Ministry and Media
group magazine: March-April, 2003
by Bryan Belknap
Song: “Screaming Infidelities” (from MTV Unplugged 2.0)
Topic: Emotional pain
Synopsis: The singer struggles after a relationship ends.
Background: Emo-rock darling Dashboard Confessional (a.k.a. Chris Carrabba) showcases his fervent fans on MTV Unplugged 2.0. With the audience passionately singing along, the album becomes a postmodern praise session. Carrabba (a Christian) pours his pain and confusion into every song, the intimate (“The Best Deceptions”) and the aggressive (“Again I Go Unnoticed”). Dashboard Confessional’s transparent, communal, authentic, and ragged style has touched a nerve with Millennials, who are inspired to ardent devotion when artists extend access into their interior lives. The live performance DVD (included) not only hints at the future of music but also points the church in the direction it needs to go to connect with 21st century teenagers. This disc is a great Dashboard Confessional primer—and a ticket into youth culture.
discussion questions: Ask: Could the singer have avoided his pain? Why or why not? Has someone you loved ever hurt you? What happened? What’s the hardest part about dealing with emotional pain? Read aloud Psalm 42:3-6. Why is it difficult to remember God in times of pain? What has helped you most to overcome emotional pain? How might you minimize the pain of future relationships, especially romantic ones?
Song: “The Church” (from She Must and Shall Go Free)
Topic: The church
Synopsis: Despite her faults, God loves the church and his children must love her too.
background: She Must and Shall Go Free boasts unparalleled musicianship, theology, and passion by wrapping the spirit of Rich Mullins, Keith Green, and Bob Dylan into one soul-stirring experience. While the roots-rock and easy melodies (much like Webb’s band Caedmon’s Call) are immediately captivating, the piercing lyrics will keep listeners entranced. Some will find Webb’s occasional use of blunt language controversial (for example, “whore”), but the CD affirms the importance of the church and the gospel message. Webb’s expert musicianship, Scripture-inspired lyrics, and edifying message challenges us with exactly what we need to hear.
• What thoughts do you have when you hear the word “church”?
• How does society perceive the modern church?
• What positive things has the church done throughout history? negative?
• Read aloud Ephesians 5:25-27. Why did Jesus love the church enough to sacrifice himself for her?
• Can a person be a disciple of Christ without attending church? Why or why not?
• What is our responsibility to the church?
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (Mature)
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City recently sold 1.4 million games in five days, which proves that plenty of people love to create mayhem. Players take on the role of Tommy Vercetti, a recently released ex-con looking to pay back the drug dealers who framed him. What sets this game apart is the fact that gamers aren’t tied to a script. They can “live” independently of the game and spend countless hours committing heinous and violent crimes that have nothing to do with winning the game. Vice City (much like The Sims) gives gamers an alter ego that allows them to live out “virtual” forbidden fantasies. It’s difficult to hold a thoughtful discussion with fans because at the heart of the game’s popularity is an undeniably powerful attraction: indulging our most primal instincts without suffering any apparent consequences.
• What do you like most about playing Vice City, and why?
• Does committing crimes in video games have any consequences?
• Can “virtual” actions be sinful? Why or why not?
• Is playing Vice City anything like reading about the violent wars of the Old Testament? Why or why not?
• Read aloud Philippians 4:8. Can you live out this verse while playing Vice City? Why or why not?
• Is it okay if we do some things just for fun?
• How would you rate Vice City’s value—positive, negative, or neutral? Explain.
Topic: The future
Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11-13
Clip Location: 28:45 through 31:00*
Synopsis: Mary Jane asks Peter about his post-graduation plans. He wants to move to the city, attend college, and possibly become a photographer. Mary Jane confesses her dream of acting. Peter encourages her, expressing hope in their uncertain futures.
Gospel Filter: College is only the tip of the “future plans” iceberg, which includes everything from life goals to next-day expectations. What’s the proper balance between making “definite” plans and trusting God, moving forward in faith and waiting patiently for God’s direction? Help your teenagers find a center-point of peace for confronting their futures.
• What’s your biggest concern about the future, and how much stress does it cause you?
• What role does God play in your plans for the future?
• Read aloud Jeremiah 29:11-13. Where’s the balance between putting our own plans into motion and seeking God’s plan for us?
• Do you feel confident that you’ll be able to discern God’s plan for you as you make choices about your future? Why or why not?
• If you have uncertainties, how will you move forward in faith? How can you make sure to include God in all your plans about the future?
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (PG)
Topic: Free will
Scripture: Deuteronomy 11:26-28
Clip Location: 48:00 through 49:15*
Synopsis: Anakin talks politics with Padmé, saying people should discuss problems, decide what’s best for everyone, and then do it. Padmé says people don’t always agree on what’s the best. Anakin retorts that the dissenters should be forced to agree. Padmé labels such a government a dictatorship.
Gospel Filter: This conversation symbolizes the tension inherent within free will. We want the ability to make our own choices, but at the same time we often blame God when he doesn’t intervene and force people to make the right decisions. Help your students understand the importance and effect of free will in our lives.
• What are some characteristics that most dictators share?
• What are the advantages and disadvantages of being ruled by a dictator?
• How would life be different if God “dictated” all our actions?
• Read aloud Deuteronomy 11:26-28.
• What’s the “blessing” in our freedom to choose between right and wrong? What’s the curse?
• Does sin affect our free will? Why or why not?
• When are people most likely to wish that God would override our free will and intervene in human events? Explain.
• How does God maintain ultimate control over each life and all human history if people are free to make their own choices?
Austin Powers in Goldmember (PG-13)
Scripture: Proverbs 22:1
Clip Location: 1:05:15 through 1:07:45*
Synopsis: Number Three thanks Mini-Me for joining M.O.D. and leaves the room. Austin enters and assumes Mini-Me is an assassin. They battle in an outrageously brutal fashion until Number Three returns, informing Austin that Mini-Me is now on their side.
Gospel Filter: God may forgive and forget, but people tend to keep tallies of your past mistakes. Each choice a person makes places another brick in his or her “reputation wall.” Once a reputation is built, unbuilding it can be incredibly difficult because the bricks have become cemented together in other people’s minds. Challenge your young people to build a good reputation now so they won’t have to face the daunting task of tearing down a bad reputation and starting over from scratch.
• Was Austin justified in mistrusting Mini-Me? Why or why not?
• How does a person establish a reputation?
• Why does a person’s reputation affect how we treat him or her?
• Read aloud Proverbs 22:1. What makes a reputation so precious?
• How long does it take to gain a reputation? to lose it? to restore it?
• How would you describe your own reputation?
• Do you think your reputation reflects who you really are? Why or why not?
• How can you improve your reputation and protect it from future harm?
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Bryan Belknap is media editor for group Magazine. Visit our online resource MinistryandMedia.com for hundreds of Bryan’s biblical discussion starters based on popular movies, music, and videos. Go to www.MinistryandMedia.com for a free tour of the site.