Friday, April 27, 2012

Wild, Young & Free

“So what we get drunk,
So what we don’t sleep,
We’re just having fun,
We don’t care who sees.
So what we go out,
That’s how it’s supposed to be
Living young and wild and free.”

You may think from a quick glance at these lyrics that the relatively new hit by Snoop Dog , Wiz Khalifa, and Bruno Mars is a party song about drinking. Although getting drunk is a clear theme in this Top 25 song, the main theme of Young, Wild & Free is smoking weed.  In fact, in the non-radio version the second line actually says, “so what we smoke weed.” A deeper look into the song makes this clear with lines like “…roll joints bigger than King Kong’s fingers,” “…smoking grade A,” “put the weed in a J,” “…weed in the air,” “T-H-C,” “…rollone, smoke one, and we all just having fun.

And, in our culture, that’s really what life comes down to – “just having fun.”

This isn’t the first time that we’ve heard lyrics about living life wild and free. The biggest hit of 2011, Party Rock Anthem, made it clear that losing our minds is the way to “have a good time.”  Currently, Flo Rida is sitting at #6 on the Billboard Top 100 with a song called “Wild Ones” in which he sings, “I like crazy, foolish, stupid, party going wild, fist pumping, music…” And lastly, “We Are Young” is nestled at #2 with lyrics like “we are young, so let’s set the world on fire.”

Here’s the point: our culture is telling us that life is about having fun, and in order to have fun, we need to be wild and free, losing our minds, and pursuing whatever feels good. Bruno Mars makes this clear when he sings, “that’s how it’s supposed to be, living young and wild and free.” But is that true? Is that really how it’s supposed to be? Are we really supposed to turn off our minds, pursue pleasure at all costs, disregard who’s watching, and live wild and free? What about consequences? What about responsibility? What about wisdom and maturity?

Check out this set of verses in 1 Thessalonians: “Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God…For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

So are we, as Christians, supposed to live “wild” or “crazy”? Or are we supposed to “control our bodies in a way that is holy and honorable”?

1 Thessalonians makes it clear that we are to be “sanctified,” set apart by lives of holiness and purity. It says we are not supposed to live “in passionate lust” like those who do not know God, but instead live in a way that pleases God.

Being “Young, Wild and Free” is just a fancy way to say, “pursue pleasure at all costs.” This is the opposite of what we find in 1Thessalonians.

The reason God doesn’t want us living this way is not because he hates fun or seeing his children enjoy themselves. He does it to protect us, and bring us into a life that’s more fulfilling.

This song is a clear example of why we cannot simply get caught up in a catchy beat and fun lyrics. This song may be pleasing to the ear, but it’s not pleasing to the mind and heart. We must remember that music lyrics are trying to teach us something, and that every artist on the radio is raising the next generation. We cannot be passive listeners, and we must always take time to see what the lyrics are really teaching us about life.   

What do you think? Is life about being “wild and free?” What other ways have you seen this message taught in culture? You may comment below...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Marketplace of Ideas

Check out Axis' Marketplace of Ideas video!

The smell of fresh squid hangs in the air. As I walk along I am confronted by at least a dozen other smells ranging anywhere from the aroma of a delicious beef stew to the stench of a rancid fish tank. Then, of course, I’m faced with the option to buy socks, sunglasses, t-shirts, baskets, tea pots, corn dogs, bean sprouts, window curtains, pancakes filled with red bean paste, eggs, an octopus, and the list goes on. As you might imagine, I am in a marketplace.

For two and a half years I lived on the island of Jeju in South Korea, and going to the market became a common practice since everyday I had to walk through it to get to my apartment.  It’s fascinating to think about just what is happening in the market. Everyone is trying to sell me their stuff, and trying to persuade me that I need it. But there are so many choices. Of course, I can’t be convinced to buy everything. That’s absurd. Irrational. And yet every vender wants me to buy. On multiple occasions an old woman would hand me some type of fruit, hoping that once I experienced it I would be convinced that I needed it. And every vender was the same, and yet their version of persuasion was customized in order to attract buyers.

We live in a marketplace. Each one of us. This marketplace is one that we cannot enter and exit as we please. It’s huge and inescapable. It’s so big that it covers the surface of the entire earth. It is The Marketplace of Ideas. 

