Wednesday, April 19, 2017

You Need to be In The Room

It seems like everyone is talking about the Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why.

Originally a New York Times Young Adult Bestseller written by Jay Adams, the Netflix series adaptation of the book has gained critical acclaim and mixed reception about its treatment of teenage suicide.  

The story is about Hannah Baker, a young girl subjected to ruthless bullying and abuse by her peers.  This leads to her decision to end her life, but before she does, Hannah makes a series of recordings aimed at the people in her life that have hurt her.  These become her thirteen reasons.  The series explores how these recordings impact those left behind.   

The series is raw - not the kind of stuff for pre-teens (or, in my opinion, even young teenagers).  It seems more like a series for young adults and professionals who work with students.  

The storylines are layered with the deep introspection of a dead teenage girl and how the people in her life deal with guilt.  The series visits the issue of blame repeatedly (and heavy-handedly).  

Clay wrestles with his silence . . . should he have spoken up more?
    "You could have stopped it and I could have and a dozen other people . . . we all killed Hannah."

Or is it Courtney, who threw Hannah under the bus to hide her sexuality?
    "Its on you because she thought you were her friend and you sent one more [person] in her direction just to cover the fact that you are gay.”

It should fall on Bryce, the one who raped her, but he is disturbingly cold-hearted.
    "You made it open season on Hannah Baker."

We meet the people in her life that share the blame.  However, the series seems to argue that the real blame is to be put on our culture - a world in which young people ruthlessly hurt each other while adults, consumed with their own dramatically vapid lives, stand at a distance and watch it happen.

At one point, the camera sweeps over pictures of Hannah with Angel Olsen's haunting song Windows playing softly:

Why can't you see
Are you blind?
Are you dead already?
Are you alright?

It is a pretty intense series . . .

To be fair, subject matter like this should be intense.  We operate in a cultural system where our young people and their hurt lives live below the adult radar.  The savage way that students bully and abuse each other needs the serious attention that a series like this gives.

And the producers of the show have voiced their intent to portray suicide as a non-option:

“We wanted to do it in a way where it was honest, and we wanted to make something that can hopefully help people, because suicide should never, ever, be an option,” (1)

Co-producer Biran Yorkey said, "we worked very hard not to be gratuitous, but we did want it to be painful to watch, because we wanted it to be very clear that there is nothing, in any way, worthwhile about suicide." (2)

But has this series inadvertently made suicide a tempting idea to younger viewers who don't understand the subtlety of the series' depiction of guilt?  

Have we made suicide imaginable in the vengeful way in which each recording causes a different character to examine their own culpability?  At times it feels like, "we did this to her" which I fear could empower younger viewers to see this as a possible path to take to make a point. 

Dan Reidenberg, the executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, shares this concern saying that "The way things are portrayed in the media does have an effect on the way suicides can happen. This is particularly true for young people that are very vulnerable and at risk of suicide."  (3)

The real question is, "where are the parents?"  

Not just in the story, but in real life.  No kid should be watching this without a parent nearby to help them answer the questions this series raises.  Each episode asks questions about self-worth, hurt, love, hate and how to deal with fear and anger during the hardest time of adjustment in our lives.

You should be in the room.

We need to remind each other that kids are watching this and they need to hear the calm and reassuring perspective of an adult.  In all of its emotional realism, Thirteen Reasons rarely reminds the viewer that no one makes someone else decide to end their lives.  Not only do young ones need to hear that they are not to blame for something like this, but also that suicide will not get you the justice you are seeking.

Thirteen Reasons raises some good questions but parents need to be there for the answers.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

How "Happy Zombie Day" should make you bold.

A few years ago a friend of mine posted "Happy Zombie Day" on all of her social media sites in honor of Easter.  She and her friends thought it was a hoot to land a zinger on Christians about the laughable idea that Jesus rose from the dead.

Knowing her cynical personality, I was like, "whatever . . ."

