September, 2017 Volume 16 Issue 6
Crossing the Cultural Divide
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” – Proverbs 19:20
Greetings in the name of the Lord.
By now, many of our kids are back to school and university. This month we are looking at some of the issues that our kids face, and the demands placed on them by unrelenting media outlets as they head back into ‘the world’ where they are called to be ‘salt and light’. Hopefully, this article will give some practical tips for engaging this generation of young people in a meaningful way so that they may take the (above) charge from the book of Proverbs seriously.
Few people would argue the central role of media in the lives of today’s students. Shouts of, “Whuddup dawg?” or, “Sup Dude?” and “You da’ bomb” can cause most English teachers to hyperventilate and shudder at the verbiage used in today’s school hallways. There has always been a bit of a language barrier between the generations; but today, it seems more like a sophisticated language fort deliberately engineered by kids to confound adults in order to keep them at arm’s length or further.
Ironically, one of the typical marks of adolescence is a desire to be understood by someone who can relate to their lives…Today’s media outlets are always ready with a listening ear. Young people typically become easily enamored by pop music artists and actors who seem to share in their struggle for identity. Right or wrong, today’s often struggling, vulnerable teen identifies with the language of today’s media, music and pop culture, which often meets them right in the midst of their struggles for identity.
Today’s high-tech world can assault students with enormous amounts of information (and often misinformation) that is not always filtered by a discerning ear before reaching their impressionable minds. Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, calls this assault, ‘the media torrent’ or ‘hyper-media’, in his book, Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives.
Educators have long understood and capitalized on the relationship between repetition and learning. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, the average teen spends more than six hours a day exposed to this super saturation of media material. That is a heavy dose of repetitive exposure to messages from various media producers that propagate the idea, “You should be miserable and completely dissatisfied with your present lifestyle and indulgence is the solution”. One theologian notes that this over-stimulation of their senses causes what he calls an “entertaining of themselves into boredom.”
Noted author and essayist, GK Chesterton, once quipped, “An open mind like an open mouth does have a purpose, and that is to close down upon something solid; otherwise, it could become like a city sewer that rejects absolutely nothing.” Students need someone who can help them sort out the torrent of media information with a critical mindset. As adults, we can help them if we understand them.
The acronym R.U.L.E.R. may help you to “cross the cultural divide” and meet your kids right where they are as you strive to build relationships with them in the coming school year and for the rest of their lives.
RECOGNIZE– Popular youth culture (i.e. music, advertising, movies, TV) has a profound influence on the way kids think, act, spend their resources and relate to their peers, teachers, families and environment.
Things certainly aren’t the way they used to be; but it is up to adults to make cultural adjustments and then to hold kids accountable.
UNDERSTAND– There is a natural, generational “cultural divide” and resulting language barrier that exists between adult and adolescent culture.
You will probably never comprehensively understand their culture; but you can understand and identify with their desire for individuality.
LISTEN– While it is difficult for adults to communicate within the context of popular youth culture, it is often impossible for an adolescent to communicate in adult culture because of a modicum of life experience.
We hear kids with our ears; but it requires an open mind to listen to students and the struggles of their hearts.
EVALUATE– For us adults to maximize our relationships with young people and effectively communicate the gospel message across the “cultural divide”, we must learn to understand and interpret the language and environment of today’s popular youth culture and meet young people “right where they are”. This is not easy and requires an intentional commitment on our part.
Consider spending some time watching the shows and listening to the music of the young people in your world in order to let them know that you are willing to take the time to understand them and the culture that they live in. The apostle Paul made it his business to understand his culture in a sermon he delivered on Mars Hill in Acts 17. It is a classic example of a gospel presentation that begins where the listeners are and then presents the gospel message in a logical and biblical fashion. Paul started his message by addressing the false beliefs of those gathered there that day and then used those beliefs as a way of presenting the gospel message to them.
RESPOND– True Character is forged out on the anvil of relationships that are based on truth, trust, and a personal willingness to seek the highest and best interest of others.
Our response to this generation of young people is crucial. It is our faithful Christian duty to provide vision for; and help young people establish goals that are in keeping with our Christian call to glorify the living God.
In His Service, Pastor George