Venders are selling us ideas everywhere we go. We are handed ideas that claim to satisfy our desire for success, happiness, true love, and purpose. But how is it that we often seem to skip the process of being a smart shopper in this vast marketplace? Before buying fruit at a flea market, or shoes at a department store, I understand the importance of examining them. I’m going to make sure the fruit is good. I’m going turn the melon over, give it a good thump, smell it, and maybe gently toss it from one hand to another in order to best determine its quality and decide if I should choose a better one. With shoes I’m going to try them on, walk a lap around the shoe store, jog in place for a few seconds, etc. I want to make sure I don’t regret my shoe decision.

Every idea that we buy shapes who we are, and reveals what we treasure. We think so rationally about fruit and shoes, but often shop blindfolded when it comes to ideas. Aristotle is attributed to have said “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”  In 1 Corinthians 14:20 Paul says “ not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” By thinking well, we are able to make sure that we don’t regret the ideas that we purchase.

As Christians we should relish the opportunity to seize every idea and examine it before we buy it. And let us not think and analyze just for the sake of thinking. Rather let us desire to think for the sake of knowing the Truth, and in turn loving God and loving others. We cannot exit the marketplace of ideas, so perhaps we should learn how to shop well and purchase the best items being sold.

- Daniel Giddings, Team Leader -

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Hunger Games

To watch or not to watch The Hunger Games? That is the question many parents, reviews, websites, blogs, and Christians have raised since the release of the film. But maybe it’s the wrong question to be asking. . . .

Based on the book by Suzanne Collins (first in a set of 3), the movie is set in future North America, where the citizens of Panem are forced by the Capitol to live in Districts in third-world conditions and to work backbreaking labor jobs that keep the Capitol and its citizens wealthy and well fed. Each year, these Districts must participate in the “The Hunger Games,” a ritual imposed by the Capitol as a reminder of the deadly consequences of trying to rebel. Each District is required to send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to the Capitol, where they are put into an arena to fight to the death.

Reminiscent of works like George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, The Hunger Games books raise many questions about governmental control, morality, sacrifice, reality TV, and entertainment, to name just a few. Admittedly, Collins wrote these books for young adults between the ages of 10 and 20, so one should not expect such literary genius as can be found in these classics, but even the older readers will find the books compelling and hard to put down.

Interestingly enough, the emergence of the books seems a bit serendipitous in timing. There are many who believe that the US could already be in the early stages of a country similar to Panem. Even if one finds that idea a bit too far fetched, we must all recognize that such conditions currently do exist in North Korea, parts of China, and elsewhere. But even more difficult to swallow is the reality that the idea of people killing other people for sport and entertainment has existed for centuries, with the Roman Coliseum being most prominent. But how did the Romans get to the point where the masses had no qualms about watching others kill each other for fun? And is it possible that it could happen again? What needs to be done to prevent it?

Questions like these and many more should arise in one’s mind after reading the books. And since the movies are such close adaptations of the books, they have the potential, indeed the power, to ask questions and question assumptions in much more poignant ways. But the question remains: will they? And even if they do, will our youth notice these questions? Or will they be too “entertained” to notice?

Understandably, some students are not yet ready to tackle certain concepts and abstract ideas; only you, as the parent, can know exactly what your student is capable of handling. But if he/she is ready to handle them, then you are doing him/her a disservice either by not allowing him/her to watch it OR by allowing him/her to watch it with no questions asked. Both of these reactions are polarizing and extreme in the case of The Hunger Games. There is a middle ground, which is to engage the subject matter with your student. Rather than imposing more boundaries and rules, see this as an opportunity to allow your children to grow, mature, and live up to the responsibilities God has given them.

If you happen to have students who are begging you to see the film or read the books, use it as an opportunity to not only oblige them but give them some homework. That probably means you’ll have to read the books and watch the movie, as well as have meaningful, intentional discussions with your students about the content. But isn’t all the work worth it? Isn’t it much better to raise students who actively engage and think about culture, who could one day drastically change culture for the better or prevent a world like in The Hunger Games from becoming a reality? (A quick suggestion: tell your students that if they want to read the books, they must also read some or all of the classics that deal with the same subject matter.)

All in all, approaching the books and movies in this way means more work for viewers, especially parents. But since when were we, as followers of Christ, supposed to passively become part of (or disengage from) the world around us? To learn or not to learn from The Hunger Games? Maybe that is the question.

*poster comes from

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why Students Walk Away From God In College

According to the stats, the majority of students walk away from God in college -- why is that and what can parents do about it? Find out more on The Axis Podcast.

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