Monday, September 13, 2010

Reflecting on the VMA's

Last night, Holly and I sat in front of the television for a couple of hours watching the VMA's. For those of you who aren't familiar with what the VMA's are for one reason or another (I can't imagine why not?), they are the Video Music Awards on MTV. (If you aren't familiar with MTV, it's the music station that no longer plays music. Confusing I know!)

I'm sure there are many Christians who would look down on me for watching such foolishness. If you feel that way, hear me out before you ditch the blog forever.

10 years ago, I consumed pop culture like most high schoolers. What MTV was selling, I was buying. (Sorry mom and dad)

I have to admit I don't connect with MTV much anymore. I don't get Lady Gaga, Eminem, or Justin Bieber. Ke$ha's songs are just plain annoying. And the guy who sings about wanting to become a millionaire badly needs a new lyricist. I guess I'm already admitting the beginning of my cultural descent at age 26 away from what everyone else thinks is cool. Confession is good for the soul.

But for those of you who dismiss MTV out of hand, you might need to pay more attention before you lose your kids.

While there's much about MTV that I'd like to argue with, I learned something about our kids last night in a major way.

MTV is giving our kids a narrative to live in that we're failing to give them with the gospel. Their vulgar, absurd story with their even stranger cast of characters is speaking to our kids in ways our flannel graph characters aren't quite doing. Each of the characters in MTV's world (Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Eminem, Kanye West, Ke$ha, Justin Bieber, etc.) are playing a role in a story that our kids are connecting with.

To pick on Lady Gaga for a moment, so many are connecting with her bizarre antics and role. She plays the role of an outcast, which many of our kids can connect with. She's this generation's Marilyn Manson only a bit more mainstream. She's the outcast from high school who preaches a message of acceptance and tolerance for every group that's despised by mainstream media. And for the teens who find themselves in those awkward years struggling for acceptance, they connect with her character and live into her story.

And with this postmodern generation, if the gospel isn't a big enough and compelling story to live into, our teens will find other stories to live into.

Donald Miller tells the story about a set of parents who are struggling with their daughter's downward spiral. She was experimenting with drugs and was dating the guy every parents prays their daughter will never choose to date. And as the father and mother sit around the breakfast table, the dad interjects, "Why would she date this guy? Didn't we raise her better than this?" And the mother responded, "She's living the best story she knows. We haven't offered her a better story. She has drama, intrigue, chaos, love, and emotion in this story. It's a better story than we've offered her. So, of course she's going to choose this guy."

The next morning the father gathers the family around the kitchen table and tells the family, "I have failed you as a father. I am not offering a good enough story for our family to live by. Here's what we're going to do over the next two years: We're going to raise money to build orphanages for children in West Africa." And within three weeks, the daughter had dumped her jerk of a boyfriend.

No girl who plays the hero in her story chooses to date the loser. That girl wasn't in need of more rules or boundaries as much as many parents might think. She's in need of a larger, more beautiful story to live into.

I believe the gospel can become that story if we begin to share it with our kids in all of its boldness, danger, and wonder. We've domesticated the gospel and the kingdom so much that the culture is selling better stories than we are. And it's got to stop if we're going to see a vibrant church in the next generation.

Perhaps the church should watch more MTV. Not so that we can tell a more relevant story, but so we can understand what story our kids are buying into. The gospel is more compelling than Lady Gaga. But MTV's doing a better job than the church of telling its story.

It's time for the church to tell it's story again in compelling ways. Christianity and church are only boring when we domesticate the untamable message of the kingdom. So, let's take the shrink wrap off of our Bibles and allow our kids a chance to experience Jesus' untamed radical message.




Anonymous said...

Well said brother! Well said!

It is interesting that my four first and second grade students (Bible class) all mentioned Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga yesterday, before the awards.

With John the Baptist's activities being discussed (from Matthew), they all placed Lady Gaga in the crowd (not in town or in the river, but in the crowd).

Well said.

Laura Beth and Cliff said...

Cliff and I watch the VMA's every year because we always have found it very entertaining even though we have never seen the music videos that are being rewarded. I remember doing a post two years ago thanking Jordan Sparks for her rebuttle to the host for making fun of the Jonas Brothers for choosing to remain sexually pure until they were married. Working with teens I find it very important for adults to know what is being put out for their culture. They have a knack for understanding teens way better then a lot of us do and that is unfortunate.

Darin Campbell said...

Excellent post! Very well said. I completely agree with you. Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

Pryncss Briana said...

I have to admit to being even more out of it than you ... we don't have cable and don't get MTV. I haven't watched the VMAs since Britney did the glittery-naked-suit thing. Wow, how long has it been?

I do connect with your message though, as even without MTV and mainstream media, my kids are drawn in by more exciting stories than ours every day. They go to a private school with much more affluent families(their education is paid for by their GPs) and are constantly talking about this kids' cool sneakers, or this kids' California/Europe/nameexoticlocale vacation(even a couple of kids who have been in commercials and on CSI!) So I know how it feels to have your kids wanting to be in bigger and more exciting stories.

I am continuously seeking more ways to bring the joy/drama/excitement of the gospel into our lives, and I pray every day that my kids will be the exception to the world's "norm". I know that it's getting through, because even though there are days when my oldest simply wants to blow all her allowance on a fashionable new top that her friends all have, there are weeks where she will do extra chores and find a way to donate more money to medical missions.

It's a battle that all parents have to fight, but God is with me, so I will prevail.

Thanks for sharing, and bless you in your work. I was referred to your blog by a friend and look forward to more posts. :)

Collin Packer said...

Thanks for stopping by old friends and new friends. If you're interested in thinking more about a larger story for yourself or your family, I would encourage you to pick up Donald Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." Great stuff to ponder!

Kyle Brewer said...

Nice post, my friend... It is interesting to think that what our youth culture needs is not necessarily tighter restrictions (something more to rebel against), but a sense that the gospel means something, and that they have a part to play in the grand story. Good stuff. Look forward to seeing you next week at Summit!

markten45blue said...

Collin - I confess to you that I began listening to your lessons in order to get a better feel for the family at Littleton with whom I am entrusting my daughter, Alana. I ended up listening to your entire series on Exodus and decided that anyone who could slip in an NCIS reference to Jethro Gibbs in the middle of a sermon was someone I wanted to meet. Seriously, however, I found your lessons fresh and inciteful. I am so looking forward to the life adventure that Alana is preparing to embark upon with the Littleton family. Until I meet you all firsthand in a couple of months - may God bless you thru the One who saves!

Candace McGinty said...

Interesting comments! You know, the MTV show "If you really knew me" had me in tears. What a great show for our kids to watch! Our kids really do want to make a difference and have compassion for others. If they're seeing it on MTV, fine with me!