Crosswalk.com aims to offer the most compelling biblically-based content to Christians on their walk with Jesus. Crosswalk.com is your online destination for all areas of Christian Living – faith, family, fun, and community. Each category is further divided into areas important to you and your Christian faith including Bible study, daily devotions, marriage, parenting, movie reviews, music, news, and more.

Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

Dr. James Emery White

Dr. James Emery White's weblog

Consider this television scenario:

“Grandma is mad. Her grown daughter, Bex, who got pregnant as a teenager, just blazed back into town and let a big secret slip. Grandma had raised 13-year-old Andi to believe that Bex was her older sister. Well, the truth is a tad more complicated.

“Meanwhile, Andi’s school life is only a little less unsettling. A boy is coming to terms with his sexuality. And Andi has her own budding love life to consider.”

The latest from MTV?

No.

As The New York Times reported,

“Hang on to your mouse ears: Disney Channel – land of safe, sweet sitcoms – is exploring this charged terrain with ‘Andi Mack,’ a comedic drama aimed at children 6 to 14 and their parents.”

Yes, age 6.

In my latest book, Meet Generation Z, I wrote about this new and startling cultural trend, which is the tendency of children to grow older younger. A trend with its own acronym: G.O.Y. As Pamela Paul wrote in another New York Times piece, “growing older younger” has six-year-olds going to school guidance counselors “complaining that So-and-So won’t play with them because they like the Jonas Brothers and the ‘It girls’ like Miley Cyrus.” You see, at age 6, that’s way too juvenile. They should be on to something more age-appropriate, like Lady Gaga. 

“It’s not cool to not have a cellphone anymore or to not wear exactly the right thing,” says Erin Munroe, a school guidance counselor in Boston. “The poor girls who have Strawberry Shortcake shirts on, forget it.” Tracy Vaillancourt, who specializes in children’s mental health at the University of Ottawa, agrees. “Kids mirror the larger culture, from reality TV to materialism.” 

What seems to be happening is that as select peers grow older younger, the other children feel pressured to match them for the sake of popularity and acceptance. “The girls who are the victims [of bullying or social rejection] tend to be raised by parents who encourage them to be more age appropriate,” observes Debbie Rosenman, a teacher in her 31st year at a suburban Detroit school. “The mean girls are 8 but want to be 14, and their parents play along.”

Soon, wishing their children to fit in, the initially “age-appropriate parents” start to give in, escalating the downward spiral. As author Rosalind Wiseman observes: “Parents think it’s really cute when their 2- and 3-year-olds are doing ‘Single Ladies’ or singing the Alicia Keys/Jay-Z song. But it’s not so funny at age 8, when they’re singing along to Lady Gaga and demanding a cellphone.”

The deeper cultural current was first detailed in one of sociologist Neil Postman’s most provocative works, titled The Disappearance of Childhood. His thesis was that children are being robbed of their innocence, their naiveté, their ability to even be a child. He contended that in our world, we ask children to embrace mature issues and themes, experiences and issues, long before they are ready. 

Postman argued that the very idea of childhood is that there is a time when a young person is sheltered from certain ideas, experiences, practices, expectations and knowledge. They are sheltered from adult secrets, particularly sexual ones. Certain facets of life – its mysteries, contradictions, tragedies, violence – are not considered suitable for children to know. Only as children grow into adulthood are they revealed in ways that they can assimilate psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.

Postman’s analysis, first offered in 1982, was prescient. Today, 12- and 13-year-old girls are among the highest paid models in America, presented to us as knowing and sexually enticing adults. 

Children’s literature no longer exists. Young Adult fiction is as mature in its themes as anything on the adult lists. 

The language of adults and children, including what they address in life, has become the same. It is virtually uncontested among sociologists that the behavior, language, attitudes and desires – and even the physical appearance – of adults and children are becoming indistinguishable. 

Even the children on TV act like adults. They do not differ significantly in their interests, language, dress or sexuality from the adults on the show; making the same knowing wisecracks, and tossing out the same sexual innuendo. 

But when the line between the adult world and the child’s world becomes blurred, or no longer exists, childhood disappears.

And that’s not “growing older younger.”

That’s never being allowed to be young at all.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Brooks Barnes, “Kids Are Getting Older Quicker. And Disney Tries to Adapt,” The New York Times, March 10, 2017, read online.

James Emery White, The Church in an Age of Crisis (Baker).

James Emery White, Meet Generation Z (Baker).

Pamela Paul, “The Playground Gets Even Tougher,” The New York Times, October 8, 2010, read online.

Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood.


About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

One of the most important trends within the Christian movement is the explosive expansion of Christianity southward in Africa, Asia and Latin America. And with it, the new challenge of the globalization of Christianity. Philip Jenkins argues that by the year 2050 only one Christian in five will be a non-Latino white person, and the center of gravity of the Christian world will have shifted firmly to the Southern Hemisphere. 

