Thursday, September 20, 2012

As Long As You Love Me, Inappropriate?

“As long as you love me, we could be starving, we could be homeless, we could be broke, as long as you love me I’ll be your platinum, I’ll be your silver, I’ll be your gold.” Justin Bieber#6 on charts

I just got back from a trip to Honduras with Compassion International where I had the chance to visit several families ravaged by poverty. One little eight-year-old girl in particular stole my heart. Her name was Crisvin – she had dark brown skin, black hair, and a beautiful smile. I found out that she loves dolls and taking care of her little brother. I was really excited to find out that our group was able to visit her home so that I could meet her little brother that she continued to talk about.

On our way to the house I was able to talk to Crisvin’s aunt about her family, and slowly (with the help of a translator) I began to get the full picture. Crisvin’s dad was gone. He had gotten so discouraged by their poverty that he left to try and start a new life with a new family. That meant that Crisvin’s mom was now working at a parachute factory a couple of hours away, and now the grandmother was taking care of Crisvin and her brother. The mom was very sorry and disappointed that she could not be there to meet us when we visited the home, but she had to work to pay the bills or at least whatever bills she could pay making $2 a day!

I wish I could say that Crisvin’s story was unique – that her dad happened to leave but most dads stick it out with their families. However, that is not the case. Poverty and starvation changes things – it changes families. Most of the time the dad leaves town because he wants a second chance at a new life. This means that an already struggling family is now left at an even bigger disadvantage and in essence in even deeper poverty.
So when I got back today for my first day in the office and I happened to hear Justin Bieber’s new song (#6 on Billboard) “As Long As You Love Me” where he romanticizes the idea of sticking with someone through poverty – I couldn’t help but pay attention. He went on to sing, “as long as you love me, we could be starving, we could be homeless, we could be broke, as long as you love me…”

As soon as I heard these lyrics my mind flashed back to Honduras, and I saw the beautiful face of Crisvin in her broken down shack of a home and then remembered that her dad was nowhere to be found. I saw a one room house with a bed that 4 people slept on together, and an out-house (if you can call it that) made up of four sticks and ripped cloth with a hole in the ground  (pictured left). I remembered the other families that were missing their fathers. I remembered a stick and mud hut where the dad, who was plagued by illness, was the one to stay and take care of his kids after the mom left. I thought about one of the biggest struggles in the inner cities around our nation – the dad’s are gone or drunk or into drugs.

In families where people are ACTUALLY starving divorce is rampant . Have their been cases of families sticking together through poverty? Absolutely, and those men and women are my heroes. But let’s be honest. As much as we want to romanticize the idea of starvation and poverty to sell records and prove how strong our love is for our significant other – maybe that’s not the best way to do it. It just seems wrong to sing about sticking with someone even through “starvation” when most of us have never had to skip a meal.

I’m not saying that Justin Bieber doesn’t mean it when he says he will stick with his girlfriend, wife or whomever through hard times – all of us should be that dedicated, and real love, committed love, should hold families together through the darkest of times. But this song does what a lot of pop-culture does – it romanticizes a very bad problem in our world to sell records and distract us from what we should be focusing on – making a difference in those issues!

If you want to sing “Aint no mountain high, aint no valley low” that’s fine, unrealistic, but fine. If you need to climb Mt. Everest or hike the Grand Canyon to get to your "babe" – do it. But a song that romanticizes starvation and poverty, written by a very wealthy artist in a country of wealthy people is both over the top and inappropriate.

What do you think? Have you ever experienced or witnessed REAL poverty before? Do you agree? You may comment below...

If you want to change the life of someone in poverty, sponsor a child through Compassion International by clicking here. It's only $38 a month and it provides food, education, and medical help for a child that you choose. I saw Compassion in action, it's amazing, they do what they promise, and they are making a huge difference.

*This post is written by Daniel Day who also writes a blog for Axis called 10 Days Without. You can check out that blog by clicking here. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Gleeful New Beginning or Another Uglee Season?

If you’re a parent of a teen or tween, chances are that the TV show Glee has come up in conversation in your household. With the fourth season of the show kicking off Thursday night, it may be coming up yet again. Though it has been losing popularity in the last season or two, you can bet that Fox will be pulling all the stops to regain viewers, especially middle- and high-school-aged youth.

Here is a summary of Glee from the show’s website: “Entering its fourth season, Glee is a musical comedy about a group of ambitious and talented kids who escape the harsh realities of high school by joining a glee club where they find strength, acceptance and, ultimately, their voice.”

It’s not hard to see why teens would want to see this show. Who wouldn’t want to “escape the harsh realities of high school”? Who wouldn’t want to find “strength and acceptance”? Most teens are struggling to figure out who they are and what they stand for, and, if they’re in public or private school, they are undergoing this struggle amongst others who can be harsh, cruel, and unforgiving. To have a show that empathizes with, but also adds humor to, their plight makes getting through high school a tiny bit more bearable.

