group magazine: May-June, 1998
GROUP MAGAZINE - May-June 1998
Each issue, CyberTalk prints what kids are talking about on the Internet (kids use nicknames to respond).
From: BugleGirl—Many of you say, "I can’t help who I am attracted to." Yes, people do have natural bents to be attracted to one sex or another, just as one person may be naturally inclined to, say, lose his temper or overeat. The sin part only comes in when a person ACTS on these desires. There’s nothing wrong with being tempted! Jesus himself was tempted. I myself have a bad temper, but that’s not a license to hurt people or yell at them. When I get angry, I pray to God to help me suppress my anger. This is what God wants homosexuals to do; when you experience temptation, take it to him.
From: Tembler—Explain how homosexuality is "sinful." And don't just say that "it’s in the Bible;" give us specific examples of ways that homosexuality has hurt people.
From: X-Files24—Well let’s see...God created man to be with a woman, not a man. Adam was lonely so he told God. And if God had wanted homosexuality, he would’ve given him another man, not a woman. Or he would have given him both a man and a woman and asked him to choose.
From: HollowGlow—1. God may not exist. 2. Even if he does, he may not have created the universe. 3. Even if he did, he only created man and woman to "be with" each other for reproduction. 4. Not everyone is homosexual. Perhaps Adam just wasn't gay.
From: RedCat—If God made two men, they would have no way to reproduce. And don't try to tell me love is only for reproduction, cause it’s not. And nobody’s explained how it hurts anyone...
From: X-Files24—Nature made man and woman for the survival of the species. If homosexuals were meant to be, nature would’ve made them able to reproduce.
From: SoxLover—The species can survive with homosexual couples. All they need to do is mate. I don’t think that being gay is necessarily about sex, but about love. Anyway, the species wouldn’t continue with oral sex—do you condemn that? How about people who are celibate?
From: BugleGirl—These arguments are so circular it’s boorish. God said, "Be fruitful and multiply." Homosexual sex can't accomplish that. Neither can other sexual perversions, such as masturbation, bestiality, fellatio, etc.
From: RedCat—Well, most people are straight, so there’s still plenty of people to "multiply." Besides, not everyone has kids. Are they evil? What about nuns, monks, Catholic priests? By the way, one of the most circular arguments I can think of is, "It’s wrong because the Bible says it’s wrong, and we know the Bible is right because it says it’s right, and we know that’s right because the Bible is always right..."
From: ElNino—"If we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are."—Captain Picard
"I convinced myself that [fame] was going to be enough to take the place of real intimacy. I was incredibly naive."
—Former "material girl" Madonna, quoted in USA Today
"Because kids were doing the work, I think adults listened more than they would to other adults. They viewed us as being innocent and honest."
—Kassia Randzio, 16, who headed a student-led campaign to build a new sewer system in her hometown of Southwick, Massachusetts, quoted in React magazine
"I think it’s unrealistic for people to look at Walt Disney World and ask, ‘Why are they allowing this?’ Disney never said that they were Christians. It’s unrealistic to expect them to respond as if they were."
—Jars of Clay bassist Steve Mason, on the controversial Christian boycott of Disney, quoted in World magazine
"The time you praise God is definitely relevant, but that’s not all there is to life. There’s a need to be silly, a need to struggle, and that’s always seemed more real to me."
—Trombonist/writer Dennis Culp of the suddenly popular Christian ska band Five Iron Frenzy, quoted in CCM Magazine
"I mean, there’s no control in life, is there? There’s only one who’s in control, and He’ll take me when He wants me. I don’t want to know about it. It’s none of my business. But when it happens, I just ask that it won’t be painful and that He forgives me my sins."
—Comedian Chris Farley, who was found dead in his apartment last December, quoted in Rolling Stone
"I have in many ways failed...I haven’t lived a life of devotion, meditation, and prayer. I’ve allowed the world to creep into my life way too much."
—The Rev. Billy Graham, quoted in USA Today
ALL ABOUT GOTHS
Vampires (thanks to Anne Rice’s books), horror movies (thanks to the Scream movies), and all things spooky and bizarre (thanks to The X-Files) are a national obsession with teenagers. Halloween has broken out of its late-October cage and is wreaking havoc all year long. Meanwhile, the macabre is getting a boost from new albums by both Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson (the poster children for Gothic rock).