Consider Ghana in West Africa. More than 70% of Ghana’s 26 million people are Christian. As a Religion News Service article observed, “The statistics understand the fervency of everyday faith. Many attend church on weeknights. All-night prayer vigils are common and billboards advertising Christian meetings line the streets.

“It’s common to see people studying the Bible on the bus, and many office workers keep open Bibles on their desks.”

According to the International Bulletin of Mission Research, some 41% of the world’s 560 million Protestants live in Africa. This could climb to 53% by 2050.

The challenges this will bring are enormous, including the relationship between the Western and the non-Western church, which has not always been an easy one.

But rather than worry about the possible tensions, perhaps we should celebrate the growing strength of Christianity in that part of the world as opposed to the “rise of the nones” in our own.

Why?

We may soon need them to send missionaries our way.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

Matthew Mpoke Bigg, “Faith Puts Ghana at Heart of Global Christianity,” Religion News Service, March 1, 2017, read online.


About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Do you remember the Matrix movies?

You should. For one simple reason:

The media is our matrix. 

Todd Gitlin, one of the leading thinkers on media and our lives, says that “the torrent of images, songs, and stories streaming has become our familiar world.” This “torrent” determines what we see and what we don’t, what we think about and what never enters our mind. 

Marshall McLuhan, an earlier thinker on all things media, warned that: “All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered.”

But like the matrix in the movie, most of us aren’t aware of it.

We don’t see how immersed in it we are.

Gitlin offers a parable about a customs officer who observes a truck pulling up at the border. 

Suspicious, he conducts a thorough and painstaking search of the vehicle but finds nothing. 

This begins a pattern where week-by-week, the driver approaches the border, the truck is searched, and nothing is found. 

Yet the customs officer is convinced that there is contraband. 

Finally, after many years, the officer is set to retire. 

Once again, the driver pulls up, and the officer says:

“I know you’re a smuggler... don’t bother denying it. But... [I can’t] figure out what you’ve been smuggling all these years. I’m leaving now. I swear to you I can do you no harm. Won’t you please tell me what you’ve been smuggling?”

And the driver says, “Trucks.”

Point of the parable? What the media have been smuggling is the habit of living with the media. 

And being shaped by it – knowingly or not.

For example, think of MTV. As MTV’s founding chairman, Bob Pittman, stated in a 1982 interview: “If you can get their emotions going, make them forget their logic, you’ve got them. At MTV, we don’t shoot for the 14-year-olds, we own them.”

And nowhere does media own us more than in regard to our sexual lives.

Did you know that most children aren’t exposed to sexual content on the internet as much as they are through television and music?

And it’s quite an exposure.  

Just think about Friends, which ran for ten years between 1994 and 2004, and is now one of the most popular shows in syndication.

Funny, right?

But not innocent.

A survey of all 236 episodes of the NBC sitcom found that the characters had a total of 85 sexual partners – and that’s only counting those who appeared on screen.  

What does that do to us?

More than we realize.

This is important. What the media does is normalize things. If you see likable characters on TV having sex outside of marriage enough times, it becomes not only acceptable, but desirable. That’s why Fred Fedler, author of one of the most widely used college textbooks on the mass media, writes that “the media may constitute the most powerful education system ever known to man.” 

And not just education, but indoctrination.

The real power of media is how it makes you feel.

If I can get you to feel a certain way, I can get you to think a certain way and to act a certain way.

I can make something that was once condemned approved of.

I can make you oppose something you used to support.

If I can get your emotions – your feelings – I own you.

And that’s exactly what media does. 

What made homosexuality so culturally accepted in such a rapid period of time? That’s easy. It was Ellen, followed by Modern Family. 

(It began even earlier with Billy Crystal and a show called Soap, but I don’t imagine many of you will remember that. But it was probably the first volley that softened any defense.)

Now we have the final cultural stake in the heart of any last resistance. Disney is putting its first “exclusively gay moment” into its new live version of Beauty and the Beast

Yes, Beauty and the Beast.

It’s not the first time Disney has tried to introduce gay characters and situations. But this is the first “official” entry into the media mix.

I’ll be honest… I have no doubt it will be an amazing movie. But I also hope that it bombs, and that the reason the media picks up on is because of Disney’s gay agenda. 

Maybe that will slow things down a bit.

Not stop the slide, mind you…

… but maybe just long enough to see the beast in what is being put forward as the beauty.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Todd Gitlin, Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives.

Marshall McLuhan with Quentin Fiore, The Medium Is the Message: An Inventory of Effects.

“‘Friends’ Cast Had 85 Sexual Partners Over 10-Season Run,” Fox News, July 28, 2011, read online.

Fred Fedler, An Introduction to the Mass Media.

Hannah Furness, “Disney’s First ‘Exclusively Gay Moment’ Hits Screens in Beauty and the Beast,” The Telegraph, March 1, 2017, read online.

“The Secret - and Not So Secret - Gay Disney Characters,” The Telegraph, March 2, 2017, read online.


About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Follow Crosswalk.com