? Some studies suggest that it is as low as 3% and no study goes higher than 63%. Even at the highest mark, which I doubt are that high, teens are still potentially exposing themselves to STDs and pregnancy 37% of the time.
Second, even when a condom is used correctly and consistently you can still transmit and contract an STD. Viruses like genital herpes and HPV can grow in areas not covered by a condom. And once you get one of these STDs they don’t go away. You can treat the symptoms but you will always have the virus.

Finally, a condom will never protect a teen from the emotional, social and spiritual consequences related to early sexual activity. This seems to be the one thing we forget when talking about sex. Yet these are the consequences that are sinking this generation. Higher depression rates, lower academic achievement, growing number of students suffering from anxiety, increased dropout rates and less self esteem have all been linked to early sexual activity. In fact, in the last 10-15 years, many colleges have had to double and triple their counseling staff to deal with some of these issues, like depression and anxiety. And one of the first questions they are trained to ask is, “Have you been sexually active?”

That is why speaking honestly about the choice to wait to have sex is a powerful tool in seeing fewer teens contract an STD. Empowering teens with the knowledge to abstain can be life changing. But the message must do more than just focus on the physical. It must break down the barrier of language, going beyond don’t to the why, and create a movement of teens that are better equipped to discern the many messages they hear in the media.

Abstinence is the safest and healthiest choice a teen can make for their future. Better grades, higher academic achievement, more money earned over a lifetime are some of the many benefits a teen and young adult can experience by choosing to wait for sex in a lifetime committed relationship. . . marriage. We just need to be willing to share this reality in a way that causes teens to listen.

That is why Project Six19 is proud to partner with CPYU in the sexual integrity initiative. On November 8 we will be presenting our Life Up Close curriculum. This school-based curriculum has been developed as a resource for youth workers, parents, church leaders and educators. During this one-day seminar we will discuss the social science surrounding early sexual activity, the need for media literacy, and our responsibility to talk about starting over while encouraging those that have chosen to wait to continue in their journey are some of the many topics that will be covered. Please consider joining us!

If you'd like to join us on November 8, you can get more info and register here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Alice Cooper, Britney Spears, NPR. . . . Seriously?

My past came back to haunt me last night. . . almost literally. Big Tom Piotrowski (if you've been around CPYU for a few years you remember my 7-foot-tall former NBA-playing friend) texted me to ask if I had ever heard the Alice Cooper interview on NPR. Nope. . . can't say that I have. Nor can I say that I would even have imagined Terry Gross sitting down with the shock rocker from my own adolescent past. Tom's suggestion along with the weird combination (think my Grandma's Peanut Butter and Onion sandwiches) got me interested enough to tune in immediately. Big Tom was right. It was worth it.

The character known as Alice Cooper (real name Vincent Furnier)was hitting it big with his shock rock antics and first mega-hit single "School's Out" way back in 1972 at just about the same time I was walking away from my last day of 10th grade. His career was propelled into the realm of success thanks to the famous "chicken incident." You can learn more about Cooper, the chicken incident, and his shtick by listening to the interview.

What struck me most about what I heard was the story of how he created his character and the Alice Cooper shtick. In hindsight, Cooper's explanation makes full sense. But I was one of the people he refers to who just didn't get it. I was a kid who was drawn to his antics out of curiosity. After all, he was the first person to pull this kind of thing off. As he says in the interview, his "band drove a stake through the heart of the love generation." I'm not sure any of my friends and peers were getting it at the time either. Instead, this new kind of counter-cultural presence was a way for kids to spit on accepted values and conventions, including the Christian faith. Today, we all know that Cooper is a professing Christian. Adamant about his faith in fact. If you listen to the interview, you'll hear him say that Marilyn Manson took it way too far with the evil anti-God stuff. But back in the day I'm not sure Christians could have said anything but the same thing when it came to Cooper. Bottom line. . . when it was all happening, it seemed like he was serious. Consequently, I'm sure he did have some influence on people of my generation. . . and I recognize that his influence was much greater on some rather than others. Even today I continue to struggle with what seems to me to be a disconnect between Cooper's profession of faith and performance.

I don't think that it's coincidental that just before listening to the Cooper interview, my television told me about Britney Spears' envelope-stretching new video that's scheduled to break in a few days. Even today's New York Daily News reports that it's over-the-top: "Britney Spears' new music video for "Criminal" is guilty of being really racy. In it, she and real-life boyfriend Jason Trawick strip down to nothing and steam up the screen in bed and in a shower."

