3 THINGS THIS WEEK
1. Trading Cards Take Off
What it is: The value of trading cards has spiked exponentially throughout the last twelve months, particularly Pokémon cards.
Why it feels like 1999 again: Manufacturers have been crushed by the market demand for Pokemon cards, with casual collectors and fortune-seekers alike flocking to resale sites like eBay to try to score rare finds. Some observers have compared the rapid rise in the value of the appeal of these cards to memecoins (meme-based cryptocurrency) and NFTs; trading cards are another way you can “invest” in a cultural moment, hoping it will pay off later. Pokémon cards also carry a big early-2000s nostalgia factor, which seems to have a lot of capital with young people. In any case, Pokémon cards aren’t going to get any easier for teens to get their hands on, anytime soon; Walmart and Target will no longer sell any type of trading cards in stores after several instances where customers turned violent in their quest to get the collectibles.
2. A Biblical Resurgence
What it is: The annual State of the Bible report, produced in collaboration with the Barna Group and the American Bible Society, shows an uptick in Bible usage for the first time in years.
Why it’s encouraging: As Barna notes, the average American’s viewpoints about the Bible are more in line with orthodox Christian thinking than you might expect. Twenty-nine percent of U.S. adults surveyed said the Bible is the inspired word of God, and that it has no errors. Thirty percent of adults agreed strongly with the statement “the Bible contains everything a person needs to live a meaningful life.” But the survey’s biggest finding was this: Five percent of people who were ambivalent about the Bible in 2020 would take a more Bible-affirming view this year. It may feel like the Bible’s role in public life is receding, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate a more negative view of Scripture on the whole.
3. The Censorship vs. Accountability Debate
What it is: The Pew Research Center released survey results this week that outline the stark differences between how different age groups and political affiliations interpret “cancel culture.”
Why it frames our current moment: As of last September, 43 percent of younger people surveyed by Pew said that they had heard a lot about cancel culture, while only 15 percent of people between the ages of 50 and 64 said they had heard a lot about it. What’s more, those with more liberal-leaning views were far more likely to see “cancelation” as a person being held accountable for their actions, while people with more conservative views were more likely to see cancelation as an unjust punishment or censorship attempt. A major factor shaping these respective points of view might be what participants believe about spirituality and justice. Prominent Christian commentator Michael Wear tweeted on Tuesday, “Politics is causing great spiritual harm in Americans' lives, and a big reason for that is Americans are going to politics to get their emotional and spiritual needs met.” If we accept that line of thinking, it makes sense that “cancel culture” can be seen, by teens and younger adults in particular, as a crusade for moral justice. Whichever side of the spectrum your family falls on, we can strive to keep a compassionate perspective as the culture wars seem to claim another “cancelled” personality every week.
Slang of the Week:
Main character energy: Romanticizing your own life and embracing the spotlight to the point where you can imagine you are the person that everyone else’s “storyline” revolves around; can be used sincerely or ironically. (Ex: “I’m not worried about whether my crush likes someone else or my friends forget to invite me to places; I’m only here for people who recognize my main character energy.”)
Viewpoint Diversity and Discipleship
This week, The Atlantic published an interview with Erin McLaughlin, an educator who believes that teaching students how to think instead of what to think can help them become stronger and more thoughtful in their convictions. As she puts it, “Advocacy-based teaching deprives them of the skills [they need] to reach their own conclusions. Instead they learn to parrot what they know they’re supposed to say to get a good grade. Kids are really good at that, but it doesn’t translate to actually believing what they are saying or knowing why it’s supposed to be important.” For this reason, she believes that some forms of antiracist curriculum are actually having the opposite of their intended effect. But the interview also got us thinking about Christian education as a whole: what if teaching students how to think more than just what to think was a better way to pass on faith?
Obviously passing on Christianity (and not just “faith” in general) requires doing both to some degree; following Jesus means living a life that looks more and more like Him, and to do that we need to know what His life looked like. But for many Christians (including C.S. Lewis, John Lennox, and Lee Strobel), being given thinking tools and permission to “test” Christianity for themselves became a crucial part of their faith journey. They came to trust in new ways the faith system that otherwise might have just seemed like something that was being forced on them. Giving students the opportunity to discover faith for themselves is the doorway to delight, and delight always takes us farther than duty. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
The interview with McLaughlin is worth a read in its entirety. As you read, we encourage you to reflect on the following questions: “What would it mean to teach teens in my context how to think?” and “What has made Christianity compelling to me, personally?” Then, here are some questions we hope might spark discussion with your teens:
- Where’s the line between persuasion and forcing someone to believe something?
- What’s something about Christianity that you find inspiring or beautiful?
- Do you feel like our faith community is a safe place to ask questions about faith?
Keep the Faith!
The Axis Team