Words – Resposible Communication in the Facebook era

Words-1We are getting close to back to school – so we decided to address some issues for the upcoming year with Echo. We did a short 2 part series called “words” with our middle schoolers this month to address the issue of responsible communication. Think back to a time before twitter, skype, facebook, myspace, instant messenger, texting, cell phones, computers, land lines, and even the printing press. It is hard for me remember that I lived in a time when I was not INSTANTLY reachable through multiple streams of communication all the time. Every time we there has been an advance in communication technology, it has had a major impact on our culture. Why? Because words are powerful. The communication of ideas and opinions is power!

All over the bible, you will find writers pleading with people to recognize the power of words and to be careful with it. James 3 is a great example. James understood that words have power. He cautions people to recognize that what comes out of their mouths can have a dramatic impact on the world, for good or for evil. The playground proverb: “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” has never been true. The bible teaches people to watch carefully what they say. This is such good advice. Once something is spoken, it is out there. It cannot be taken back. In our technologically connected culture, this is even more important. One youth leader told me a story of a work related online discussion forum post he had made 8 YEARS ago that was still available through a google search. Colleges and prospective employers are getting good at checking out facebook pages and other social networks. How can we help our students be safe and responsible with their words, virtual and actual?

Our students need to know that some things should not be shared. Proverbs 10:19 says “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.” For issues of safety, privacy, and for the good of others, some things should be kept private. A facebook status update that informs the world that your family is going on vacation for a week and leaving an empty house might as well be an invitation for trouble. Those pictures of teens in their bathing suits they so readily post do not help much in our quest to protect them from becoming objectified. Argument between friends can hurt a lot of people and cause a lot of collateral social damage when it is handled through public wall posts. The fact is, you can find out a load of personal information (pet’s names, school, grade, friends names), right down to the times and places where people are through the internet. If you have not talked with your student to make sure they have the right privacy settings on their social networking pages or to make sure they know what is appropriate to share online, do so right now. One of the things that always impresses me is how poor teens do at choosing chat handles and email addresses. “Dancingcutie94” is not a good screen name. It tells me you are 15 years old and it encourages every creep to imagine you dancing. Check out http://www.safeteens.com/ for more tips.

Questions for parents of teenagers:

*Do you know if your teen uses facebook, myspace, twitter, aim, etc? Do you visit their pages often? Do you have their passwords and account info?
*If your teen has their own cell phone, have you talked about appropriate texting and media use?
*Is the family computer in a “high traffic” area of the house, or do students have access to computers in private locations?

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Twilight Part 3 – Edward’s Appetite

twilight-background2Part 3 of my Twilight rant is for the guys. These books are obviously written for the ladies, as the story is told from the point of view of Bella and includes a great deal of her emotional turmoil. Still, they do offer a different take on vampire mythology, which guys can appreciate. So let’s talk about Edward. Edward is a vampire, and as such, he craves blood. The assumption of most vampires in the Twilight universe is something like: “why fight what feels natural? If we weren’t supposed to eat people, we wouldn’t have the urge to eat them.” The urge is viewed as something uncontrollable. Edward is different. Edward is a part of a vampire coven that does not feed on humans. They hunt only animals to satisfy their thirst. They have to work very hard to maintain their lifestyle. They are represent a different kind of vampire.

What God needs right now is a different kind of man. Let me explain.

Every guy has some version of the story. Maybe you found a magazine somewhere. Maybe it was a catalog your mom left out. Maybe you stumbled unto a website you shouldn’t have. Whatever it was, curiosity turned into something different, and something was ignited inside you. Welcome to what one author called “every man’s battle.” I think that a lot of guys “buy in” to the system of the world, where it is assumed that this fire is not controllable. They have urges so they obey them. Lust takes over quickly. Their lives becomes a series of hookups if they have the means and a desperate longing for it if they don’t. Our culture enforces the idea that guys are little more than animal every time they depict males as exaggerated, sex-crazed idiots. Most male characters in teen movies are on an endless quest for sex, as if that is the ultimate pursuit that defines their existence. What are we but animals anyway?

This is an old argument – it goes all the way back to the 1st Century. Back then, it was a religious group called Gnostics that were trying to convince people that it was all “just physical,” so they could partake without having to worry. It is just your body doing those things, your true self does not participate. It doesn’t really work like that. Sex is not just a physical experience (no matter what form it takes). We need to learn to see it in terms beyond that of the animal level. We need to be more than animals.

2 Samuel 11 tells a story that should resonate with young men (and old men) that struggle with their desires and appetites. This account of how David lost a battle with sexual temptation also might have a clue for those looking to become the master their appetites before their appetites master them. King David gets bored late in his life; this epic hero that battled giants and led armies to victory is now tamed by the commonplace demands of administering his kingdom. The other kings go to war, but David stays home. The giant slayer is now entertaining himself with something as thrilling as…a walk…while Joab is out “destroying the Amorites.” Something I notice in the Twilight book is that Edward is his own worst enemy for most of the story. The conflict is between him and his desires: he wants to eat Bella but he also loves Bella and wants to do what is right. This is true until a greater enemy surfaces. Another vampire threatens Bella, and all thoughts about tortured Edward and his appetites and desires are reduced to nothing. Edward comes alive and discovers a strength he didn’t know he had to resist temptation.

Maybe the reason many young men are so tortured by sexual desire and temptation is because they are under challenged and bored. Maybe the problem is that we live such small lives with small challenges and small dreams that we have nothing else to do but brood over our misplaced desires. If young men started stepping out and doing something huge for the Kingdom of God, I wonder if they would find strength they didn’t know they had. Do you think that king David would have been worried about his lust problem on the field of battle?

Here is another idea: what if young men started fighting for her right now, even if they have yet to meet her. I mean they fight for purity as a way to show love and value to “the one.” Save her from the heartbreak and drama that a list of hookups and breakups brings into a marriage by paying the price of purity now. Save her from having to deal with your internet porn addiction by dealing with that issue now. It is entirely possible for men to master their desires.