Monday, August 03, 2009

Human Arrogance

I had an interesting conversation with one of my High School Students about the influence teenagers have on culture.  It was her belief that teenagers set the standards for culture.  They have more influence on culture than any other age group.  Certainly when it comes to pop culture there is some truth to what she thinks.  It is also true that pop culture has some influence on culture overall, but what kind of impact do teenagers have on the culture overall?

I think the popular thing to say here is that they are the trend setters and they determine where culture will go.  There influence is so significant and important that we must pay close attention.  I am not so convinced.
The title of this piece may have tipped you off to my view.  People are naturally arrogant, as a people we tend to think we deserve everything and the world revolves around us.  Actually the truth that mankind is arrogant is a Biblical truth.  Arrogance is why Satan fell from heaven (Isaiah 14:12-14) and it was arrogance that Satan used to tempt Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:5).
The truth is every age group has an impact on culture.  Parents raise kids and impact the current culture, teachers teach them, and so on.  Only adults can vote and impact the political culture and they pass laws and bills that impact us, impact teens, and impact our ability to do ministry.  Culture is all encompassing.  What students are taught in school has a huge influence on what they believe in almost every area of their life. 
For those of us in youth ministry we tend to have a passion for teenagers.  We love to hang out with them.  They are old enough to ask great questions and dive deeper into their faith.  They have the ability to begin owning their faith and they make decisions that will impact the rest of their life.  They are still young enough to be influenced and we want to be part of that influence and help them become men and women that honor God.  In the process I wonder if we sometimes unintentionally send the message that the world is all about them. 

So what am I saying we should do?  I don’t exactly know.  I know your not suppose to say that when you are writing something like this, but it’s true.  I think there are some things we should be doing in general, but I don’t know if our narcissistic culture can be easily changed.  Here are a couple general ideas:

  • Make sure when we worship it isn’t about what God has done for us as much as it is about who God is.  I realize the two cannot be completely separated and really shouldn’t be separated.  It is however easy to become too focused on the “what God has done for us” side of the equation.
  • When we teach, make sure we are teaching a God centered theology and not a man centered theology.  This Christianity, Jesus thing is not about living our best life now or figuring out how we can manipulate God to benefit ourselves.  It is about realizing that the God we serve is sovereign and deserving of worship in spite of what circumstances we find ourselves in.
  • Draw students to a cause bigger than themselves, namely the cause of God’s kingdom.  This is so countercultural that I believe they will be attracted to something so farfetched, so different, and so huge.
  • Be willing to challenge the cultural norms with Biblical truths.  I know it sounds obvious, but I think some of us don’t want to offend so we become shy with the truth.  Be kind and gentle, but don’t be afraid to be blunt.

1 comment:

  1. Connor Murphy3:42 PM

    Just a random thought about teens affecting culture. I remember hearing a few years back about how companies like Hot Topic pay to send their employees to popular concerts. While there, they are supposed to take note of popular trends that they see and report back on them. That information is then gathered and used to develop the styles they sell in their stores. I found this interesting because, having been to hundreds of concerts, I would notice how stuff I saw in stores was often styles I saw at concerts a few months ago.