Fifty Shades of … Porn or Fiction?

I have been contemplating this for a while. Should I blog? Shouldn’t I blog? Should I or shouldn’t I? Well, I guess I caved!

Fifty Shades of Grey. The latest sensation in fictional reading and read by millions of various ages and backgrounds. It has been Number 1 on the bestsellers list for 18 weeks. But what exactly is it about? Some may say romance, others suspense, other adult literature (which by the way is another way of camouflaging pornographic material). But what is it about such reading material that has people hooked (on Facebook, I have seen comments of both women and men readers. And why publicly admit that you have read such material when you are aware of the content thereof)? Is it the attraction and addiction of sex, of sexual submission or even the escape from traditional sexual relationships? Is it a trending fad that if not read then you’ve been left in the dark? Is it mere curiosity? Or is it just for the love of reading?

Let me be controversial to make a point. If I enter an adult store and rent a pornographic film, and then after watching it post it on Facebook and publicly state my impatience on getting to the next episode, I wonder how people would respond to that? Yet, we endorse the consuming of reading material that is filled with sexual material. You might say I have pushed the analogy too far, but then I’m sure anyone can cite the same reasons as above.

Now I understand that adult literature is a genre that has been around for a while, but does that make it acceptable? What message are we sending with regard to morality and sexuality? It’s also easy to say that you skip over the sexual materials and is merely following the story, but the story in itself is morally challenging. It’s a really rich guy who will stop at nothing to get what he wants and a girl who is starting out that wants more. When does too much become too much?

I think that the openness of reading these books, on Facebook, Twitter, and in public spaces, speaks much of where we as a society finds ourselves. The blurring of sexuality and sexual roles, the cheapening of sex and sexual encounters and the “for sale” of sex and ourselves have become too popular and freely available. There is no longer any sanctity in our sexuality and partners and the sorrowful part is that we are passing this lifestyle to our children who will inherit fifty shades of so much worse. When do we tell our girls and boys that money cannot buy you everything you want? Where do we draw the line when it comes to sexuality (pick up any popular magazine and I am sure you will find articles on promiscuity). As much as we want to pretty up promiscuity, selling your body eventually leads to selling your soul.

And in case you wondering, NO, I have not read it. I do not have to read every book to know if it’s good or bad.

The Songs We Sing

We all too familiar with the adage of be carefull of the songs we sing or listen to, because it has the potential to influence and affect the way we think and live.  I remember a song from my childhood days that goes,

“Oh, be careful little ears, what you hear. For the Father Up above, Is looking down in love, So be careful little ears what you hear.”

 After a chat with a buddy of mine about a popular song, I had to ask myself when is it ok to endorse a song? Or what does endorsing a song look like? Is it when we sing it? Or have it on our iPods, or phones, or laptops?

In youth ministry we are to stay abreast of trends and culture. We are to know what’s new, what’s hot and what’s not. We need to be aware of who the new cultural stars, influencers and movers are. But where do we draw the line with following trends?

The song I’m referring to above is “We are Young” by Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe. The song was released late 2011 and has been one of the most downloaded songs for the past few months since its release (see Billboard.com). It has also been scripted in the series Glee (Season Three Episode: Hold on to Sixteen) and now in South Africa where it has been used in a car commercial. The message of the song promotes some pretty bad behaviour and if we are not careful we could be led astray by the beat or enticing melody and land ourselves in some hot water. Let’s be honest, it sure is a fun (pun not intended 🙂 ) song to listen to and can be quite addictive.

But before I get carried away, what does this song promote. Quite clearly it promotes substance abuse; binge drinking; and consequences of such behaviour which could be numerous (what is the logical conclusion of carry me home tonight after I drank too much?). What about the scar that’s being referred to? Is it physical? Emotional? Is it abuse because the lover is apologising profusely?

I can understand how this songs can touch on the immortality and recklessness that defines young people. How they can conquer the world and live in the moment of pure bliss. I can see and experience how this songs tugs at the heart and creates pure desire for the beauty of NOW. Of camaraderie and friendship.  But it is misplaced. If we are not careful, we can encourage this misplacing of youthful abandonment and could have disastrous consequences.

