Wednesday, October 31, 2012

As Cultures Clash. . . . Lessons From Sandy, Part 1. . .

While we've fared fairly well here in Central Pennsylvania, the fury that history will remember as "Hurricane Sandy" did a real number on the East Coast. . . particularly along the shoreline. Our beloved "Jersey Shore" got hammered. The photos of familiar places that no longer look at all familiar are difficult to view. I can't even begin to imagine what it's like for the people who live there.

The news reports have brought back memories of a childhood trip to Long Beach Island in the summer months after a particularly strong hurricane. I remember the spooky sight of seeing a house that had been lifted off its foundation sitting in the middle of the bay. That wasn't the way it was supposed to be. It's seared into my memory.

Not the way it's supposed to be. . . That's a good descriptor for much of what's happening in today's youth culture. It's changing and changing fast. The perfect storm of a variety of emerging trends is coming together to change the landscape in big ways. Several months ago, I was speaking to a group of parents, youth workers, pastors, and educators in the Midwest about today’s rapidly changing youth culture. During the morning break, a man approached me to say “thanks.” “My wife and I have both been teaching in the local public school district for over 30 years,” he said. “What you’re telling us today about youth culture is so true. What everyone in this room needs to know is that the high school student I’m teaching today, is nothing at all like the high school student I was teaching five years ago. Everything has changed.” Really? Yep. His words are true.

Of course, some things have remained the same for a long, long time. Whether your age warrants the label “Boomer,” “Buster,” or “Millennial,” growing up has always had its difficulties. If you grew up committed to pursuing your faith, there were extra challenges. But life for kids living in today’s world is markedly different.

Today’s kids face an unprecedented mix of problems, challenges, choices, pressures, and expectations. Add to that a phenomenon known as “age-compression” and you realize that the stuff we struggled to navigate when we were teens has not only been amped up in terms of intensity, but it’s hitting kids at younger and younger ages. What I had to deal with when I was old enough to drive, today’s kids are dealing with while still young enough and small enough to be strapped into a car seat.

Take, for example, issues related to body image. As a teenager, I spent more time than I wanted to looking at myself in the mirror, all the time wondering if the changes taking place in my appearance were going to end at a place that would make me desirable to others and comfortable in my own skin. In today’s world, our kids are marketed to from birth in a manner that nurtures them into being acutely dissatisfied with themselves so that they’ll willingly spend money on clothing, make-up, and other products promising to leave them looking older and more desirable. Sadly, the thousands of ads targeting kids hit parents as well, creating a situation where we cave and add to the pressure our children already feel. Maybe that’s why we live in a world where five-year-olds fuss over what they look like. It should come as no surprise that disordered eating has hit epidemic proportions in the teen population, with healthcare professionals now seeing incidence rise among the Tween population. . . both girls and boys.

A rapidly changing youth culture has combined with age compression to create a situation where the uncomfortable stuff that we had to address with our students in youth ministry, is now the even-more-uncomfortable stuff that we must address with children in children’s ministry. And the conversations parents used to dread having with their teens. . . well. . . now those are the conversations they must have with their elementary and even pre-school aged children. Not only are our kids facing things at younger and younger ages, but the things they face at those younger ages are unique to their generation. What’s resulted is a ministry context where parents, youth workers, Sunday School teachers, children’s ministers, and anyone else who endeavors to minister to kids need to view and approach their ministry callings as a cross-cultural missions venture. In fact, the culture is changing so fast that you’ll increasingly hear older siblings lament the fact that their younger brothers and sisters (from the same generation!) are living in a different world.

So, what are the cultural forces and "fronts" that are combining to alter the landscape? Tomorrow, I'll list and describe eight of those forces/fronts in part 2. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Evil In Me. . . .