I know this stuff leaves a deep visual and lyrical impression on kids - it's life-shaping for young listeners. I watch and wonder how this mixes with the persona and message of the teenage girl Spears once was. . . a girl who was open about her Christian faith and background. I wonder if thirty years from now she'll be on NPR with Terry Gross, telling the world that it was all just an act.

The point here is that when we follow Jesus we are to follow with integrated and complete lives. I'm struggling to understand obviously divided selves that are going here, there, and everywhere. In the case of Cooper, I can now understand what he's saying and what he's doing. Still, I'm struggling to justify the connect between his faith and his art. In Spears' case, the disconnect is huge. In both cases, I'm convinced that if by chance it's all an act, the children of their respective times are doing more following of the act, than critique. If it's an act, they aren't getting it.

This all reminded me today of something I read over the weekend in Richard Mouw's great little book on Abraham Kuyper. Mouw quoted James Hutton MacKay - a turn-of-the-20th-century Scottish pastor who spent time ministering in Kuyper's native Holland. MacKay said this of Kuyper and the mental habits of the Dutch: "they like to see things clearly, and to see them as they are - at least as they seem to be men of sound understanding. 'We are people of dykes and dams,' a Dutch writer said recently, 'both as to our land and our mental life.' And Dr. Kuyper's often-quoted saying about the danger of 'blurring the boundary lines' is characteristically Dutch. . . . Much, I believe, can be learned from a people who have a remarkable gift of making distinctions, wrought into their nature, possibly, by many centuries of unrelaxing toil in making and holding that distinction between land and sea, which to them is a matter of life and death."

This is what our kids will be watching in a few days. I wonder if they'll be able to think Christianly enough to distinguish between land and sea?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Brandon Marshall's Challenge To The Church. . . .

Yep. . . sports can serve to teach us valuable lessons about life. That connect was made for me again yesterday when I happened to catch a sports radio broadcast of Travis Rodgers interviewing former Miami Dolphins' wide receiver Mark Clayton. Right out of the gate, Rodgers asked Clayton about the remarks current Dolphins' wide receiver Brandon Marshall had made in the days leading up to last night's showdown with the Jets. Marshall had said that he was going to play like a maniac. . . so maniacal in fact, that he was going to get himself thrown out of the game by the second quarter. Clayton pointed out that it was "the most idiotic thing I ever heard." Seems Marshall is dropping lots of passes, performing horribly, and just not getting the job done on the field. Still, he continues to talk, talk, and talk some more.

A little further on in the interview, Rodgers asked Clayton what he would say to Brandon Marshall if they were playing on the same team. Clayton was blunt. He would tell Marshall that we can do without the antics and "do your talkin' on the field."

I love that line. . . "do your talkin' on the field." Clayton's words reminded me of a couple of related needs we have in the church. There are times to speak and times to remain humbly quiet. The time to remain humbly quiet is when we are tempted to toot our own horns. The time to speak is when we humbly speak for the One we follow. The way we speak should be more non-verbal than verbal as we live our lives to His glory.

This was fresh on my mind yesterday as I had been following a series of linked blogs and posts from followers of Jesus. What struck me was the subtle and not-so-subtle boasting and self-promotion I was seeing in profiles and posts. I wonder if we don't even notice that we're doing this anymore. Our world is so totally self-absorbed that a little bit of self-absorption might seem relatively innocent. I realized that since we live in a world where it's easy to construct ourselves and created nuanced online personas - being anything and anyone we want - we need our flesh-and-blood real life relations to step up and say, "that's the most idiotic thing I've ever heard" when who we really are isn't what we present ourselves as. That's why we all need accountability. . . especially spouses who are willing to step up and say what we need to hear when arrogant self-absorption runs wild and we start to believe our own slanted press. This is especially true for those of us who live and move both online and in the world of youth ministry and ministry in general. Do we realize that if we have to tell others about our accomplishments, then chances are they wouldn't have noticed them otherwise? And if they wouldn't have noticed them otherwise, then maybe those accomplishments are more figments of our wishful imagination than they are real accomplishments?

As I follow Jesus in today's world, the world can do without my antics. I need to do my talkin' on the field. To my younger friends I would pass on this little bit of advice that I need to be reminded of all the time: Know your calling. Pursue it with a passion, with excellence, and with humility to the glory of God and God alone. Keep your mouth shut about any accomplishments or attention the Lord might grant. . . and keep your mind and body moving with passion, excellence, and humility.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How Do You "Look?" . . . .

"Worldview" . . . that's a word I used to have to define when I'd talk about it with youth workers and parents 15 years ago. I was finding that it was a relatively new and unfamiliar concept, term, and matter of discussion in the church at that time. Now, it's something familiar to us all thanks to good discussions about "Worldview." But I wonder if we need to rethink and maybe redefine the meaning we've given to the concept, term, and word.

