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There can be no judgment without grace and no grace without judgement. It does us well to remember when confronted with news, publicity, social uprisings and accusations - there is always another story, lost in a whisper amid the shouting.
While I would quickly and loudly agree that the events surrounding the murder of Trayvon Martin tell a story of injustice and prejudicial actions for which justice should be demanded, the noise of Social Media and demonstrations are so loud that I feel the need to ask another question. Are we shouting for 'blood' in our cries for justice or is there the desire to see a man not only held accountable for his actions, but pressed to change?
What will happen if George Zimmerman is arrested and goes to trial? What happens next? I can't help but wonder what miracle might happen if the same intensity that called for 'justice' then turned to a cry for his transformation. Could anyone refuse the impact of such a mass intervention and call to change?
Could Social Media become a stimulus of personal and individual transformation? Is it possible to demonstrate for something new as well as against something current?
Why do I ask this question? Because, there was a moment in my life when I stood before a judge and a mob crying for 'justice' and what I needed at that moment was a voice - loud enough for me to hear over the noise of judgment - that said, "Come this way. You can be different, renewed - we'll show you how and help you do it." Fortunately for me, the call was there and I listened.
If we have the chance to offer that same call in this case, I hope we will.
7 Reasons the Children's Message is Better than a Sermon
1. it's shorter - nuff said
2. laughter - even watching them come down the aisle is fun
3. object lessons - we're talking puppets, strings, plants and animals people!
4. markers and crayons - ever watch a preacher try to draw?
5. you will most likely get a story - everyone likes a good story time
6. kids participate - saying some of the funniest things
7. you know the answer - it's always Jesus or God...right?
So a preacher says to the children, "I'm going to describe something and I want you to guess what it is. ok?" The children all say "Yes!"
First clue - "I'm thinking of something that lives in a tree."
Children sit silent.
Second clue - "I'm thinking of something that is gray and furry."
Children sit silent.
Third clue - "I'm thinking of something that loves to eat nuts."
Children sit silent.
Forth clue - "I'm thinking of something that has a bushy tail."
Children sit silent.
The pastor looks perplexed and finally, little Johnny raises his hand.
"Yes, Johnny?" says the preacher
"Pastor," little Johnny says, "I know the answer is suppose to be Jesus or God, but it sounds a lot like a squirrel to me."
I thought it had gone away, but because of a recent news-wire article picked up by the local paper here I guess the trend is still growing and considered ‘news.’ Tweens and teens are posting videos of themselves and asking the question, “Am I Pretty?” The conversation center piece is a video by “Kendal” asking the simple question regarding her looks. The video went viral and has over 4.4 million views and has spawned a cornucopia (now that’s a fun word) of internet and news media activity, becoming what I will dub a Digital Mirror Mirror phenomenon (remember the magical mirror from Snow White? “Mirror, mirror on the wall – who’s the fairest of them all?”).
|Digital Mirror, Mirror|
While issues of teenage self-esteem, acceptance and perception are not news, what is worthy of note here is the attention, comments and banter that has arisen around this young lady’s video. The Digital Mirror, Mirror effect speaks to our understanding of community and the wide spread technologies that are available for conducting the business of that community – including the raising of children.
Asking the question, “Am I Pretty” isn’t new, especially among tweens and teens. It seems to be a normal part of the developmental process to gather information from your surroundings (family, friends, society, media, ect) and compare yourself to measure of beauty that you find there. So no matter if it is during a birthday ‘spin the bottle’ challenge or through an internet video, having a child seek out other’s opinions seems fairly normal. While I am not a psychologist, it seems that such questions are normal and are often defining moments in the development of someone’s self-esteem. The web, particularly Social Media has brought a more significant volume to this conversation. We are now not only able to ask this question to those near and dear to us, but are able to broadcast this to the masses of a much larger community.
The dynamics of the community are governed by the virtual world, and as such may expose the person gazing into the Digital Mirror, Mirror to something with a larger variant than the localized social community. It would seem that people are somewhat less likely to communicate with the level of respect and care through a digital medium than through a more direct and personal means. Looking at the comment stream on Kendal’s 4.4 million views Digital Mirror, Mirror reveals some very harsh and flippant comments. Ouch.
Technology isn’t going away and I expect it will continue to see exponential growth among tweens and teens, so I don’t think the answer lies in eliminating the technology – although some regulation of access to the technology is certainly in order for younger children. What can we do to help?
Provide Localized Community: It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. That nature of that village has changed over time and now includes the digital community. We do well to make sure that the localized ‘village’ that affect our children includes some positive and spiritually challenging influences. I have never thought of church youth groups as very good at indoctrinating teens into a particular religious system (thankfully!). Pre-teen youths can be taught what to believe and think, but part of the demands of teenage development is to challenge those beliefs and ideas so that individual belief systems can be formed (it gives them a sort of early alert system against indoctrination - Danger Will Robinson!). The role of youth groups and youth trips and youth projects – inside and outside of the religious community – is to make sure that teenagers are exposed to thinking, causes and actions that are driven by something outside of and larger than themselves. We begin to find our unique place within our community by experiencing the community in a larger context. We need to be a part of a community that asks questions about value, purpose and meaning – outside of our immediate personal concerns (like pectoral muscle size, hair color, height, weight, etc.)
Demonstrate Deep Values: Children and youth learn a great deal (more than any parent dares believe) by watching and listening to the adults in their midst. It is about what we do much more than what we say. If we demonstrate loving and caring relationships, hands on volunteering, time helping others and devotion to meaningful causes, it does impact the values by which our children begin to judge and value themselves. If we treat people who are heavier, another race or dressed differently as less than - well, you know the drill.
Teach Another Question: This post began by repeating the questions asked by Kendal, “Am I Pretty or Ugly?” As important as that question is to a developing self, those of us who have endured and survived the superficial framing of life – know that there is another set of questions that need to be asked: “How am I different?” “How can I make a difference?” “What is important to me?” “Am I Creating Beauty for Others?” If we look for opportunities to ask and promote such questions, then perhaps we can influence those around us to consider them, as well.
The community we provide for our children, the things that we do each day for them to see, and the framing of our life questions are all ways we can transform the Digital Mirror Mirror, and perhaps cause it to ask a more life giving question - “Mirror, mirror on the wall…?”