The other day I saw a Facebook post that told me I need to "be true to yourself." To be honest, that scares me to death. I’m stumped by our culture’s bent on believing that people are, at the core, inherently good. I’m not sure I’m even tempted to go down that slippery slope much anymore as all I need to do to be convinced otherwise is to look within and without. To be honest, the look within offers plenty of evidence of depravity. And just when I might be convinced that I’ve got it beat, I realize that the well of my own depravity is deep, full, and strong in flow. If I were to be true to myself. . . well. . . I shudder to think. . .
The look without does the same. Did you read the paper this morning? Did you watch the news last night? Have you listened to the kids you know and love tell stories about the brokenness in their lives?
Understanding and “embracing” the reality of depravity has been a battle. I remember one of my high school teachers instructing us to dwell on the good things in life, avoid thinking about the bad, and to always embrace what’s come to be known as “the power of positive thinking.” I know the intent was good, but I think this type of message can actually do more harm in the long run. If we only focus on the good, we somehow become convinced that we are good. In that kind of world, Christ’s redemption is no longer necessary.
The reality is that our world and everything in it is broken. The Psalmist reminds us that all have “become corrupt” and that “there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14). The framers of the Heidelberg Catechism remind me that “by nature I am prone to hate God and my neighbor.” Consequently, what I read in my paper and see in my own heart each and every day isn’t at all surprising.
While I don’t like what I see, I’ve been realizing more and more that I need to keep looking.  I read these words in William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armour: “If you never experienced the mighty power of Satan arrayed against you, you could not know the almighty power of God displayed for you.” For me, the look within at my own dark heart is a great exercise in understanding the light of God’s greatness more deeply. Then, with the Psalmist, I begin to understand “how awesome is the Lord most high” (Psalm 47).
To get practical, here’s a little exercise you can engage in to process all things in your life. . . . experiences, news, film, books, etc. It begins with questioning everything, or perhaps more accurately, processing everything you see through these questions: What does this tell me about me and the rest of humanity? What does this tell me about God? What does this tell me about what God has done for humanity through Christ? And finally, what personal response does what I see require?
We all need accurate and truthful perspective. With God’s help and realistic thinking, I trust we’ll gain it. If not, who needs God?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cracked Takes On The Church. . . And We Should Like It. . .

"Laugh or Cry?" That's what CPYU's Derek Melleby put in the subject line of his email to me this morning. The email contained a link. As I clicked on that link, I knew I was about to see something interesting. . . most likely related to us. . . the "us" being the church. We spend a good amount of time looking at and discussing "ourselves" here in the office, so this was right up our alley. This is the kind of stuff that we email to each other.

The link took me to . . the online home of that Mad Magazine knock-off known as Cracked that I remember from my childhood. My adolescent self chose to never read Cracked because it always seemed like a second-rate knock-off to me. I read Mad. After all, I was oftentimes told that I bore a striking resemblance to Alfred E. Neuman, who happened to be the Brad Pitt of that day. But my adult self is much more grown-up and mature. . . so I went there today!

The link took me to one of Cracked's "Quick Fixes" . . . advertised as "fun-size" versions of Cracked.  But is this Quick Fix fun? It's titled "The 5 Most Embarrassing Ways Churches Are Trying to Be Hip." Five?!?!? Only Five?!?!? I knew this was going to be interesting. . . and too short. After all, we've become masters at embarrassing ourselves in an effort to be hip. The list is prefaced with this descriptor: "Church attendance is dwindling in this day and age, and churches are finally starting to realize that if they don't adapt, they're going to go extinct faster than gingers. Hilariously, this is the best any of them have come up with so far. . . " Okay. Go back and read that again. . . a few times. Now ponder it. You've just seen and heart the impression our efforts are leaving on the watching world. Go ahead and take a look at the list. Sadly, I could add at least a few dozen additional embarrassing ways to  this list.

I think stuff like this is good. . . and helpful. . . and worthy of our careful attention. I think that it's important to see ourselves through the eyes of our critics. On a personal level, it's that kind of exercise that helps us to see our sin. . . it sure has worked that way for me. I think it can function well on an institutional level as well.  . . and maybe it should work that way for us. There are profound implications for what has become known in the age of hip Christianity as "how we do church."

So, here are a few questions to ponder and discuss. . .

  • Is there a difference between pursuing being informed about culture, and being culturally relevant?
  • Are we spending too much money, time and energy on trying to be hip?
  • Does being hip compromise the Gospel?
  • How far should the church go in embracing and using marketing methods to get people in the door?
  • Do churches that exist "for people who don't like church" create situations where we might move to creating "a God for a people who don't like God" and/or "a Christianity for people who don't like Christianity?"
  • Are there things we do that come nowhere close to being like the stuff on this list. . . but maybe they should be on the list?
  • Are efforts to be hip productive or counter-productive? And, how do we measure productivity or counter-productivity?
  • How should our theology inform ecclesiastical practice? 
  • Are we really as stupid as we sometimes come off to the watching world? 
So, thanks to Cracked - that second-rate knock-off - for opening our eyes to the ways we have become a second-rate knock-off. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Fantasy Slut League. . . Will Boys be Boys? . . .

