A chant from my childhood that was enlisted to harass others offers a reflection of some once widely accepted and recently lost foundational truths. When budding young “love” would “bite” one of our peers - disrupting our belief that the opposite sex was “cootie-infested” and thereby threaten the divide between us boys and “those girls” - we’d join our high-pitched pre-pubescent male voices in unison to mock our friend’s compromise: “Todd and Stacey sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes marriage. . . then comes baby in the baby carriage.”
I know. . . highly childish and immature in practice. But those words captured an order that we understood and accepted as the way things were supposed to be. . . an order we knew was right even if we made the choice to stray before we walked down the aisle ourselves. I wonder what we would be chanting in today’s world, where confusion regarding love, sex, and marriage reigns among young and old alike?
I’ve been thinking about marriage a lot lately. Earlier this year, Lisa and I celebrated 30 years since we tied the knot. In just 10 days, I will – for the first time - walk a daughter down the aisle. The cultural realities of her world are markedly different from the cultural realities of my childhood. These new emerging cultural realities have shaped her generation’s understanding of love, sex, and marriage in ways that we must understand if we hope to lead the students entrusted to our care into convictions and practices that reflect the guidance of the Word rather than the confusion that reigns in the world. Sure, there was plenty of misunderstanding and brokenness on these matters when I participated with friends in the mocking chants of our childhood. And the world was fairly confused when Lisa and I walked down the aisle in 1982. But it’s a safe bet to conclude that fewer and fewer young people are growing up with healthy models or convictions that reflect biblical priorities. What God has established, humankind has in many ways put asunder.
When you lift the lid on the “soup-pot” of today’s youth culture, you see a perfect storm of ingredients that have served to change our views on marriage. Imagine what it’s like to spend your most impressionable formative years “swimming” in this stuff that so powerfully shapes how you will view and practice marriage. . . now and for the rest of your life. If you are an older youth worker who grew up when I did, you can’t assume that your students have any notion or idea about the way things are supposed to be when it comes to marriage. They didn’t grow up in our world. And if you’re a younger youth worker, chances are that just like your students, you came of age swimming in a cultural soup full of confusion.
One way to start conversations with students is to discuss cultural icons that depict our current cultural views on marriage. Advertisements offer clear views into our culture's attitudes. I've often used some of the print ads from jewelry chain Simon G. I've included a couple of Simon G's ads in this blog to get you started.
Stay tuned. . . in part 2 we'll look at some of the current cultural forces that are shaping our kids' views on love, sex and marriage.