by Sue Summers
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12: 2 (The Message)
The mass media cause trends, shape attitudes, influence actions, and massage viewpoints. They promote the ready acceptance of new ideas. The mass media cause all of these things to occur rapidly. Before electronic media, it took months or even years for ideas or actions to become known and then to be accepted by the general population. Now, because of our constant connection to others, the flow of ideas and news – both reliable and opinionated – is immediate.
What is the “new normal?” Is this “new normal” desirable? The struggle is what to believe and what trends to follow.
Some normalization is inconsequential. For instance, wearing baseball caps backwards began about 15 years ago and was just a style change – something that hadn’t previously been “the norm” quickly spread throughout the culture. Much of this was because of music video artists and celebrities adopting the trend, and others quickly copying it.
I just saw a fashion show online, featuring bizarre and unimaginable outfits, attempting to influence others to “catch on”. That’s how we would have reacted a few years ago to some of today’s cultural trends, styles, and thinking. This year’s SuperBowl “halftime show” showing Shakira and Jennifer Lopez in a sexualized and disturbing performance was seen by an estimated 102 million viewers – the 11th most-watched show in TV history. Didn’t see it? Form your own opinions: http://www.nfl.com/videos/super-bowl-performances/0ap3000001100605/Jennifer-Lopez-and-Shakira-s-full-Super-Bowl-LIV-halftime-show
Some trends that have recently been accepted as of today’s date could seem odd or outdated within even a year or two. You can probably think of “cultural norms” that are now part of our lives that would have bothered your parents or grandparents. Our culture is rapidly changing.
There are some transitions that are significant and indeed questionable. How can we know what matters in terms of our personal thinking and actions as these shifts occur? Some matter and others are merely stylistic and of no real consequence. So how do we know what to believe or follow and what to dismiss? And more importantly, how do we help our teens work through the bombardment of mixed messages and varied values?
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
Have regular family discussions as new developments occur rather than wait until a child or grandchild is “all in” with a new trend.
One idea: share the Romans 12: 2 scripture listed above and discuss how this applies to our lives today.
Here are some discussion starters:
• Think of current styles or concepts that seem unusual or questionable. What is your reaction?
• Is there something we can use as a “grid of truth” as we wrestle with changing norms?
• Can the Bible still be trusted as Truth and a reliable foundation for our decisions?
• When “everyone” seems to believe something, is it really that all people have accepted it?
• Does God care about what’s “trending now” or does He advocate unchanging and permanent values?
• Do we all need to alter our ideas or values as the culture’s norms change, or are there some things that are consistently right and appropriate?
It’s time for all of us to comprehend that our relationship with God and His ways is more important than what others on Instagram, Snapchat, or WhatsApp are saying.
Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
Her website is: www.MediaAlert.org
Sue can be reached at: Sue@MediaAlert.org
© Sue Summers 2020