Wednesday, January 7, 2009
I have seen it lamented in numerous publications and on broadcast television that there is a general negativity out there among today's youth. And when they talk about 'today's youth' in this fashion, they haven't been referring only to the old stand-by of 'teen angst.' It is a phenomenon that seems to be embedding itself in the entire under-30 generation. Where does such wide-spread negativity come from? I am going to blame two places. First, the old bugaboo of increasingly destructive and negative media. There is no doubt that over the past couple of decades, beginning with the explosion of interpretive music videos on MTV in the 1980's and expanding through ever more dark and violent motion pictures and television shows since that time, those 'today's youth' have been inundated with negative sounds and images unlike any generation before them. It has grown to the point where some visuals or words that would have been completely taboo when I was growing up just as recently as the 1960's and 1970's have now become mainstream. There is a continuing regression in the influential pop media areas of song and motion picture as far as morals. But it is a total copout to blame this all on media, for the second place that we can lay the blame for the ennui of 'today's youth' is right at our own parental doorsteps. We allowed ourselves to get sucked into this lifestyle, these lower forms of expression. As the 'Pandora's Box' of sexual, artistic, lyrical, visual and other expression was cracked open over the past few decades, we were seduced by newly liberating 'freedom' of expression. Little did we know that we were not becoming more free, but were becoming more enslaved. Sin creeps into lives in an insidious manner. It doesn't usually explode on us. Sin slips up behind us, envelops us slowly, sinks in deeply, and drags us down slowly. For the most part my generation did not turn off the television, did not turn off the music videos and radio songs, did not stay away from the motion pictures and television shows. In fact, we embraced them, and our kids watched our behavior, as they always do, and not only modeled it but went beyond it as society 'opened up' even further. I firmly believe that this overwhelming exposure to negative and sometimes profane media is at the root of the problems of 'today's youth', but that there is little or nothing that we can do now to shut it down. You truly cannot close that box once it has been opened. But we can do a couple of things. For one, we can expose ourselves to this media in a more discerning manner. There are positive lessons that can be taken from any story, song, or program and we need to understand that and search for them. If we find no redeeming value in something, then we simply must respond by publicly denouncing whatever the medium might be. We can also begin to publicly and outwardly stand up for the positive values and traditions of our Church. The lessons taught by Jesus Christ and his true followers down through the ages are things that we all should be exposing ourselves to more, and should be exposing our families to more. Turning to Christ is always the best and most effective thing that anyone can do in times of trouble, and the same is true for today's youth. Finally we can realize that there is a great deal of positive, affirming, enlightening media available out there in song, on television, and in theatres. We just need to be more discerning in seeking it out and exposing ourselves to these outlets and resources. All good music does not need to be profane. All interesting films do not need to be violent. All entertaining television does not need to be sexually exploitative. We need to make better choices in our lives a little at a time. For those with young children, you need to take control of what you allow them to be exposed to, and ensure that they are exposed to frequent positive messages, especially the Word. For those with older kids, it may have reached the point where your influence is not enough on its own. In that case, we have to hope that they are intelligent enough to figure the 'right' and the 'good' out for themselves as they get older. To today's youth my message would be to search your life, to search your habits, to search your influences closely. Whatever you come to realize is dragging you down, cast it off, remove it from your life. And if you take the next step of replacing it with more exposure to Jesus Christ and the Word, you will be amazed at the positive transformation in your spirit.