I got to thinking about this over the weekend as I read Richard Mouw's amazing little book about one of my heroes of the faith, Abraham Kuyper. Ever hear of Kuyper? If not, he's someone you need to meet. I first heard about Mouw's book Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction - from Byron Borger, proprieter of the world's greatest book store, Hearts & Minds. (If you'd like to buy the book, it would be great if you would do so from Byron!).

I love Mouw's chapter on Kuyper and "World-Viewing" so much that I thought I'd pass on a little bit here. Mouw reminds readers that Kuyper's understanding and development of the concept of Worldview is all about how we, as Christians, are called to see things in new ways. We need to care about what God cares about, to rejoice in what makes God's heart glad, and to grieve about what saddens him. It's all about discernment. We need to learn how to do that ourselves and then we need to teach our kids how to do the same.

What I find especially helpful in Mouw's chapter on Worldview is how we say we have to "have" a Christian worldview. Mouw says we need to go beyond that understanding. We tend to talk and live like a worldview is something we possess rather than something we engage in and do. It's a subtle yet significant distinction. . . and it's a good one! Mouw says that instead of thinking about "having a worldview" we should be about the business of "engaging in worldviewing." Mouw writes, "It is something we do on a journey. . . . being a Christian worldviewer means allowing the Bible to shed light on the paths we walk."

Our task is clear. . . we are called to walk the path of life under the illumination of God's Word, shining the light of God's Word on every old and new reality we encounter along the way. I'm indebted to Abraham Kuyper for the concept of worldview. I'm indebted to Richard Mouw for a deeper understanding of world-viewing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Using Social Media in Youth Ministry. . . Some Guidelines. . .

Yesterday I promised to follow-up some personal social media use guidelines for youth workers with some parameters for use of social media and technology in youth ministry. Here's the deal. . . in our Digital Kids Initiative we are not looking at real specific strategies. In other words, our goal is not to provide alot of "how-to's." There are plenty of other people out there who can help you with that. In fact, we hope to set up a special spot on our Digital Kids Initiative Page where youth workers can share their great ideas with each other. What I want to do is provide some general guidelines and parameters that will help us use and address social media in God-honoring and redemptive ways, rather than in ways that are counter-productive (even when we may not know it) to the advance of God's Kingdom.

Here are five general practical ideas, guidelines and parameters. . .

1. Use technology and social media to enhance, not replace, real-world ministry and community. One of the very real dangers of all these emerging technologies and tools is that we will begin to employ and rely on them so much that our face-to-face ministry and relationships wane. . . even if only a little bit. Kids in today's culture all need more face-to-face and real-world relationship time. Physical presence is necessary for spiritual nurture. Technology and social media should serve to extend our real-world flesh and blood relationships with students. In addition, don't buy the lie that digital community is real community. Real community is lived out in close physical proximity with down and dirty vulnerability. Remember. . . technology can extend and enhance this kind of community, but it can never replace it. Doing life together virtually really isn't doing life together.

2. Use technology and social media to connect and communicate. Perhaps you've heard me say that in youth ministry eras past, the best way to get into the heart and soul of a student was to get into their bedroom and take a look at the walls. Not a very smart strategy these days. Yep, it's a different world. But the bedroom wall has extended in today's world onto the walls, photos, comments, links, profiles, and postings that fill their Facebook pages. Facebook offers a connection to who they are. Go there to learn more about their hopes, dreams, desires, struggles, and needs. And if what you find on their Facebook pages doesn't line up with what you know of them in the context of real community, well. . . then you've gained a deeper sense of who they are and how you can minister to them because they've just revealed their disconnected identities and selves. Social media also allows you to communicate with your group during the week. Use it to extend your reach by promoting events, sharing Scriptures, posting thoughts, and putting up thought-provoking quotes.

3. Use technology and social media to equip and inform parents. Social media must be employed to communicate and stay in touch with parents. If you're wondering what to pass on to parents on a regular basis. . . well. . . just check out our CPYU website for a treasure-chest of stuff to pass on. Provide them with links to news, articles, and reviews. Send them an article a week. Connect them to our daily Youth Culture Today radio show. Or, subscribe to our weekly Youth Culture e-Update and forward it on to your ministry parents. Parents love youth workers who keep them informed.

