“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV)
“Becoming Gotham City?”
Watching the nightly news is troubling; it can leave us concerned, overwhelmed, fearful, or even downright depressed. What’s happening around us? It seems like our culture is unraveling. Is the increase in stories about crime and corruption simply editorial choice or is our culture truly becoming more and more like Gotham City?
“Gotham City or simply Gotham, is a fictional city appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics, best known as the home of the superhero Batman and his close allies and foes. The city was first identified as Batman’s place of residence in Batman #4 (December 1940) and has since been the primary setting for stories featuring the character.” (Wikipedia)
“Gotham City, or simply Gotham, is an American city rife with corruption and crime, the home of its iconic protector Batman.” (https://dc.fandom.com/wiki/Gotham_City)
Our major cities are experiencing crime and corruption in horrific numbers:
In just one weekend this month, “At least seven people have been killed and 17 have been injured, including a 14-year-old boy, in shootings across Chicago this weekend, authorities say.” (July 18, 2022, http://www.nbcchicago.com)
New York City:
“Overall crime in New York City has risen 31% since June of last year, with more than 11,000 total incidents this year compared to 8,448 in June 2021.” (www.msn.com)
“The crime rate in Los Angeles is considerably higher than the national average across all communities in America… The chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime in Los Angeles is 1 in 33… Relative to California, Los Angeles has a crime rate that is higher than 83% of the state’s cities and towns of all sizes.” (www.neighborhoodscout.com/ca/los-angeles/crime#description)
“With a crime rate of 51 per one thousand residents, San Francisco has one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes… One’s chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime here is one in 20.” (www.neighborhoodscout.com/ca/san-francisco/crime#description)
“The 2021 United States murder rate is estimated to be nearly as high as it was 25 years ago, when more than 19,600 people were killed nationwide, according to statistics shared in a recent report.” (www.foxnews.com/us/us-murder-rate-violence-big-cities-records)
Certainly, more statistics could be cited. All of us, but most importantly our children and teens, are being bombarded by these news reports. They watch videos of riots and crime scenes almost daily. YouTube, TikTok, and other social media frequently share video snippets showing unruliness and inappropriate behavior in schools and on our streets. Teens may be overcome with fear or simply become numb, dismissing this as just the way things are, perhaps developing an unconscious attitude of “Why should I care?” Even though most of the stories come from urban areas, Americans are getting the message that violence is everywhere!
Consider mass shootings in the US that have happened at a movie theater, a 4th of July parade, in malls, grocery stores, bars and nightclubs, churches and synagogues, and most frightening of all – schools. “In the first half of 2022 alone, there have been 95 reports of gunfire on school grounds, in which 40 people were killed and 76 injured. More than half of these deaths occurred in a single attack on Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 21 individuals, including 19 children and two teachers, were killed.” (https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/school-shootings-by-state)
Americans in all walks of life used to believe that the comings and goings of daily life would be safe – and certainly schools were thought to be “hallowed halls”. Now, those who are in schools need to be concerned about the possibility of violence.
The media shape our feelings, thoughts, and actions by the stories they choose to cover… and teens may believe violence, crime, and corruption are part of normal American life. Distressing!
What are we to do? Hold fast to God’s word as a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Psalm 119:105). In a dark world the light of our gospel message shines even brighter.
“Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.” (Phil. 2: 15-16 The Message)
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
Although stories about these violent scenes and the crime statistics referenced above are accurate, it is essential that all this gets put in perspective. Use conversations with teens to help redirect their thinking and fears. Here are a few conversation starters to begin the process:
• Ask teens, “Have there been any incidents of violence in your school? If so, tell me about them.”
• Discuss recent school shootings in the US. Ask them how they felt, and then ask them about what they thought. Ask them if their feelings and thoughts brought any ideas about possible solutions for this kind of violence.
• Discuss this scripture: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV) Ask them what this means to them.
• Ask, “Do you think the government has the power to ensure safety in our country? If so, how?”
• Ask, “Did Jesus ensure peace and safety for all his followers?” Share stories of those who have been martyred for Christ. (Go to the Voice of the Martyrs website for examples: http://www.persecution.com)
• Ask: “What do you think one person can do to make the world a safer and better place?”
• Ask, “Have you heard of Gotham City? If you lived in Gotham City, what would you do to help?”
• Share: “Edmund Burke stated: ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’. What do you think about this comment?”
• Share: “There are two kinds of peace – that which the world gives and that which Jesus gives (John 14:27 NIV). What is the difference?”
Note: Share this blog with your church’s youth pastor as a lesson for youth group gatherings.
Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
#MediaSavvyKids, #ChristianParenting, #ChurchAndCulture, #YouthPastors, #YouthGroupCurriculum, #HelpForChristianParents, #TeensAndCulture, #IAmNotDefinedByTheCulture, #GothamCity, #ViolenceInAmerica, #ShareTheGospel, #ASoundMind
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