“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)
In the Biblical book of Ephesians, we are told to dress ourselves in God’s spiritual weaponry in order to stand. In the secular realm, we are also told about the importance of standing. Peter Marshall is often given credit for the quote, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”. Another quote by Rosa Parks adds a bit more: “Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.”
A quote by William Bernbach extends this line of thinking, “If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and some people against you. If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you, and nobody for you.”
Those who bob and sway with the culture, drifting along with whatever is “trending now” will have difficulty finding the foundational beliefs upon which they can stand. And the harm that the winds of Twitter or Facebook or Instagram can inflict may, in fact, bring greater trouble in the future. Maturity places bigger issues upon us, requiring a rock-solid certainty about the right and wrong of choices when facing essential life decisions.
Social media allow followers to spew out whatever is on the minds of the members. Sometimes their statements can be substantive, but often they are reactive, flighty, or even fictitious or intentionally aggressive or antagonistic. However, there is a question that can be asked to cause individuals to dig deeper: “How do you know what you know?” Often finding an answer is a struggle, as many just repeat what they’ve heard or read, without a specific source or even an understanding of the subject being discussed.
In recent months, the topic of the relationship between free speech and social media has become red-hot. Although the social media companies are privately-owned corporations, they have truly been treated as a “public marketplace of ideas” by most people and been afforded legal protection by Congressional action. Now some are calling big-tech out for censorship, as things have changed with tightened “community” restraints and suspended or canceled accounts.
After the January 6th, 2021, Trump rally and breach of the US Capitol, “President Trump’s Twitter account was shut down, and he was banned permanently from the platform. Supporters of Trump had transitioned over to the social media platform Parler, which was also shuttered… Facebook and Twitter, among other social media services, have suggested that their censoring activities have been only concerning violations of their community standards.” (https://religiousliberty.tv/free-speech-and-social-media-censorship-an-analysis.html)
The bottom line is that social media play a dominating role in the thinking and actions of many, not only in America, but throughout the Internet-saturated world.
So, on what foundation or basis should we make our decisions as we go through our days? If the tides of social media find us floating along like a cork in the ocean, being tousled and tumbled by the current, there is little hope of landing on terra firma. On the other hand, if our bedrock includes the guiding principles of the US Constitution or the Bible, for example, then there are moorings that provide a specific framework of unwavering beliefs upon which we can stand.
How much better it is to have a foundation, especially when it is something that has lasted through time and has given direction and authority for the life challenges of many people. Another meaningful quote to consider is:
“Stand up for what you believe in, even if it means you are standing alone”.
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
Adults who have the opportunity to engage in conversations and interact with teens can stimulate deeper level thinking. Here are some conversation starters that can be useful:
• “What are the news stories or events that are ‘trending now’ on social media? Have you seen popular opinions change, and if so, what are your thoughts about them?”
• “When you have to make a difficult choice, where do you turn for help?”
• “How can you determine the right course of action in various situations? Is there truly a right and a wrong way to act, or is it up to each person’s feelings or personal ideas?”
• “Are there certain things that are bedrock no-compromise positions in your life? If so, what are they?”
• “What’s another way that you could say: ‘If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything’?”
• “A nation can only treat its citizens fairly and responsibly if there is a known, strong and honorable foundation to direct actions and laws. What do you think is that foundation for the US?”
• “If nations have a strong guiding authority, do you think people have one also? If so, what do you think it is?”
Some things in life are “non-negotiable” bedrock principles. It’s good to consider what they are and then to take a stand: no compromise!
Note: Share this blog with your church’s youth pastor as a lesson for youth group gatherings.
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Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
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