I'm not sure if I should feel happiness or dismay that my youth pastor friend, Dave Showalter, passed on this breaking news story to me this morning. It was a simple link to this headline from the WJLA website: 'Fantasy Slut League' investigated at California high school. 

Oh my. It seems that school administrators at Piedmont High School had to send home a letter to parents. It was a letter I'm sure none of those educators imagined having to ever draft and send when they were being trained for a career in education. I'm also sure that none of the parents could have ever imagined receiving such a letter. . . or maybe not.

What was the letter about? Well, someone lifted the lid on a "Fantasy Slut League" that several male students had created. The boys were drafting female students (without their knowledge) and then earning points for sexual encounters with these girls.

The story took me back almost twenty years to the highly publicized "Spur Posse," a group of high school boys from Lakewood, California who had created an elaborate point system for sexual encounters with girls. That fiasco resulted in several arrests. What made the story even more alarming was that most of the charges were dropped (even though several of the girls were under aged - statutory-rape under aged!) because it was learned that the sexual encounters were consensual.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dear Senior Pastor. . .

Yesterday I was snooping around on our website and came across something I had written five years ago that I thought might be interesting to revisit today. It's a letter I wrote.  . . not to any one person in particular, but to everyone who stands in front of a congregation each week to do ministry. If you're a youth worker, parent, or anyone else who might be concerned about the cultural disconnect between the person up front and the kid in the congregation, then my hope is that this might be a worthwhile letter to hand on to your pastor. . . .

Dear Pastor,

I’ve asked your youthworker and your students' parents to forward this letter on to you. It’s about the kids in your congregation and the powerful role that you play as their pastor in their spiritual nurture.

I know that you’ve got teenagers sitting in your congregation every week. From your vantage point up front, you may spot them daydreaming, napping, zoning out, text-messaging, or even updating their Facebook page. At times, it becomes painfully obvious that their eyes are lying. Even though those eyes may be focused on you, the young person behind the eyes is somewhere else. All this is evidence of a growing reality we face in our churches today: Many teenagers feel disconnected from the person in the pulpit – and as a result, the message as well. This troubling fact points to the need for pastors to intentionally listen to, understand, and reach out to students in a way that facilitates students’ connection and engagement with you, the messenger, and the life-changing message you’ve been called to preach.

What can you do to foster deep and significant connections with the emerging generations that extend from the pulpit to the pew, in order to point young people to the cross and new life in the Kingdom? Our pastoral lives must be marked by several core characteristics that are part of who we are and how we minister in our students’ postmodern world. We should prayerfully and intentionally develop these characteristics as part of our ministry strategy. They each reflect the earthly ministry of Jesus and effective missionary efforts throughout the history of the church.

Approach teenagers as a cross-cultural mission field. To effectively engage the emerging generations you must remember that there is a cultural gap that you are responsible to span. Their world is not your world. Consequently, you are a cross-cultural missionary who must employ the incarnational approach God used when he sent his Son into the world. God came to us as one of us. He entered into human culture, living and using human language and customs. Knowing their language, culture, and lifestyles helps us contextualize the unchanging message in forms that are familiar to youth.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Snowblowing, Age-Compression, and The Future of Teen Sexuality. . . .

Forty years ago, youth culture trends tended to travel geographically. As an east-coaster, all a guy like me would have to do is look at what was happening on the left side of our country. That "crystal-ball" glimpse would offer insight into what would travel east to land a few months later on and in the youth culture landscape of our side of the continent.

In today's world, youth culture trends tend to travel demographically. Instead of moving from left to right, trends now move from top to bottom. In other words, if you take a look at older young people, you'll catch a glimpse into the values, attitudes, and behaviors that younger kids will be living out in just a few short months. That's the trickle-down phenomena known as age-compression. If I want to know what a 12-year-old will be living out next year, I might want to look at what a college student is living out this year.