4. Teach kids to use technology and social media redemptively. This is discipleship, plain and simple. Warn them about how easy digital media can suck them in and become idolatrous. Teach them about the many dangers that lurk on the Digital Frontier. . . things like sexting, dumbing down, information overload, pornography, over-sharing, etc. We'll be talking more and more about more and more of these dangers in the coming weeks and months. Introduce our Digital Code of Conduct to parents and their kids. It's a tool that offers clear parameters to discuss and follow. In addition, walk them through the Scriptures, teaching them about what the following issues and topics have to say toabout how they live on the Digital Frontier: truth, authority, humility, spiritual maturity, wisdom, respect, creating culture, honesty, sexuality, integrity, discernment, self-control, etc. Be sure to discuss these topics in your one-on-one conversations and in your times with your youth group.

5. Help your students establish media parameters by establishing media parameters in your ministry. An 8th grade teacher who's been teaching for 16 years told me this about the effect of social media and technology on kids: "We've lost the art of written and spoken language, solving problems regarding differences in personalities, resolving conflict, and maintaining real, loyal, accountable relationships." That's not the kind of world we want to create or live in. Since they are increasingly tethered and almost always "on," your youth ministry needs to be a place where there are times where they turn it all off and put it aside. Teach them how to be close to others in physical proximity by honoring them and turning off your phone, your computer, and your tablet and then focus on those who are present. Establish and encourage them to practice a media sabbath - one day a week when they turn it off and put it aside. Give them opportunity and space to be silent (Remember those youth group "solos" that were so meaningful for so many of us?). Promote deep reading, contemplation, and quiet times to sit and mediate on God's Word. . . listening to hear Him speak. Or how about this. . . a 40-hour technology famine to raise money for a cause?

Any other parameters/ideas floating around out there?

Youthworkers and Social Media. . . Some Guidelines. . .

So we were asked a great question by our friend Kevin Vinay, a youth worker here in Pennsylvania. Kevin realizes that social media is here and here to stay. Knowing full well that anything in life can be abused or used correctly, he's struggling through the best ways to employ things like Facebook and Twitter in his life and ministry. Great question Kevin. . . and I hope that your struggle is shared by others. If not, trouble is ahead. Struggling through these issues is an important first step to the thoughtful reflection needed as a precursor to responsible use.

The way that I would answer your question has really been taking shape for me as I've been working on our Digital Kids Initiative here at CPYU. The seminars I've written and that I'm starting to present to youth workers and parents include what I trust is a balanced Christian response to life on the Digital Frontier, along with some helpful guidelines.

Before passing on some guidelines, let me give you a couple of realities to consider as you think about how you are going to use social media. The first is that you have a great responsibility to follow Jesus as you live on the Digital Frontier. In other words, you've got to realize that integrating your faith into your own choices is not an option. It's essential. Secondly, as someone charged to minister to kids, you need to train them to do the same. It's not just about seeing kids "get saved." It's teaching them how to be followers of Jesus in every area of life. For example, you want to train them in Godly use of text-messaging, Facebook, etc. Which leads to the third reality: how you choose to use this stuff is what speaks loudest to them about how they should use this stuff.

So. . . what about some guidelines? I'll save the ministry-use guidelines for tomorrow. For today, let me pass on some personal guidelines youth workers should embrace.

1. Realize that you are a broken person. As a result of our sinful natures, we're prone to using this stuff in the wrong way. We're not immune to sin, error, misjudgment, and habitual misuse of social media. In fact, I've found it helpful to constantly remind myself that I'm just one bad decision away from being a headline, from losing my job, from having to pay the consequences of poor judgment. That keeps me on my toes. Always endeavor to know God's will, and then seek to do the right thing.

2.Limit your tech/online/social media time. Were plugged in way too much. We're increasingly tethered. At the National Youth Workers convention a couple of weeks ago it seemed like everyone was walking around with their faces buried in their handhelds. I did it myself. Here's a great way to figure out if you're spending too much time with this stuff: ask your spouse, "Do I have a problem?"

3. Seek accountability. It's good to have friends who check in on you, tell you if you need to slow it down a little, and who can help you set and hold to parameters. Also, make sure your spouse or a trusted friend has all your passwords.

4. Realize that the whole world is watching. Anything you put out there is there for anyone and everyone to see . . . forever! You are creating a digital footprint.

5. Stop and think before posting, replying, sending, commenting. Proverbs 29:20 asks, "Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than him." Proverbs 10:19 reminds us, "When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." Before you post. . . or tweet. . . or whatever . . . ask yourself these questions: Does this matter? Is this useful to others? Does this promote and reflect Kingdom of God living? Does this promote reflect service to the kingdoms of the world, the flesh, and the devil? Does this glorify God? Or, does this glorify me? Come on. . . why am I doing this. . . really???? Take, for example, our growing obsession with Twitter. Your students - or anyone else for that matter! - don't need to know where you are and what you're doing. What they need to know is who you are because who you are is what models life for them. If you are someone obsessed with tweeting where you are and what you're doing, then who you are at its possible worst is a self-centered narcissist, and what you are modeling (perhaps unintentionally) at its very least is self-centered narcissism. . and is that really what we want to model for our kids?

