Monday, April 5, 2010

The Genuine Need for Exhortation

For many years now Kevin and I have made it a practice to watch what the kids watch on tv, so that we stay "up" on what they're seeing and hearing. It's actually a very good practice since it's a fairly common thing that one of them will ask "what does that mean?" when they hear something on one of their shows that they don't understand. It's good to know what they hear and it's good to be able to address it right away, whatever it happens to be.

This family practice of ours explains why we watched the Kid's Choice Awards together as a family the other night. To be perfectly honest, it's exactly the kind of thing I would have wanted to watch as a kid to see all my favorite kid-stars in one place! Not all that exciting for an adult (especially if it means you have to suffer through tolerate Justin Bieber), but to a kid this is fun stuff. So we all watched together and enjoyed at the very least, seeing people get slimed on slime island. I confess, watching someone get slimed is still fun at 45.

Justin Bieber, slime and kid stuff aside, watching kid-entertainment always proves to be an interesting source for discussions later on for Kev and I that as parents, we need to be having. It was during one of those discussions where it came up that what is produced for kid sized entertainment in our modern day is nothing at all like what was produced 35 years ago when Kev and I were 10 years old. Likewise, what qualifies as perfectly okay and/or acceptable (or at the very least "no big deal") for kids in our day, would be thought of as (at best) out of line, in our day. A couple of examples of that would be the supposed pole-dance performed by Miley Cyrus at the recent Teen Choice Awards (which our family did not watch, thankfully) and the uber-suggestive lyrics performed in songs on kid's shows. When I was 10, my fellow 10 year old kids never saw or heard anything like that so it would be seriously weird to say the least. In our modern day however, kids are so accustomed to seeing and hearing so much that really is inappropriate, that they have become desensitized to it really, and don't react at all the way I would have at that age.

Becoming desensitized to such things is really a lot easier than you might think. When I was in my teens and 20s "slasher" movies were a new thing and of course being the unsaved knucklehead that I was, I saw all the most popular ones. I had seen so many of them that by the time I viewed a documentary about true-life crime cases (in my mid 20s) the victims shown in the actual police footage just didn't look real to me. They didn't shock me, they didn't gross me out and they didn't have the affect on me I thought they would, because I'd seen so much Hollywood style overkill (no pun intended) that reality seemed fake, and not all that disturbing. Interestingly enough it was that aspect of the whole experience that struck me the most after watching the documentary. It actually made me a little sad that watching it didn't bother me. It should have bothered me and it just didn't, because I'd already polluted my head with junk. It's exactly the same for kids today and the kinds of music they listen to and things they see. We're living in a time where so many boundary lines have been trampled, bad isn't necessarily bad, good doesn't really mean what you think it does, and do whatever you feel like doing and it'll all be good... is the message of the day. The bizarre thing about that is, that was essentially the hippie message of the 60s when everyone singing that same song was so stoned out of their minds they wouldn't know up from down if their life depended on it. In our day however, the people singing that same song aren't even intoxicated with any kind of mind altering chemical. Stone cold sober, this is the new era type of hippie song for our modern culture and we all seem to swallow it and ask for more.

The thing is, just writing that is my admission that I am in fact over-the-hill, irrelevent, out of touch with modern culture and totally uncool. I have in fact finally reached the age where I can look at what's trendy, acceptable, expected or common and say to myself "no, that goes well beyond the line I am willing to cross". In part, it's because of the culture I was raised in that was by far morally superior than the modern era. I do not say that to sound arrogant, I say it because it's true. Growing up in the 60s and 70s our society was in a different moral place than we are now, and everyone knows it. Likewise, those who grew up in the 40s and 50s could say the same thing about their genration and it would be a true statement for them as well. While I have not studied modern cultural trends to any great depth, I know from just reading and listening that the way culture has changed with each decade it becomes worse, and worse, and worse. While those decades most certainly had plenty of wretched, awful and sinful things taking place, there was an acceptable/unacceptable boundary line within society that was in fact set much higher than it is now. With each passing decade that line falls lower and lower, and I often wonder what North American culture will look like by the time my youngest is the age I am now. Ruth will be my age in the year 2049. Assuming I live that long, I'll be 85 years old and will have lived long enough to see massive cultural change the same way my almost 92 year old grandma has. I have listened to her over the years talk about what an astounding amount of change has taken place, and it's almost unthinkable for me to imagine how hard it must have been for people of her generation to adapt as the years have gone by. I say "almost unthinkable" because I believe I'm finally beginning to really get a good idea of how hard it will be. Change isn't easy for most people, but when it's a moral barometer shift from what is good and right to what is wicked and improper it's even harder to deal with unless you're willing and eager to jump on the self-indulgent, self-pleasing bandwagon and ride the wave of change.

The other part of the reason I say I am at the place where I can say "that line I will not cross" is due to my Christian worldview. I'm fully aware that such a conservative, moral, upright attitude is mocked and laughed at in our day, and I'm okay with that. Usually. Sometimes that mockery and laughter (and disdain) comes from the most unusual places, and makes you cringe just a little more than it does at other times. Either way, we are most certainly living in a time when being a Christian isn't nearly as easy as it once was in our culture. In the 60s and 70s there was a higher population in our society of people who identified and would nod in affirmation of strong Christian principle (even if they didn't actually live it themselves) than there is today. In 2010, it is far more common to run into arrogant, in-your-face atheists than it ever was in our culture before now. Add to the mix the variety of postmodernists, humanists, agnostics, spiritualists and all sorts of other isms and ists that come from an entire generation of kids who's parents stopped taking them to church on Sundays, and the Christian worldview is no longer the common one in most sections of society. I know a lot of the national polls still tell us all sorts of people claim to be Christians, but I think we all know in our day to day dealings with people that these polls are totally messed up.

I said all that to say this: it's not nearly as easy to live a genuine, convicted, determined Christain life in our society as it once was, and I believe from all indications, it's going to get much, much harder. While most Christians in North America have certainly never seen genuine persecution for their faith (and no, getting cut off in traffic or having your call to tech support in India does not count), I have experienced a rather obvious change in our culture just in the last 16 years I've been a Christian. I would be surprised if anyone reading has not also seen the change in such a short time. For this reason, we truly need one another. Christian parents need to be around other Christian parents for support and encouragement in the face of a decidedly anti-Christian culture we're raising our kids in. Christian wives, Christian husbands, Christian college students, all need the same support and encouragement through regular fellowship for the very same reasons. I know when I'm having a particularly rough day or dealing with a specific issue (as a wife or mom) there is a Christian lady friend of mine who I know will always give me wise counsel and pray for me. That means the world to me, even if I never tell her often enough how much I really do appreciate her. Having that is invaluable to me and it also inspires me to be that kind of person in return for others.

Hebrews 10:25 becomes more and more understandable and tangible all the time.

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