But thinking about it, should I have said something?

Like what?  Like, "take that down, you're offending me!"

I get so offended at people getting so offended.

How about: "wait, so you think that the resurrection of Jesus - an historical event that has surpassed the Biblical and extra-Biblical scrutiny of twenty centuries, including modern historians, text analysts and forensic historians - is now just a cute idea that we can have fun with?"

That sounds more like the real me, but it doesn't fit into 140 characters.

So I just kind of let it go . . .

But in retrospect, maybe I should have been more bold.  I mean, her status wasn't exactly timid - what would it matter if I showed similar boldness in arranging a swap?

"Hey - what do you say if we swap books?  I will lend you one of my books about Jesus if you will lend me one of your books about why the Jesus thing is ridiculous."

Seems fair.

Or maybe, "Let's examine this together.  I will go with you to your poetry slam if you come with me to my LIFE group."

No seriously - people go to those.  Stop laughing.

Alright, how about, "I will pay you cash to come to church with me at Easter."

Scratch that.  That's just weird.  

Fourth try:
"There are a bunch of times that we have our Easter gatherings this weekend - not just Sunday morning - come with me to one of them and see what this is like . . . you might be surprised."

In our culture, we see a lot of boldness in having fun at the expense of Christ.  Maybe it is time for us to have a little bit of boldness in trying to cross the lines into other people's lives that we care about.  I mean, we spend so much of our lives with people that mean something to us - why not muster up just 15 seconds of extra boldness and invite them to your church this weekend?

We need to remind each other that there were no Christians at the first Easter.  Everyone was a first-timer.  Church isn't a club, it's a lifeboat.

People . . . reality check . . . God's Son rose from the dead.  If we don't have guts about this, then what do we have guts about?  Take a moment to invite someone.

You might be surprised at the result.

As for me - won't you join me this weekend?  It's been a while - click this link to find out when the times are best for you to come to LCBC this weekend . . .

Thursday, April 6, 2017

So not cool to protect your marriage

So Mike Pence has come under fire because he won’t have dinner with women alone.

Remind me again we anyone is taking relationship advice from a culture that has a divorce rate over fifty percent?

This has to be about politics because why would you fault a guy who wants to keep his marriage strong?

The joke is that apparently he can't keep his hormones in check.  Some have mocked how super attractive he must be to not spend time alone with women one-on-one.   

Do they not read the statistics? 

Hellooo . . . marital affairs are usually not started by sexual attraction.  They are started emotionally – from spending long hours at work together talking about . . . work.  This bond then wanders into emotional conversations that start affairs.  And guess where that happens?

After work hours . . .  in less formal places . . . at the end of the day.

(Sounds like dinner to me . . .)

Mike Pence is right – men and women need to patrol the gateway to their heart routinely and make sure they are not allowing emotional connections to anyone other than their mate.  This is called fidelity.  Show me the track record of those mocking it and I will have proved my point.

And for crying out loud, it’s not like you can’t have a meal together  - you just invite others to join you (including <gasp> your own wife.) 

Sorry, that is way too uncool and so last century.

From the way some are talking, Pence's stance is downright oppressive.  Trevor Noah has called Pence “Sharia Mike” asking how this extreme stance is different than repressive interpretations of the Quran.

Well Trevor, if that is a question, I have three quick answers for you:

1.     “banish them to their couches and beat them”
2.     “Is not the evidence of two women equal to witness of one man?  This is the deficiency in her intelligence”
3.     Q4:24 and 33:50 – men are permitted to take women as slaves in addition to their wives.

Sorry, Trevor, sharia law is in its own league when it comes to misogyny.  

The Los Angeles Times called not having dinner with the opposite sex "a fusty practice."  Fusty means to smell stale, damp or stuffy.  I think of the smell of old people's houses . . . you know . . . people who have been married for more than fifty years and still hold hands.

I'll take fusty over flirty any day.