I was reminded of these tendencies last week when I opened an email from a high school principal. . . a high school principal at a Christian school I might add. He was thanking me for what CPYU does to inform parents, youth workers, and educators about current cultural trends. At the end of his email, he gave me a heads-up about something I seem to have missed: "The September issue of The Atlantic includes an article titled 'Boys on the Side."' In it you will learn (at least, I learned) that, among college kids in Ivy League schools, snowblowing is not something you do to your driveway and pink socks have nothing to do with the laundry!  I think parents remain terribly naive about how pornography has become a blended, unnoticeable part of our cultural landscape."  Of course, that led me straight to Google and a hunt for "Boys on the Side."

Hanna Rosin's piece on the hookup culture on college campuses is one that I'm sure most of you will find both eye-opening and alarming. I learned - along with the Principal - that "snowblowing" is also know as "snowman fellatio" . . . or performing oral sex on a snowman. I also learned that this is indicative of kind of stuff that is so commonplace that nobody on the college campus sees it as anything other than normal. Rosin says that it's all so commonplace that barely anyone even notices the vulgarity anymore. She does mention one exception. . . an Argentinian student who had just arrived in the Ivy League version of campus culture two weeks before. Rosin recounts her encounter with the female student: "'Here in America, the girls, they give up their mouth, their ass, their tits,' the Argentinean said to me, punctuating each with the appropriate hand motion, 'before they even know the guy. It’s like, ‘Hello.’ ‘Hello.’ ‘You wanna hook up?’ ‘Sure.’ They are so aggressive! Do they have hearts of steel or something? In my country, a girl like this would be desperate. Or a prostitute.' So there we have it. America has unseated the Scandinavian countries for the title of Easiest Lay. We are, in the world’s estimation, a nation of prostitutes. And not even prostitutes with hearts of gold."

That folks, is a window into the world of our current campus culture. When we're in it, we have a hard time seeing it. Sometimes it helps to look at ourselves through the eyes of someone other than our selves. You should spend some time reading Rosin's article, "Boys on the Side." And as you read, remember that youth culture tends to travel demographically. What is happening on the college campus today, is trickling down to the middle school campus of tomorrow.

Minister accordingly. Parent accordingly. There's a much better map to follow. And for the most part, that map isn't found on campus.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Texas Football, Cheerleaders, and Bible Verses. . .

They say that everything's bigger in Texas. That's certainly the case with high school football. Last month I spoke in Allen, a suburb of Dallas. On my way to the church we took a detour to the community's brand new high school football stadium. . . the community's brand new $60 MILLION high school football stadium. The next week I was speaking in Minnesota. When I showed the folks there the picture of the stadium and mentioned the price tag, they quickly noted that it cost more than the Metrodome home of the Minnesota Vikings!

Texas high school football is in the news this week thanks to a highly publicized court case regarding the fight to retain the cheerleaders' right to create and display banners emblazoned with Bible verses. I really haven't followed the case that closely to be able to comment on the legal issues at stake. To be honest, it just doesn't interest me that much. But there are some aspects of the story that I think are worth thinking about.

First, there's the whole matter of public displays of faith. Sure, our lives should reflect a minute-to-minute every-square-inch faith. The way I live, who I am, how I talk. . . it should all bring glory to God. . . in both my private and public comings and going.  But why are we so insistent on equating discipleship with in-your-face public displays. . . as if they are more influential or even biblically-faithful than faithful and obedient living that goes about its business without an agenda that includes endeavoring to aggressively draw attention to one's self? Which of the two approaches is more powerful? Which of the two better reflects the mind, heart and will of Christ? Which of the two is rooted in humility? I'm just asking. And I think these are questions worth answering.

Second, there's the matter of sound and faithful use of the Scriptures. The banner slogans and their context are somewhat unnerving. I scoured the Internet for this story. . . and I was treated to a host of photos of cheerleaders and their banners. . . a few of which I've posted in this blog. Take a look at them. Does anybody else think there's some faulty interpretation, application, and use of these Scriptures in the context of an athletic context? And what should we think if two opposing teams were to run from opposite ends of the field through banners identically emblazoned with the words of Romans 8:31? Does God really care about who wins as opposed to how the two teams conduct themselves on the field? Again, I'm just asking.