6. Be yourself. The online world is a place where we can so easily present ourselves as we most want to be seen. The Internet lets us "photoshop" our personalities and identities. Just be yourself. . . vulnerable. . . real . . . authentic.

7. Realize that you are not a brand. Don't market and promote yourself as if you are.

8. Don't put your spouse and kids out there. I was a ministry kid. I have ministry kids. Don't assume that they'll like or embrace the limelight or that the limelight is good for them. There are folks in the youth ministry world who are forcing their families into the public spotlight ala my former neighbors, Jon and Kate. Let's be discerning, fair, and mature. We are posting too many pictures, videos, etc. and I always wonder "why?" The fallout won't be good. When they get older, we can ask their permission and include them if they'd like. But when they are young. . . don't force that on them.

9. Don't post or communicate anything you wouldn't be willing to say from the front of the church.

10. Watch your private one-on-one communication with members of the opposite sex. This includes your interactions with students, your leaders, and parents. One-time communication is fine, but extended and ongoing conversations. . . avoid them. It's like being alone with someone you shouldn't be alone with. I've seen and heard far too many stories about innocent communication that slowly (or quickly) turns into an emotional or physical affair.

11. Pursue digital maturity that reflects deep spiritual maturity.

12. Turn it off on a regular basis. Shut it down. Use the time to focus on others. Use the time to think deeply without distraction. Use the time to live deeply without having to be tethered.

Tomorrow. . . some guidelines on how to use this stuff "redemptively" in youth ministry.

And Kevin. . . for prompting today's post we're going to send you a copy of Tim Challies' great book on faith and technology, The Next Story.

Anyone else have any helpful guidelines to share? The person who posts what we judge to be the most helpful guideline will get a free copy of The Next Story as well!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Trending. . . Pornography. . .

One reality that keeps rearing it's ugly head as I complete research for our Digital Kids Initiative is the pervasive presence of pornography in today's world. It's a growing issue for men, women, and children. Way back in 1996, the U.S. Department of Justice issued this statement: "Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent (and obscene) material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions." That was 15 years ago. The Internet has grown. Access to computers has increased. And sadly, the online pornography industry has either kept or set the pace.

Statistics are hard to nail down. What we did know back in 2006 was this. . . every second there were 30,000 Internet users viewing pornography. Seems a bit low. There were 4.2 million pornographic websites, or 12% of all Internet content was pornographic. Again, sounds low. And every day, there were 68 million search engine requests for some type of pornography. Probably a bit low compared to what will happen today. Experts say that pornography addiction is driven by three factors: it is accessible, it is anonymous, and it is affordable. Sadly, the average age of first exposure to pornography is 11. I'm guessing that as the years advance, that number will go down.

A youth worker friend recently told me that he no longer looks at his middle school boys and asks them if they are struggling with pornography. Rather, he looks at them and tells them that he KNOWS they are struggling with pornography. Never has a kid challenged his assumption.

As I've continued on in my work in the area of youth culture and digital kids, I'm increasingly convinced that 1) this problem is only increasing, and 2) we need to be aggressive and proactive in shaping responses that are prophetic, preventive, and redemptive. The immediate and long-term fallout is going to be beyond anything we can dream or imagine.

If you are a youth worker, parent, pastor, teacher. . . or just someone who realizes how vulnerable both you and the kids you know are to this stuff, let me point you to three of the best resources I know. Consider this a starting point. . .

First, I want to encourage you to visit, bookmark, and favorite the website for HarvestUSA. Please check out the HarvestUSA website now. There are some great resources for you to access, use, and pass on.

Second, I want to recommend with urgency that you pick up a copy of Tim Chester's book, Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free. We are so excited about this book that it is our featured resource this month at CPYU. If you choose to secure your copy through us, you will be supporting our ministry.