Is that the kind of message we want to endorse?

Have a look at the video and see how easy it is to fall for the song.

Are we listening?

Every now and then something comes on the scene that makes me sit back and ask, “now what?” This music video, been out for a few months now, by K’Naan and Nelly Furtado made me ask just that.

Have a look.

When Youth Ministry Becomes Tradition…

What is the purpose for having a youth ministry in the church? Why do churches have youth ministry?

When the church ceases to place priority on reaching young people for Christ as opposed to making sure the youth ministry in the church exists and doesn’t fall flat, when having young people in the actual ministry, it ceases to become a ministry but a tradition. A tradition of maintaining numbers in a program that is listed on the church’s organogram.

When something becomes part of “what we’ve always done here at this church” as opposed to asking the question, “what is the purpose of this particular ministry or practice?” it makes a bold statement that we’d rather have something for the sake of having something. It makes answering the questions of “why” uncomfortable and wanting to avoid instead of answering, “is there a need for this?” Too often the means becomes the purpose, and youth ministry has taken this route, where it has become a purpose instead of a means to reach young people for Christ.

Now I would want to believe that there will always be a need for youth ministry, therefore we would always see the need for youth ministry and have it in our church as part of who it is and not of what it does.

Why churches should always have a youth ministry:

  1. The Bible says so
    • When Jesus said we are to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19), he wasn’t just referring to adults. Yes, children were not seen in the light as they are today, considering the patriarchal society of the Bible, but they are part of humanity that Jesus died for. When witnessing about Jesus Christ to the nations, we should include the youth.
  2. The world is young
  3. The youth is the church of now
    • As clichéd as it might be, we need to remind ourselves again and again that our youth is important now! Not tomorrow! Now! We need to put our resources, our time, our prayers, our support behind our youth. They are not an investment where we hoping for some good return in a few years. Youth matter and they matter now like the present church because they are the present church. By saying they’re the church of tomorrow is telling them that they do not matter right now, that their youth is frowned upon. This goes against the very verse that Paul told Timothy, “don’t let anyone look down on you because of you are young” (1 Tim 4:12).
  4. Economically – they are the influx of finance
    • While this may not sound very spiritual, but where the youth are the money is. If youth attend your church, you can almost be assured their parents will follow and so will their finances. When youth graduate, hopefully they will be following in the footsteps of Christ as personal saviour, but also that they would not leave the church. By not leaving the church, neither would their resources. If you looking for a sure way to cripple the church, then ignore the youth. Treat them as unimportant, as a minority and make the way wide open for them to leave at the end of their schooling years to seek purposes elsewhere.
  5. By ministering to youth, we shape society
    • If you want to know what our society will look like in the years to come, then don’t look at our current political leaders. While they may make policies today to govern tomorrow, they are not what will shape society. It is our youth that will shape society. Have a look at our history, it has always been our youth that has shaped South Africa. Have a look at our youth today to see what our society will look like tomorrow.

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So, why have youth ministry? You tell me…

What’s Your Number?

So 10.5 sexual partners in one lifetime is low for an average American female according to the film “What’s Your Number?

Is that good news or bad news? For Anna, it was bad news! Her response was, “No! It’s low!” Now I know that in this new dispensation called post-modernism, everybody can decide what is best for them, “to each his own,” they would say. And yes, we have to respect people’s choices and decisions, even if it is downright crazy and destructive. But how should we respond when they propagate a message of multiples sexual partners?

Here’s a blurb of What’s Your Number? It is about a woman who is fired from her place of employment, and while commuting back home stumbles upon an article of what the average amount of sexual partners an American women has during her lifetime. This average seems to be a modest 10.5 sexual partners across a lifetime due to her immediate reaction and response, “It’s low!” Upon her arrival at home she tallies up and discovers that she has had 19 sexual partners. The rest of the film is about her, through the assistance of her male neighbour, who has almost the exact same problem, trying to reconnect with her ex-lovers to see who could possibly be a match and future husband before she doubles the average and moves up to number 20.