This isn't a "Texas issue." No, this is a "youth ministry" and "Christian" issue.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Youth Workers, Aloneness, and a Grand Experiment. . . .

Last weekend, a perfect storm converged in my life that was quite telling. It all began with an ending. . . . the ending of my slow and deliberate journey through Sherry Turkle's fascinating, timely, and thought-provoking book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other. Turkle, a professor at MIT, teaches in a discipline that merges together the social sciences and technology. For years she's been studying the social fallout of robotics. I know. . . not something most of us ever dare ponder. For me, I'm just not that smart. What I love about Turkle is that she isn't afraid to ask the difficult questions about the "advances" that we so readily accept without thought or critique. Think of her as a person that observes, translates, and isn't afraid to shout out a much-needed, "Whoa!!! Wait a minute!" That's what Alone Together really is.

I pondered rattling off a series of helpful quotes from Turkle's book, but there are just too many to list here. I'll leave that until another time. This one will suffice for now: "We enjoy continual connection but rarely have each other's full attention." There you have it folks. A clear and concise statement about our hyper-connected world and how we are really living in it. It's a statement about what we've chosen to let it all do to us. . . and we don't even know that we've made the choice. . . or what it's doing to us, for that matter.

That perfect storm continued as I landed in San Diego for the first of the fall's two Youth Specialties National Youthworkers Conventions. Always fun. My two seminars happened to be birthed out of our Digital Kids Initiative here at CPYU. One was titled "Hyper-Connected 24/7: Kids and Social Media." Afterwards, someone made the correct observation that the seminar wasn't only about what this stuff is doing to kids. It was about all of us. The second seminar was a bit more specific in nature: "Growing Up in A Porn is the Norm World."

The questions and discussion during and after the former offering were very interesting. I wasn't at all surprised that youth workers are lamenting the fact that their students can't put down their cell phones. . . for anywhere from 5 minutes to a weekend. They (the kids) moan, scream, cry,  and lament in a display of separation anxiety that is really about separating human and machine. Sure, we are led to believe that the anxiety is rooted in the cut-off from other human beings. But when the request to power-down is made in an effort to ramp-up real-time real-life face-to-face flesh-and-blood connections. . . well, we have to wonder if we haven't socialized ourselves away from the ability to really relate to real people. Turkle calls this "the new state of self: tethered and marked absent." She writes, "a train station (like an airport, a cafe, or a park. . . . or maybe even a youth group meeting, small group or retreat!!!) is no longer a communal space but a place of social collection: people come together but do not speak to each other. Each is tethered to a mobile device and to the people and places to which that device serves as a portal."

Thanks Ken Castor, for this panorama of our Family Room!
Which leads to the third front in last weekend's perfect storm. . . the Youth Specialties "Family Rooms." This was something new - and yes risky - at this year's convention. I had a front row seat from conception to development to implementation of these "Family Rooms" as I was a co-presenter in one of the rooms. It was a grand experiment that we all knew was going to land somewhere on the response spectrum from "total failure" to "a rousing success." In the end, these directed small group experiences between circles of 8 youth workers - many of whom sat together in a circle for the first time as complete strangers - was a great one. At several points I looked around and saw every one of the 40 or so circles in our room sitting on the edge of their seats, eyes and ears locked on the member speaking at that moment. Groups chose to go over time. Groups asked for their photos to be taken together. Groups walked out of the room together and to a shared meal. Groups exchanged names, phone numbers, and email addresses as they promised to take what they started and to continue it. Who knows. . . we might even see a marriage or two come out of it!! It was absolutely amazing.

You know what else it was? It was needed. I walked away reminded that we have all been created by God for relationships. . . real-time real flesh-and-blood face-to-face relationships void of the masks and distance of mediated and curated online selves. These youth workers powered all that other stuff down and focused on each other. . . and they loved it. . . they soaked it up. . . they didn't want it to end.

So, let's get our kids to power-down. Yes, we will get push-back from our kids who fear the unknown. . . even if the unknown and not-yet-fully-experienced is what they ultimately crave. To be honest, there were many youth workers who confessed a hesitancy with the "Family Room" concept. Many acted on that hesitancy and chose not to show up. I think they missed out. Those who did show up would say the same thing. That's why I'm walking away from this last weekend convinced. . . absolutely convinced. . . that if we facilitate opportunities for kids to power-down and then relate, they will fall in love with that which they were created for but may have never yet experienced. Go ahead. . . give it a try.