And third, I want to invite any of you who live in our Central PA neighborhood to join us on November 8 for a one-day training seminar for youth workers, pastors, parents, and pregnancy center workers: "Life Up Close - How To Challenge Teens to Embrace Sexual Integrity." During the day, Jason Soucinek will train you in how to talk to children and teens about sexuality. You can learn more and register here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

10 Days Without. . . .

Daniel Day works for Axis, a ministry committed to moving students from apathy to action. Sounds like a mission we should all embrace. I love the mission, the concept, and what Daniel has chosen to do personally for the cause. Daniel has embarked on a journey of "doing without" for 10-day periods. So far, he's spent 10 days without shoes and 10 days without furniture. He's going to spend 10 days without legs. Right now, he's in the middle of spending 10 days without media. I learned about his unique mission because he's highlighting what we do here at CPYU in regards to media as he does without. I love it.

I want to encourage you to do a couple of things in response to Daniel and his journey. First, I want to encourage you to follow him as he does without. He's got a blog going that you need to check out. Second, tell your students about what Daniel's up to and encourage them to not only follow him on his blog, but to consider doing without something that would be personally significant. Third, pray for the ministry of Axis and consider having them plug into your group at an event or weekend. To learn more, check out their video here. Finally, consider going out of your way to teach your kids to interact with media Christianly and biblically. We've got loads of resources here at CPYU to help you with that task.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dear Gareth. . . Thoughts On Your Thoughts About My Thoughts On Steve Jobs. . .

If there's one thing I realized yesterday after posting on the reaction to Steve Jobs' death, it's that Steve Jobs was a lot more important to people than I ever knew or imagined. This morning Gareth commented on my blog post about Jobs. You can read Gareth's comment in the comment section beneath yesterday's blog. I very much appreciate Gareth and his comment and thought that it deserved more than a passing nod or short response from me in the comment section. So, here goes. . . some thoughts for Gareth. . .

Dear Gareth,

Thanks so much for your response to my blog post about our collective reaction to Steve Jobs' death. Thanks for admitting you found it annoying. I'm used to that actually! No problem. Regarding offending me. . . you didn't. I appreciate not only your honesty and candidness, but your willingness to speak up. I know you're new to my blog and most likely to the ministry I'm involved with at CPYU. I would encourage you to dig deep into the blog and our website to get a feel for who we are and what we do. I hope you'll find that our work is thoughtful and biblically faithful. In a nutshell, we want to know the times. It's always my hope that as Christians we are thinking about things that need to be thought about in ways that we so often overlook.

Regarding the timing of my post. . . I would disagree. My post was prompted by the collective response I was seeing to Jobs' death. I agree. . . he was an amazingly creative guy who has given us many great tools. Frankly, he imaged God through his creativity. . . something we must celebrate. You can't read the first three chapters of Genesis today without thinking of the image of God as it burst forth in Jobs' incredible abilities. Still, my point in the blog is that we might be a bit imbalanced in who and what we value in the church. Please read the blog again. The time to respond to that imbalance is when you see it rather than down the road.

These matters are fresh in my mind as I've just completed about 5 months of concentrated research for our Digital Kids Initiative at CPYU. . . an effort on our part to think Christianly about technology. You and I would agree that technology can be used in a variety of ways - for good or for bad. Last weekend I presented my first Digital Kids seminar at the National Youth Workers Convention and I wish you would have been there to hear first-hand how I'm processing and thinking about these things. I mentioned Albert Wolter's book Creation Regained and his whole notion of structure and direction. Wolters has done a great job of unpacking what you and I both know to be true. . . that we can use things like the structure of technology in a direction that brings honor and glory to the Kingdom of God, and in a way that can bring honor and glory to the Kingdom of the world, the flesh, and the devil. As leaders of kids, we need to know this reality exists, and then endeavor to move it all in the right direction. You cite leading worship and your use of technology. Nothing wrong with that at all. But we do need to avoid our tendency to integrate technology without first thinking about how our use of technology will shape and influence kids. For example, I think it's possible to use technology in worship in such a way that we actually discourage worship of God, while encouraging and fostering worship of worship and worship of the technological tools. I often ask youth workers this question: "If the power grid went down, would your students be able to worship?" In the end, Jobs' tools have been used to bring people closer to Jesus. But is it possible, probable, or even a fact that his tools have pushed people away from Jesus as well? Yes, that's happening all around us, which makes the desire you and I share to use these tools to the glory of God and for the expansion of His will and way a task that we must embark on thoughtfully and consciously. Make sense? You've mentioned some of those ways and there are lots more. But we still need to be careful.

In my seminar I also spoke about the concept of "media ecology" (Neil Postman) and Marshall McCluhan's great work on how media works us over without us even knowing it. History shows that both those guys were dead-on in these matters. For Postman, the introduction of the cell phone changes everything in the landscape in some way. . . even if it's subtle and difficult to see. Think about how the handheld device has both enhanced your ability to be in touch with your students 24/7. But think as well about how those same handheld devices have interrupted family communication in the home as kids are tethered to their friends, physically present with their parents, yet relationally cut off from parents in the midst of that physical presence. Make sense? And that's just the tip of the iceberg! Here's another thought. . . have you been in youth ministry long enough to see the growing inability of kids to sit comfortably in silence to listen to God?