Admittedly, the show really draws you in. Once you watch one episode, you want to watch another. Stories are captivating, especially those stories to which we can relate. However, stories also teach, whether they intend to or not. In the case of Glee, a lot of teaching is going on, but it’s definitely not wholesome or worthwhile.

The show covers every topic imaginable, including dating, love, marriage, sex, cheating, homosexuality, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, bullying, success, failure, strip clubs, lying, insecurities . . . the list goes on. As you can imagine, however, the conclusions the show presents in most of these areas are far from biblical.

Every now and then, they do get it right. For example, the show does a great job of showing that everyone is of value, including those who might be handicapped or look different than everyone else. That is a biblical concept. However, these rare occasions in which they do teach something worthwhile do not redeem the show. Rather, because of normalizing [which we mentioned in a previous blog], sin is presented as acceptable, sinful desires are glorified and indulged, and success is defined by what makes a person happy, regardless of how it affects others.

If Axis had a scale to rate media, Glee would be somewhere in the negatives. Sometimes, there are TV shows and movies worth seeing because they open the door for deep thought and conversation. In Axis’ opinion, this is not one of them. Instead of asking questions, it indoctrinates. Instead of presenting truth, it offers beautifully packaged lies.

So we need to ask ourselves if we want our kids watching shows to which they can relate but that also teach them dangerous ways to view the world and cope with the challenges life presents. Will this build them up or set them up for failure? Will this teach them to love the things God loves and hate the things He hates? Or will it make it harder for them to see God’s love and wisdom behind all of His decrees?

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

When is "It's not that bad" okay?

“Mom, can I please see this movie? It’s PG-13, not R, it doesn’t have any sex scenes, there aren’t any drugs, and it only has a couple of bad words. Please? Pretty pretty pretty please???”

As anyone who has ever had the privilege of parenting teens knows, this isn’t an unusual conversation. We’ve all heard (or said) it before: “But all my friends are going!” or “I will be the biggest loser in school if you don’t let me go!” or “The bad stuff in the movie won’t affect me. I just want to see it for the visual effects.” So the pleas go.

And if you’ve ever said “No” to one of these desperate, puppy-dog-eyed teenagers, you also know that it’s often followed by angry insults, storming off, and slamming doors. Inevitably, if we say “No” enough, we start to wonder if we’re just being too strict or controlling. After all, some movies really aren't that bad.

A recent example of this type of movie is Premium Rush, which follows Wilee as he rides his bike through the busy streets of New York City to make deliveries and eventually finds himself delivering the wrong package and fighting for his life. The plot is interesting enough, the action is well filmed, and the acting is decent. And, compared with many PG-13 films these days, there really aren’t that many instances of sexuality, drugs, alcohol, or profane language.

So a Christian parent finds himself in a conundrum, thinking, "Compared to most movies today, it’s really not that bad, and since movies are part of culture, we can’t just keep our kids from seeing every movie ever made! Maybe this is the time to say yes."

And in many instances, you’d be right. That’s right, we are advocating to say yes and let your teenagers see a movie or two--as long as you commit to seeing the movie as well. For some movies that your teen will want to see this may seem like a chore, but it is the only way to be able to open up the door for conversation. 

Why should we say yes to some of these movies? Because as we just said it opens up the door for conversation and growth. Many movies ask good questions (the really good ones don’t necessarily answer them but give you different perspectives to think about) that teens today take for granted. By seeing these films with your teens, you can help them confront difficult issues in a safe environment. And because movies tell stories, they are often more effective at reaching teens than simply sitting down with them to lecture them about how they should behave or think.
Do you think that movies are a good teaching tool for students? What are some other ways that you think they can be effectively reached? You may comment below...

Ultimately, you, as the parent, must take the time to figure out which movies include violence, foul language, or other inappropriate material because they are simply trying to be true to life versus which ones add it in just to make the movie sell better. And only you know what your teen can handle and what he/she is just not ready for yet. Whatever you decide, try to show your teen some love by explaining to him/her the reasons for your decision. Even if they are initially angry, most teens will come around and agree with the wisdom behind your choice.

In the case of Premium Rush, if you do decide to see and discuss the film with your teen, make sure to consider the effects of normalizing. Though the movie does present some difficult ethical decisions, in the end, it just assumes that certain “values” transcend all others, including following the law. By doing so, it subversively presents these values as superior and wants the reader to sympathize with the “hero,” rather than allowing the viewer to wonder if there might be a better way.

And, as always, if you do see these kinds of films, make a plan with your teen to pray against whatever lies and deception you may have encountered. Images can be burned into our minds long after the movie is over, so keep the conversation open.

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