And for you youth workers planning on showing up in Dallas in a few weeks. . . you've really got something to look forward to!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Macklemore's "Same Love" Same-Sex Marriage Song. . . Talking Points. . .

As promised yesterday, we've posted our 3(D) free download on Macklemore's "Same Love," a powerful song and video off of today's album release, The Heist. Homosexuality and same-sex marriage are hot-button cultural issues that we must be processing and discussing with our students. They are in the process of crafting beliefs and behaviors. As these beliefs and behaviors are crafted, our responsibility is to introduce them to, remind them of, and unpack the master plan of the One who created us with the gifts of sexuality, relationships, love, and marriage.

Have you listened to Macklemore's song? I posted the video in last Friday's blog. Have you pondered the lyrics? (printed below). As you continue to craft a response that must be balanced and God-honoring, I invite you to read the very personal and compelling words penned by Bryan Magana in his recent blog post, "I'm (Kinda Sorta Yeah Not Really) Gay." Here's what Bryan writes. . . and once again, this is worth discussing with your kids. . . .

"People wonder if I’m gay. I know because kids in school used to ask me. When I replied with silence, they called me a fag and went on their way. If bullies wondered about my sexuality, then so did family, friends, people at church. They were probably just too afraid (or too nice) to ask. I’ve had years to think about it: if someone asked if I’m gay, how would I answer?

Saying “no” risks people thinking I’m another brainwashed fundamentalist in denial, suppressing my sexuality to please my parents, my pastor, my peers. Saying “yes” risks people thinking I’ve assumed a gay identity, that I’m out and proud, affirming and celebrating the homosexual lifestyle.

Neither is true.

The reality is that I acknowledge my same-sex desires. I talk openly with family and friends about homosexuality, especially as it relates to my commitment to Christ. More importantly, I’m honest with God about my struggles with same-sex attraction. . . . " Read the rest of Brian's blog here.

"Same Love"(with Ryan Lewis)
(feat. Mary Lambert)
When I was in the third grade I thought I was gay
‘Cause I could draw, an’ my uncle was, and I kept my room straight
I told my mom tears rushing down my face
She’s like “Ben you've loved girls since before pre-k shrimp”
Yea I guess she had a point didn’t she?
Bunch of stereotypes all in my head.
I remember doing the math like, “yea I’m good at little league”
A preconceived idea of what it all meant
For those that liked the same sex
Had the characteristics
The right wing conservatives think it’s a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
Man made rewiring of a predisposition
Playing god, aw nah here we go
America the brave still fears what we don’t know
And god loves all his children, is somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago
I don’t know

And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
I’m acting strange
Even if I try
Even if I wanted to
My love
My love
My love
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm

If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately
"Man, that’s gay" get dropped on the daily
We become so numb to what we’re saying
A culture founded from oppression
Yet we don’t have acceptance for ‘em
Call each other faggots behind the keys of a message board
A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it
A gay is synonymous with the lesser
It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from religion
Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment
The same fight that led people to walk outs and sit ins
It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference!
Live on and be yourself
When I was at church they taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t anointed
That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned

When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same, but that’s not important
No freedom till we’re equal, damn right I support it

And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
My love
My love
My love
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm

And press play, don’t press pause
Progress, march on
With the veil over our eyes
We turn the back on the cause
Till the day that my uncles can be united by law
When kids are walking ‘round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are
And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start

No law is gonna change us
We have to change us
Whatever god we believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time we raised up

And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
I’m acting strange
Even if I try
Even if I wanted to
My love
My love
My love
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
She keeps me warm
Love is patient
Love is kind
Love is patient
Love is kind
(I‘m not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient

(I‘m not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind
(I‘m not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient
(I‘m not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind
(I‘m not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient
(I‘m not crying on Sundays)
Love is kind
(I‘m not crying on Sundays)
Love is patient
Love is kind

Monday, October 8, 2012

Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage. . . Our Response. . .