Gareth. . . again, I want to commend you for thinking about these things. Can I challenge you to go a step further and think with me some more? If so, here's the challenge.

First, I want to ask you to read a wonderful book that's been very helpful to me in these matters. Tim Challies has written The Next Story and I would like to give you a copy. . . a brand new copy in fact. The only catch is this. I would simply ask you to give it a read and then engage in some conversation with me about the book. Deal? Get me your email address and we can arrange for me to get the book to you right away.

Second, I want to ask you to give another blog post that a friend just pointed me to this morning a look. It's a post from James Emery White about Jobs' influence and death. I learned some things about Jobs' that I didn't know before. It's a thoughtful post that models deep Christian analysis of culture. White's post is titled "A Most Curious Hero." This blog post will shake up anyone who reads it.

Finally, if you happen to be in Atlanta next month for the next National Youth Workers Convention, I would encourage to come to my Digital Kids seminar where I'll be unpacking this stuff a little more deeply than I can here.

Gareth, thanks again for your comment. No offense taken and it's fine for you to be annoyed. In fact, it was being a bit annoyed along with being deeply concerned that prompted my blog response to the reaction to Jobs' death.

Blessing and thanks,


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thoughts On Steve Jobs And Our Reaction To His Death. . . .

Last night while watching my beloved Phillies fizzle out, the Twitter-verse was going crazy with word that Steve Jobs had died. So massive and fast was the spreading of the news, that I wouldn't have been surprised if my Blackberry had blown up right there in my hand. I couldn't help but think about how much the world has changed in terms of information available, information shared, and information speed thanks to visionary and extremely gifted folks like Steve Jobs. In years past, news like this wasn't available until the next morning if - in fact - the AP or UPI had chosen to pick it up. What's normal speed to our young digital natives is still astounding to guys like me if we stop, remember, and think about it.

Any time someone we know or are familiar with dies, there is a gnawing inside of us. We somehow know that this is wrong, sad, and not the way it's supposed to be. Even the widespread tweets and Facebook posts that stated simply, R.I.P. Steve Jobs, point to our yearning for the universal flourishing void of disease and death that once existed and was known as "Shalom" . . . which is the peace so many want Steve Jobs to rest in. I'm not a Mac guy nor do I own an iPhone or iPod. My computer is a PC. My handheld is a Blackberry. My mp3 player is a seven-year-old Creative Zen. They all work fine for me and I've worked hard to not get sucked into the vortex of technology that leaves me desiring the latest and greatest in ways that waste my time and money. I know that's left me fairly "uncool" in some people's eyes, which I think says more about our culture than it does about me. Still, I don't think I'd be able to do what I'm doing in the way that I'm doing it if it hadn't been for the vision, creativity, and work of guys like Steve Jobs. That said, the outpouring in reaction to his death had me tossing and turning a bit overnight.

Most of the reaction I was following came from the world of youth ministry. That's where I've lived for the last 30-some years. Naturally, the tweets I saw came from all over the youth ministry world. I was seriously blown away by how widespread the response was. I saw it on Facebook too. I can't ever remember a more immediate and widespread response to the death of anyone. Granted, if all this stuff had existed when Mike Yaconelli died several years ago, I wouldn't have heard about it several hours after the fact through a phone call from my friends at Youth Specialties. This left me pondering not so much what Steve Jobs meant to people in my youth ministry world, but how much we've come to love and depend on the technology guys like Jobs created. Several weeks ago the church lost John Stott - a great theologian who has done more to directly and indirectly shape the faith of our youth ministry world than maybe any other theologian of the last 50 years. Judging from the traffic - or lack thereof - on Twitter and Facebook, Stott's passing was a small blip. . . especially when compared to the passing of Jobs. So I'm asking and wondering. . . do our reactions to both indicate what's more important to us in the church. . . technology/tools or the content of our message?

Some words from Marshall McCluhan are fresh on my mind as I've been looking at his 50 year-old "prophecies" on media and technology and what they do to us without us even knowing it. Consider these quotes from McCluhan that I shared with youth workers in San Diego last weekend in my Digital Kids seminar:

“Societies have been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.”

“All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered. The medium is the message.”

“We shape our tools and afterward our tools shape us.”