So in a nutshell, the film promotes promiscuity without any conscience or consequence. That it is okay to have many sexual partners, and the more the better, is encouraged. That sexual experimentation and experience has no bearing on the person at all. That such behaviour is endorsed by the entertainment industry without considering the influence such a message may have on young people.

So why should we engage in this conversation? There are too many impressionable young people to promote such reckless and irresponsible behaviour. Statistics of teenage pregnancies and destroyed futures, escalating numbers of HIV/Aids victims, and not considering the emotional trauma that comes with it, should be seen as real results and consequences of such behaviour.

I mean how would you respond if Anna was your daughter and she comes up to you and says, “Mom! Dad! I just thought that I should let you know that I am way beyond the average of 10.5 sexual partners. But don’t worry, I’m only on 19 and I still have the rest of my life ahead of me.”

While we all make mistakes and many bad decisions in life, it is not okay to continue down such a spiral of self-destruction by selling yourself short and not even to the highest bidder. And while this film says much about our culture we are living in, it is not an acceptable message at all. Sex seems to become cheaper by the day. There no longer seems to be any beauty or sanctity in this gift of sexuality.

The question that pops into my mind is, “Are we as Parents, Youth Pastors and Christ-Followers saying and doing enough to make a contribution to this culture?” If we remain silent, our youth will listen to anyone who stands at the microphone and there is no louder microphone than that of the entertainment industry. Are we prepared for that kind of influence?

Crazy Youth Pastors!

Youth ministry is for crazy people! It’s for stupid people! Because who in their right mind will accept a calling, a job where the pay is barely enough to get you through the month? Who wants to be in a job where you are constantly in trouble for breaking a window? For staining the carpet? Who wants to be in a job when something goes wrong then it has to be the youth pastor! Who wants constant critique and ridicule? Who constantly wants to be disrespected and put down because that is just not the way to do ministry?

Who in their right minds would want to do something like that for the rest of their lives? You have to be down right crazy and out of your mind!

But that is the type of person that belongs in youth ministry. When reaching that young person for Christ is more important than your pay and when the respect that you deserve cannot compare to sharing and being with a young person who just experienced abuse and heart-ache and rejection and loneliness and fear and who has no self-esteem. Youth ministry is for the person who says for the sake of the gospel and reaching that young person I will stick it out. Young people don’t care about your background or how old you are. They only care that you care.

You see, youth ministry is about passion! It’s about Jesus calling a broken person to go and be with other broken people. It’s about the person who laughs in the face of challenges and who is not afraid to push boundaries and challenge the status quo. It is for the person where no challenge is too great and no young person is too far to be reached.

Youth ministry is for crazy people. It is for stupid people. It’s for broken people. It’s for real people. It’s for people who won’t give up. It’s for people who have been called of God. Because God calls such people for such a generation that need real people!

I saw this video on McLane‘s blog. Have a look and enjoy the passion that comes with youth ministry.

Flash Mobs

Flash Mob! A what? Sounds pretty dangerous doesn’t it? Or at least some form of mass nudity? haha.

I’m unsure of where I first heard the term but upon watching “Friends with benefits” (which is not something we should promote but I guess it is happening. So if you are a parent or in youth ministry maybe you should check it out) I was once more reminded of this trend that has grown quite big across the world. It is reported to have begun in the USA, Manhattan in March 2003 by the senior editor of Harper’s Magazine. It is also being used by various youth groups in a form of ministry.

Word about flash mobs are spread via various social networking sites, texting and any other means of communication so that it could be well-coordinated. At the end of a flash mob everybody just walks away as if nothing has happened.

So then, what is the purpose of a flash mob? At first it was to address conformity but clearly by its spontaneity is completely the opposite. Honestly, I don’t really know the reasons why except that it looks really cool.

Check out this one on the Hallelujah chorus done in a shopping mall in 2010 (it’s really good, worth a watch).