Tomorrow is the day when Macklemore and Ryan Lewis drop their debut full-length album, The Heist, onto the pop culture landscape. Of course, their video single "Same Love," has been living on that landscape for about three months already. The realities and underlying convictions depicted and promoted in the song have been fairly well entrenched in culture for quite some time. . . more time, in fact, than most people are willing to acknowledge or admit. As a Christian, I 'm called (as are all of us) to process and respond to "Same Love" and the issues it raises. I don't want my response to be one of apathy. Nor do I want it to be a response that falls somewhere on the spectrum of head-shaking. . . to finger-wagging in disapproval. . . to even a more blatant "damn them" or "let them get what they deserve." As a believer, I know I must respond. As a believer, condescending disapproval or a "let them get what they deserve" is not only wrong, but it hits way too close too home. After all, I don't want to get what I deserve.

As I've been thinking about the "Same Love" video over the weekend my head has been spinning. There's some grappling that needs to be going on here. The issue of homosexuality isn't as simple as we want to believe it is. As we grow up in our faith and in our ability to think more deeply, we get wise to the complexity of human life broken in every which way. My once-held-but-never-really-stated-in-these-words-belief that those who are depressed should "rise up. . . suck it up. . . get ahold of yourself. . . and get over it!" is an example of simplistic hubris. I've been that guy on far too many fronts. I don't want to be that guy on this issue. I don't want to be that guy anymore. I don't like that guy and I want him to go away. (That white-washed tomb belongs in itself.) Neither do I want to compromise on God's divine will and way.

And so it is on homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and everything else that is related. As I worked through writing a 3(D) review on "Same Love" (which, by the way, we'll be posting on our website tomorrow) I once more realized just how important it is for us to carefully think through and approach these issues with tremendous care and concern. There are three important considerations (questions) that I hope will mark my thoughts, my response, my interactions, and my life. . .

1. What does God's word say about these things? . . . which is foundational and should come before all else.
2. What tone and posture must I assume as I discuss these things?
3. What tone and posture must I assume as I live out my convictions in relationship with people who might not only think otherwise. . . but who live otherwise?

By the way, the "musts" of questions 2 and 3 need to be dictated and shaped by the subject of question #1. For me, my emotionally-driven opinions (all-too-often fueled by my own pride) need to be put aside here. As we address this issue, let us be the bride of Christ who reflects the way and will of our Groom.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage and Popular Music. . .

"Music is a map and a mirror." That's been a mantra we've repeated over and over here at CPYU ever since we started doing what we do. As a map, it shapes the values, attitudes, and resulting behaviors of listeners. . . especially impressionable children and teens. As a mirror, it offers us a clear window into what is thought about, valued, and lived in contemporary culture.

Next Tuesday, rapper Macklemore and his creative partner Ryan Lewis will release their debut album, The Heist. A pre-release single that's gaining some fast and furious traction and attention is "Same Love," a pro-same-sex marriage song that's got a video treatment that traces the birth-to-death life of a gay men. Macklemore, from Washington state, penned and performed the tune in support of the state's Ref 74 and marriage equality. This song both maps and mirrors life in powerful ways.

In the next few days I'll be taking a closer look at the song and video. Before blogging on it, writing a "3D" review, and responding to both the song's message and significance, I want to let the song and its message percolate a bit. This song, I believe, is indicative of a significant moment in popular culture. It demands our careful attention and a carefully crafted response.

Until then, I want to encourage you to listen and watch. I want to encourage you to pray through a proper, God-glorifying and biblical response. The temptation will be to shut it off, scoff, and even curse it. Instead, I think we need to consider the fact that we are at a watershed time in our culture where we need to think through how to best represent our Lord in our response to the issue of homosexuality. I want to do what's right. . . both in embracing what is right and communicating that in the right way.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Way To Go Jennifer! . . .

I spotted this little video yesterday afternoon and was thrilled to hear this young woman's bold response to the man who emailed her to challenge her on her weight. His email is more evidence of our obsession with body image, our bent towards seeing people as objects and not people, and an unhealthy obsession (worship, perhaps?) with physical health.

Yes, we should be worried about our kids. Disordered eating is pandemic. We see ourselves as bodies and little or nothing more. We tend to tend to and obsess over our physical selves at the expense of our spiritual selves. In fact, the physical has become the new spiritual. Yes, we should be concerned about childhood obesity and other health concerns. We are to steward our bodies. But we're out of balance here.

Give the video a look. Then, talk about it with your kids.