Steve Jobs' death is sad, very sad. But I'm wondering if there's something even more heartbreaking about our response to it and what it says about us. AP writer Pamela Simpson's piece this morning included these words: "Fans for whom the Apple brand became a near-religion grasped for comparisons to history's great innovators, as well as its celebrities, to honor the man they credit with putting 1,000 songs and the Internet in their pockets."

Have we been lulled into worshipping the tools and their makers? Thoughts?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pop Music and Sex. . . The Science Says 92% . . .

So here's an interesting story on an interesting study that counted and catalogued some interesting stuff. According to a study written up by Dawn R. Hobbs for Evolutionary Psychology, 92% of the 174 songs that made it into the Billboard Top 10 in 2009 contained "reproductive messages." I'm not surprised. I'm thinking about this today as I'm just a few minutes away from a phone call with a news reporter who wants to interview me about Lady Gaga and her influence on kids.

Should we be concerned? Sure. Remember, the great tasks of adolescence are identity formation and worldview construction. Both of those tasks result in life-long beliefs, commitments, and behaviors. This also has me thinking about our upcoming "Life Up Close" seminar that's designed to teach us how to present the "Do's" about sex rather than just the "Don'ts."

A few years ago I gave a little quiz to youth workers and parents during some youth culture seminars. I'd play a song and ask them if it was one they wanted their kids to hear. Most of the songs I played were more than familiar to kids at the time. Each one of these chart-toppers would have fallen in 2009's 92%. As expected, the response was overwhelmingly negative. But then I would always slip in a track called "Love Cocoon" from Bill Mallonee and the Vigilantes of Love. I'd ask for a response again. This time, about 50% of the hands went up in favor of basically banning the song. . . . something, by the way, which many Christian book stores decided to do when they kept the band's album off the shelves. The other 50% answered in the affirmative, saying they wanted their kids to hear the song's message. And so they should! It's said that Mallonee would often intro the song from stage by holding up his wedding-ring clad left-hand then saying, "This one's for anyone out there who has a license to do it." I'd tell people that in my seminars and a debate would ensue. I would often suggest that to be consistent, we should rip the Song of Solomon out of our Bibles or at the very least, ban the Bible from Christian book stores. Of course, that was all to make a point.

The point today? Singing about sexuality is not necessarily a bad thing as long as we're preparing kids for a lifetime of celebrating marital intimacy in all of its wonder and glory. So, maybe you'll want to play this little Vigilantes of Love song for your kids to let them know that there's something out there worth listening to that puts what the other 92% is singing about in its most wonderful context.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I Married The Wrong Person. . . .

Earlier today I was finishing a run-through of the September issue of Christianity Today magazine when I ran across a little interview with Glenn Stanton on "The Science of Shacking Up." Stanton's the author of The Ring Makes All The Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage, a book that focuses on the scientific evidence about the dangers and downfalls of cohabitation.

The last question interviewer Caryn Rivandeneira asks Stanton is this: "What would you say to a those who believe cohabitation can help people marry the 'right person'?" OK. . . now you've really got my attention as I hear this argument all the time. Stanton begins his answer with a great little quote from Christian ethicist Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University. That little quote is from an article Hauerwas penned in 1978 in which he refers to his own law. . . known now as Hauerwas's Law. . . which is this: "You always marry the wrong person." Stanton goes on to explain that Hauerwas's Law is so important to grasp and the sooner young couples can understand that, the better off they'll be. Young couples typically protest by asking, "You mean you don't want us to be soul mates?" Hauerwas knew that nobody marries their soul mate. Rather, you become soul mates as you live together and love each other over the course of your married life.

Here's Hauerwas's Law in its original context from that 1978 article: "Most of the literature that attempts to instruct us about getting along in marriage fails to face up to a fact so clearly true that I have dared to call it Hauerwas’s Law: You always marry the wrong person. It is as important to note, of course, as Herbert Richardson pointed out to me, that the reverse of the law is also true: namely, that you also always marry the right person. The point of the law is to suggest the inadequacy of the current assumption that the success or failure of a marriage can be determined by marrying the "right person." Even if you have married the "right person," there is no guarantee that he or she will remain such, for people have a disturbing tendency to change. Indeed, it seems that many so-called "happy marriages" are such because of the partners’ efforts to preserve "love" by preventing either from changing. This law is meant not only to challenge current romantic assumptions but to point out that marriage is a more basic reality than the interpersonal relations which may or may not characterize a particular marriage. Indeed, the demand that those in a marriage love one another requires that marriage have a basis other than the love itself. For it is only on such a basis that we can have any idea of how we should love."

So. . . even though I married the wrong person, I know that today I am married to the right person. . . a reality that will be even more true tomorrow.