Click here to listen to this week's issue of The Culture Translator on Spotify!
Three Things This Week
1. United in Despair
What it is: A massive 10-year study, published this week, linked decreasing life-expectancy in the United States to the surging rates of “diseases of despair” including addiction, depression, and suicidal ideation.
Why it’s so important: In a sample size of over 12 million, roughly 500,000 people were diagnosed with one of these mental health conditions within a 10-year period. Mental health awareness could be part of why these diagnoses are on the rise, but according to these researchers, awareness alone doesn’t tell the whole story. Wage stagnation, lower marriage rates, and fewer opportunities for people without college degrees have led to feelings of collective “resignation”—feelings that transcend typical generational and racial lines. It’s unclear how the pandemic lockdown has exacerbated suicide rates (or not), but previous pandemics have had far-reaching mental health impacts. So the prognosis for that is pretty bad, too. Depression and defeatism are, some would argue, a natural outcome of our current moment. Be sensitive to it in your teens (and in yourself).
2. Week of “The Never-Ending Ballot Count” Meme
What it is: TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter users spent the nerve-wracking days of post-election ballot counting coming up with creative (and hilarious) memes.
Why it was Gen Z's favorite coping mechanism: The wait to see who won the 2020 presidential election was excruciating no matter your political affiliation. Memes are how Gen Z self-soothes during political upheaval, and the drawn-out ballot counting process was no exception. Memes that depicted Donald Trump at war with The Count from Sesame Street, memes that showed Trump as Avengers villain, Thanos, thinking he won the battle for the cosmos only for things to take a turn, and memes that set the ballot count to slow jams like Brian McKnight’s “Back at One” were a delightful distraction from the reality that it took days (and may take weeks more) to clearly establish this election’s result.
3. Young Adults Are DTRing
What it is: Dating apps like Hinge, Bumble, and Match are booming as young adults search for connection in a COVID-dented dating landscape.
Why it’s making hooking up ancient history: With the arrival of the cozy holiday months (or as Gen Z would call it, “cuffing season”), the desire to share time indoors with a romantic interest is at its peak. While “ghosting” and random hookups might have been par for the course on these apps in the past, more and more people are having a “define the relationship” talk with people they connect with early on. With the nightlife scene all but shut down and a massive COVID spike climbing as we speak, dating apps used responsibly can provide a safe way for young adults college-aged and older to meet interesting people and feel like there’s hope for their dating prospects—even in 2020.
Spotlight: Are you desperately parenting in desperate times? Join hundreds of other parents for Parenting Pivot LIVE! Learn how to look at teen culture, and start having amazing conversations that lead the next generation to a life-long relationship with Christ. Click here to learn more!
Why LGBT Christians Will or Won't Come Back to Church
A recent article from Religion News Service features interviews with Christians who experience same-sex attraction, and explores how their experiences in church are shaping their decisions to continue pursuing faith in Jesus or not. The article cites a study by the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, which reported that those who experience same-sex attraction are almost twice as likely to disaffiliate from their religion as those who don’t.
It would be easy, given the cultural zeitgeist, to assume that these decisions are primarily because of disagreements about traditional sexual morality. But as Dr. Preston Sprinkle reports in a conversation with Justin Lee, only 3% of LGBT people who leave church say disagreement about marriage and sexuality is their primary reason for doing so. A much greater percentage mentions issues like not feeling safe in church, not having anyone who will listen to their story, and the hypocrisy of other Christians. This should be a wake-up call.
Not only that, but as Andrew Marin reports, 76% of LGBT people who have left the church are actually open to returning to their faith community, and when asked what would encourage them to do so, only 8% responded that a change in theology would be their requirement. The rest mentioned “feeling loved,” being “given time,” experiencing “no attempts to change their sexual orientation” (an approach which has been demonstrated as ineffective), and experiencing an “authentic” and “supportive” community. In short, Marin writes, “the LGBT community is asking that faith communities be what they say they are: loving, patient, realistic, authentic, and supportive."
Gen Z is the most diverse and progressive generation America has seen, and for them, the LGBT community isn’t an abstract group of people—they may be their friends; they may be their own community. Having conversations about these issues requires carefulness and discernment. For help on how to integrate a balanced, biblical approach into your context, we recommend Guiding Families by Bill Henson, as well as our own Gender/LGBT Conversation Kit.