The Look: In the late ’70s and early ’80s, bands such as Bauhaus, Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Cure, and Christian Death pioneered the Gothic mystique. They seeded a subculture you recognize today: dressing predominantly in black and sporting jet-black hair, white face makeup, heavy black lipstick and eyeliner, and large, simple jewelry—either crucifixes or occult symbols. "Goth kids" were initially influenced by Victorian flamboyance, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Edgar Allan Poe. Now they’re just spooky looking—a cross between The Addams Family and Interview With the Vampire.
The Music: Goth rock lyrics center on death, despair, murder, pain, and suicide—not exactly Christian cotillion material. So what’s the appeal, other than driving parents crazy? Though the lyrics are bleak, the music is inventive and top-notch. Goth rock settles into two categories: "industrial" (a combination of techno beats and heavy metal) and "shoe gazer" (lush, layered soundscapes with ethereal vocals).
Industrial music (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson) combines ear-pounding chords and bone-rattling bass and drum loops into music that pulsates kids into motion. Shoe-gazer music (Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine) is soaked in beautifully eerie textures, framed by disembodied voices that seem to float around the listener.
The Alternatives: You don’t need a seminary education to pinpoint the spiritual land mines here. It seems impossible, but there are Christian alternatives to Goth rock. Suggest that your Goth-influenced kids listen to Christian industrial bands such as Aleixa, Argyle Park, and Circle of Dust or shoe-gazer bands such as Starflyer 59, Lassie Foundation and Velour 100. These bands match the Goth sound, but their lyrics and wardrobe are radically different.
BATTERED BY BULLIES
In the movies, bullies almost always get what’s coming to them. But in real life, they can wreak havoc in a young person’s life for years. According to Teacher Magazine...
•About 10 to 15 percent of kids say they’re regularly bullied.
•Bullying peaks in middle school.
•Most kids are bullied at school—at times and places where there’s little adult supervision.
•Most bullying is verbal rather than physical.
•Boys bully both boys and girls, girls tend to bully only girls.
•Girls typically use verbal and psychological bullying strategies such as gossiping or ostracizing.
•Bullies tend to have troubled backgrounds—serious family problems, a history of physical or emotional abuse, and inconsistent discipline at home.
•Victims tend to get blamed for the bully’s behavior.
If all that isn’t enough to produce ulcers in bullied kids, research shows that even when adults are present, many are reluctant to stop the bullying.
FOOLS FOR COOL
To kids, what makes something cool?
It’s the emotion, stupid.
So says marketing guru Gene Del Vecchio, author of Creating Ever-Cool: A Marketer’s Guide to a Kid’s Heart. After 20 years of researching kids’ shifting obsessions, Del Vecchio says young people venerate something as cool when...
•it satisfies a "timeless emotional need;"
•it’s associated with a teenager’s aspirations (for example, nursing is cool when a young person has decided to become a nurse);
•it’s something that others don’t have;
•it gives them empowerment over adults—"being able to outwit, out-think, outmaneuver them;" and
WHEN I WISH UPON AN ASSET
"Too few young people are experiencing most of the essential building blocks of positive development," says Search Institute president Peter Benson. According to a just-released survey of nearly 100,000 kids, the average teenager has just 18 of the 40 "developmental assets" that Search has identified as crucial to kids’ health, success, and faith maturity.
The most common assets kids say they experience are...
#1—Family support—A family life that provides a great deal of love and support.
#2—Participation in a religious community—Spending one or more hours a week doing activities in a religious organization.
#3—School engagement—Actively involved in learning at school.
#4—A positive view of personal future—Optimism about what lies ahead.
On the negative side, the most common assets kids lack include...
#1—A community that values young people—A sense that the adults in the community see kids as important.
#2—A caring school climate—Where kids sense they’re supported and encouraged.
#3—Youth as resources—A community that offers kids useful roles.
#4—Reading for pleasure—Three or more hours each week of reading just for fun.
#5—Creative activities—Three or more hours each week of practice in music, theater, or other arts.
(For more information or resources, e-mail http://www.search-institute.org or call 800-888-7828.)
