Teenaged Doubters

Posted on: 02/26/15 5:45 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Teenage-DoubtersWhenever I talk with today’s teenagers, I see them processing what I tell them. It’s almost as if they are weighing it in their minds:

“Does he really know what he is talking about?

Does this make sense?

Would this make my life better…or worse?”

Today’s adults don’t have presumed authority. Kids don’t take us at our word. We’ve raised a generation who grew up watching Nick and the Disney Channel where they’ve learned that parents and teachers are idiots.

Question authority.

Do what feels right for you.

Adults wonder why today’s young people don’t just accept what we say “as is.”

Entertainment media doesn’t make this assumption. The media studies young people, and “shrewdly” captivates them with convincing arguments and messages they want to hear.

Key word: “shrewdly”

Are you being “shrewd”?

When Jesus sent out his 12 disciples in Matthew, Chapter 10, he advised them like this:

“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16, NLT)

How many of us have taken that advice?

Lady Gaga performed at the Oscars Sunday night and knocked the ball out of the park. The world can’t say enough good about her performance, voting it the top social moment of this year’s Oscars. But in Christian circles, here’s what I hear:

“She’s disgusting.”

“She’s a tramp.”

“She’s not even talented. She’s just a sellout.”

Really? She performed Julie Andrews spot on… and she’s not talented? She was voted by teenagers as the #1 key influencer two years in a row and all we can say is… she’s disgusting?

I’m guilty of going on some rants about key Hollywood influencers in my home. Funny, as I went off, I could see my own kids processing my words, and my tone. They were thinking, “Is Dad right? How come no one at school seems to agree with this point of view?”

Was I being shrewd?

It would be one thing if we shrewdly contended:

“It’s interesting that someone as talented as Lady Gaga typically relies on sexually charged messages to capture an audience. It’s almost as if she values her sexuality more than her musical ability, an unhealthy practice the American Psychological Association calls “Sexualization.” Too bad, I think she’s way more valuable than just her sexuality.

Or better yet, what if we posed it in the form of questions:

  • Why do you think Lady Gaga is using so many sexually charged images in this music video?
  • Was her Grammy performance less powerful, since she didn’t use her sexuality? Why are so many people pleasantly surprised by her raw talent, in the absence of her typical gimmicks?
  • Why do you think so many female performers today flaunt their sexuality at the forefront of their performance? What do you think young female fans glean from this?
  • What does the American Psychological Association call it when people value their sexuality over other characteristics? What are some of the consequences they list from this behavior?
  • What are some of the values and characteristics you would like to live out? What does that look like?

Compare that to:

“Lady Gaga is such a slut!”

Shrewd? Or does that just live up to the reputation of the religious weirdo every movie and TV show portrays?

Entertainment media proves over and over again to be shrewd. The Walking Dead introduced a gay character this week. He was pleasant, kind, welcoming… probably one of the nicest characters introduced in a long time. And in a touching moment we saw him forfeit his own well being to care for someone else, which turned out to be his partner.

Best introduction of a gay character… ever, save, maybe, Alan Turing in the Oscar-winning film, The Imitation Game.

Very “shrewd.”

Are Christians being shrewd?

How should we react when we are watching our favorite prime time show with our kids (Downton Abby) and one of the major characters (Mary) sleeps with someone just to see if they are compatible?

How should we respond when we discover our kids watching a Maroon 5 music video where Adam Levine hooks up with a model and has sex with her (and blood pours on them while making love)?

How can we be both “shrewd” and “innocent” in our communication to today’s young people?

Parents had an opportunity to practice this recently when they were watching the Super Bowl game last month and a commercial for 50 Shades of Grey appeared asking, “Are you curious?” I followed that event with an article providing several tips how to respond. Similarly, in my brand new book, More Than Just the Talk, I spend an entire chapter talking about “Creating a Comfortable Climate of Continual Conversations.” Not overreacting, but looking for opportunities to interact with today’s young people when we encounter sexual content.

Sometimes our kids ask us tough questions. Our visceral response might be to bark, “Where did you hear that!” But we should celebrate these questions, excited they feel safe enough to ask. In fact, we can look for opportunities to open doors to this kind of dialogue. For example, in my new book, Sex Matters, I spend an entire chapter addressing the tough questions today’s teens ask, questions about anal sex, cohabitating, oral sex… you name it. This chapter, like the others, has discussion questions at the end of the chapter to help you dialogue with your kids after reading it.

Are you engaging your kids in calm, continual, meaningful conversation?

Are you being shrewd in your responses?