The (Good) News for Teenagers- February Edition
The (Good) News for Teenagers – February Edition
We live in the time of both social media and the 24-hour news cycle. Whether we see it or not, our teenagers are inundated with news both local and international. At Rooted, we wanted to give youth workers and parents a way to frame the headlines for teenagers within the gospel narrative – that amidst both tragedy and joy, we have an abiding hope in Jesus. It’s important to talk to your teenagers about the news, but even more important to talk about what the Good News says about the news! Here’s The (Good) News for Teenagers.
The Death of Kobe Bryant:
What Happened: On Monday, Feb. 24, the world had the chance to say their final goodbyes to the legendary sports star, Kobe Bryant. It has been a month now since his unexpected death, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others. On Jan. 26, Kobe and Gianna were on a helicopter heading to a youth basketball event when something (still unknown) went wrong and the helicopter crashed, killing all the passengers and the pilot. Two of the victims were teammates and peers of 13-year-old Gianna Bryant, who were accompanied by their parents and coach.
Kobe, 41, left a lasting legacy after a monumental 20 year career in the NBA playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe is best known for the determination that undergirded his talent. He coined the phrase “mamba mentality” as a sign of a work hard, true grit spirit. While the deaths of all those killed in the accident were untimely and unexpected, America’s response to the loss of Kobe displayed the deep-seated impact of the cultural icon and has left ripple effects in its wake.
Why this matters and how to talk about it: The death of Kobe revealed the impact that one person can have on a culture and a place. For many, the loss of Kobe felt like a personal loss as they reflected on the ways their own stories were touched by his story. While there are many conversations that could come from this tragic event, a few starting places for your teen might include asking: why do you think we are so shaken to hear of an untimely death, or the death of someone so young? It is hard for us to see the death of someone so young and not think “it was too soon” or “it wasn’t their time.” While these are both true, this is also an opportunity to consider how the Bible describes our earthly lives. In James 4, we are reminded that while we can go about making plans, we have to remember that our lives are actually a “mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (see v. 13-15). This is why our eternity with Christ matters. We were created for the eternal. Kobe’s life and legacy are reminders that we do not know what tomorrow will bring. Our life on earth is just a mere sojourn until we are brought home to eternity with God.
This leads to a second opportunity for conversation with your teen: what does leaving a legacy mean to you? What would you want that legacy to be? The legacy and impact of Kobe has left its impact on our country and the world through movements like #mambamentaility and #girldad. Invite your teenager to consider the legacy God has called us to leave on earth. What would look like for us to dedicate our lives to that call? Maybe consider looking at the five “great commission” verses with your teen: Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:46-48, John 20:21-23, and Acts 1:8.
Boost: #girldad One of the most encouraging and honoring ripple effects from the death of Kobe Bryant was the trending of the hashtag #girldad. In her touching memoriam, news anchor Elle Duncan remembered meeting Kobe and noticing how proud Kobe was to be a girl dad. Even though many would ask Kobe when he was going to have a son to carry on his legacy, Kobe never shied from boasting proudly of his four daughters. He believed they could do as much as any son. Duncan ended her story by saying she was grateful to know Kobe died doing what he loved: being a girl dad. After the story aired, #girldad erupted. For a week the internet was inundated with pictures and stories of proud dads boasting about their girls, proud wives boasting about their husbands, and proud daughters boasting about their dads. It was a sweet moment in the middle of much mourning. Check out the hashtag to see some of these uplifting stories.
The Spread of the Coronavirus:
By mid-January, the world began to hear word of a SARS-like disease spreading rapidly throughout Wuhan, the capital city of China’s Hubei province. On January 30th, this coronavirus was announced as “a public health emergency of international concern.” As of this week, more than 80,000 people have been infected worldwide, and at least 2,700 people have died from the disease.
Why this matters and how to talk about it: As scary as it might sound, and while we haven’t seen a high threat in the United States, there is a strong likelihood that the coronavirus will become a global pandemic. Fear and hysteria are at an all-time high. We, as citizens of the world, can be united by our shared concern, as well as our desire to stop the spread — instead of giving way to racial profiling and heightened anxiety.