THE LATEST IN BOTTOM-FEEDER REBEL ENTERTAINMENT
Comedy Central’s South Park and WB’s Dawson’s Creek are the hot shows du jour among teenagers. (For example, Dawson’s Creek is the season’s top-rated show for females ages 12 to 17.) And while the shows couldn’t be more different on the outside—South Park is a cartoon about third-graders living in rural Colorado; Dawson’s Creek is about four senior highers in hand-to-hand combat with their hormones and life’s mysteries—at their core they share traits that are guaranteed to snag kids looking for the next edgy, forbidden diversion:
•Sex—On South Park, the show’s four crudely animated devil-tykes spout sex-tinged obscenities with abandon. Meanwhile Dawson’s Creek’s boundary-bending protagonists are simply crude: "Think she’s a virgin? You want to nail her?" Entertainment Weekly says the show "is the frankest depiction of teenage sexuality ever seen on the small screen."
•Forbidden territory—The atheist heroine Jen on Dawson’s Creek sneers at her grandmother, "I’ll go to church when you say the word ‘penis!’ " and Pacey, Dawson’s 15-year-old best friend, hooks up with his 30-something English teacher in an ongoing sexual tryst. Meanwhile, South Park loads the screen with in-your-face riffs on flatulence, gays, lust, alien experiments, death, and assorted bodily functions.
•Self-Consciously Offensive—On South Park’s Halloween show, one character dressed in a Hitler costume, and the guest star of the Christmas special was a singing, dancing piece of excrement. The title character on Dawson’s Creek "pleasures himself" every morning while watching the Today show’s Katie Couric. And actor Joshua Jackson, who plays Pacey, says, "It’s gonna shock the s---out of people when I sleep with my English teacher."
•Kids=Savvy, Adults=Lame—On Dawson’s Creek, the only characters who ponder moral questions are the kids—the adults are all clueless, adulterers, or pedophiles. South Park’s potty-mouthed kids are perpetually launching insider barbs at suspect celebrities such as Sally Struthers, Kathie Lee Gifford, and Enya. Co-creator Trey Parker says, "There’s this whole thing out there about how kids are so innocent and pure. That’s bull----, man. Kids are malicious little f-------."
A THUMBNAIL SKETCH OF MILLENNIALS
Suddenly there’s a flash flood of survey reports on Millennial kids—born since 1982.
•They see technology as their biggest advantage over previous generations.
•They say Crime and violence are their biggest disadvantages.
•Almost all (85%) say their values and lifestyle are different from their parents.
•They trust their grandparents more than their parents.
•They most admire honesty and integrity in a person.
•Almost all plan to marry (96%) and have kids (91%).
•More than three-quarters say money doesn’t buy happiness.
•Almost three-quarters say they’ve volunteered in the last year, and almost all (92%) say they will in the future.
•Nine out of 10 believe in God, three-quarters believe in life after death, and most attend religious services.
•Seven in 10 expect to go to college, and eight in 10 say "it’s cool to be smart."
•Just over half (56%) are involved in at least one school-related extracurricular activity.
•One-third (34%) have after-school jobs.
•Most kids believe the person who’ll have the greatest impact on their future is Microsoft leader Bill Gates.
Titanic is a disaster movie in more ways than one. It’s emotional pull among teenagers is gravitational—the movie has a 20% return-viewer rate—10 times the industry average and largely fueled by teenagers who go back time and again to see the longest, most expensive celluloid ship-sinking of all time.
But the real disaster is the movie’s teaching agenda: (1) Life is made up of stereotyped good guys (the poor) and bad guys (the rich) who have only one gear, respectively—nice or mean; (2) Lust trumps morality whenever morality is in the hands of a budding artist, (3) Only fleeting romantic feelings, not God, have the power to move people to self-sacrifice and heroism in the midst of tragedy; and (4) If you want to hide your self-absorption, you can always cloak it with "noble" behavior (remember the diamond flung into the sea?).
So how do you get kids thinking and talking about the movie’s...ahem...lesser points, especially those obsessed with to-die-for Leonardo and Kate? Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission and author of The Media-Wise Family (ChariotVictor), says a combination of "ascertainment" questions and "discernment" questions should do the trick. For example:
•What rating was the movie given?
•Who’s the hero?
•Who’s the villain?
•How much money did the movie make?
•What’s the worldview of the movie?
•Why was it rated that way?
•What kind of role model is the hero?
•What made him a villain?
•What was the main purpose of the movie, besides making money?
•How does the movie’s worldview compare to a biblical worldview?