Ask your teenager if news of this spreading virus makes them fearful. Encourage them that God is in control. He is not surprised by what is happening, and he does not want us to be fearful: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). No matter what appears to threaten our safety, we are safe in Christ because nothing — even death — can separate us from his love for us. (Romans 8:38) As Christians we can have the peace of Christ even in the midst of terrifying circumstances: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Democratic Primary Elections:
What happened: As of February 24, Democratic caucuses and primaries have been held in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. The delegate count is currently as follows: Bernie Sanders- 35; Pete Buttigieg- 24; Joe Biden- 10; Elizabeth Warren- 8; Amy Klobuchar- 7. The rest of the candidates have failed to amass any delegates. Early voting is underway in sixteen other states and the eighth Democratic debate will be held this week in Charleston, SC. Super Tuesday is just ahead of us on March 3.
Why this matters and how to talk about it with your teenager: The democratic process at work is a marvelous thing to behold, in spite of its imperfections. While we can be grateful to live in a country that elects its own officials, the chaos of the Iowa caucus results are a good reminder that this man-made process cannot bear the weight of our hopes for our nation. Neither can the candidates themselves (Romans 3:23). Voting in our democracy is a privilege to be celebrated, but we are a sinful people using a flawed process to elect a sinful leader. Our hopes for peace, justice, and prosperity for all rest squarely on the infinitely capable shoulders of Jesus alone.
The ongoing election news is also an opportunity to remind our teenagers of their primary allegiance to God’s kingdom. Rather than identifying ourselves as pundits of a party or a person, every believer is a citizen of heaven, and “from it we await a Savior,” who is not a man or woman running for office, but “the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Certainly we exercise our right to vote with carefully considered integrity, but we know who our true King of Kings already is and forever will be.
Houston Astros Caught Stealing
What happened: Cheating scandals are nothing new in sports. Baseball, in particular, has struggled to repair its image since the steroid era, but each year, high-profile athletes in every sport are suspended and condemned for breaking the rules. Last month, Major League Baseball concluded its investigation into the Houston Astros, uncovering a systemic, season-long plot to steal pitches in 2017. While the MLB levied fines and suspensions—and a few executives were ultimately fired—the players remain unpunished, and the team’s World Series title from that very season was not vacated. Needless to say, no one is satisfied.
Why it matters: Few people grow up thinking that cheating is acceptable. “That’s not fair!” is every kid’s go-to complaint on speed dial. But in the pressure-cooker of middle and high school, cheating is an ever-present temptation for students. In the classroom, on the field, and in relationships, students face seemingly insurmountable challenges in the way of their well-intentioned goals. Fueled by a culture that values success, winning, and performance above all else, our results-oriented society whispers do whatever it takes. Bend the rules, just don’t break them.
In our fallen state, cheating comes so naturally. It’s woven into our broken DNA. Not just because cheating is often the “easy way out,” but the need to cheat uncovers the idols ruling our hearts. When we desire something so desperately that we’re willing to do anything, anything, to get it, then we know we have an idol, something taking the place of God. For the Astros players, that looked like a World Series title, and they willingly and repeatedly broke the rules to win at all costs. For students, working hard for college acceptance, state championships, and academic accolades is in fact a good thing, and yes, a God-honoring thing, which makes finding idols so challenging. But students must take care to guard their hearts, not just from cheating but from the disproportionate desires which drive us to dishonesty. Instructing students “don’t cheat” merely treats the symptom. Instead, encourage students to step back the next time the temptation arises and consider why the idea lurks, and what it is they’re valuing above doing what they know to be right (James 4:17).
BOOST: The Astros laughed at the “cheaters never win” mantra when they won (and retained) their 2017 World Series title. Still, they learned the hard way that “he who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his way crooked will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9). The public ridicule and shaming may turn out to be punishment enough for the players, whose legacies will be forever tarnished. Still, reigning National League MVP and World Series Champion (whose Washington Nationals defeated the Astros in 2019) Anthony Rendon offers helpful wisdom for when we’re confronted with cheating: “Everyone is quick to hammer them down and just kill them…But at the end of the day, we’ve got to look at ourselves in the mirror, and we’re not perfect people. Whether it’s a speeding ticket or whatever it might be, some of us are trying to get an edge some way or another in life. They happened to get caught for doing it.” In short, we all harbor over-desires we could cheat for, and none of us are in any place to judge.