Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Miley is Me

Much has already been said about Miley Cyrus' performance at MTV's Video Music Awards - not all of it valuable. If you missed the much-talked-about performance, you can view it HERE. It's a pretty good bet your kids have seen it. Watching it will help you understand the rest of this post.

Did you know that Miley Cyrus had a goal for her VMA performance? Her goal was to be even more shocking than previous performances by Madonna and Britney Spears – music role models to this young star. Miley Cyrus’ performance on MTV’s Video Music Awards definitely captured the world’s attention. Whether or not she achieved her goal is probably up for debate. However, I just can’t help but wonder how a person with so much potential wound up setting such low standards for herself. The reality is that Miley didn’t just wake up one morning and decide her goal was to shock the world. Where she is right now is a result of a slow progression of life circumstances and choices.

What was your reaction after watching the video?

Here was mine:

In truth, I had several reactions to Miley’s performance, but the ones that still stick are these: 
- Who is speaking into her life right now? 
- What if her goals involved helping – instead of shocking – people? How would her life be different today? 
- How is this image going to impact children (Hannah Montana fans!) and our students?

Parents and Youth Ministers have a really important calling to connect teenagers to Christ in the midst of living in a very confusing world. I always have to remind myself that my job as youth guy is not simply behavior modification, even though I and others are quick to reduce it to that. Rather, my role, OUR role, in their lives is to help them view this world, with all it's junk, with kingdom lenses. It's to point them TOWARD the love and beauty of Christ, rather than just away from ugly things. I believe our responses to the actions of others and to performances like Miley’s can effect the way our teens are impacted by them. This is a teachable moment! 
I hope that you will take some time this week to watch the video with your youth, share responses, thoughts, and then talk about the topics this video helps you talk about. I also hope that you will help them set goals and standards for living that help draw them closer to Christ. 

It's also important to remember this:
If I just condemn Miley for being slutty or shocking, then I become part of the problem. I become a pawn in the same game she seems to be caught in. That is, I turn her into a commodity submitted for me to accept or reject. I do this all the time. I draw lines to delineate what is good, and what is bad; what I support and what I do not. What is me (good), and what is not me (bad).
Instead, why don't I try to recognize her flawed humanity and mine.
Instead, why don't I stop and ask if there's anyway her journey can inform my own.

Here are a couple of questions you might consider asking and answering with the students in your house:
1. Who are your role models? Where/who do you get advice from when you need it?
2. Does media ever influence your decisions, self-image, views of others?
3. Do you consider others when making decisions?
4. What role does your faith play when you give advice to others?
5. What are your life goals? What about your immediate goals?
6. How are you guarding your life against sin? Who helps you with that?
7. Do you think the negative comments about Miley's performance are hurtful to her?
8. What would you say to her, if she were sitting in the room with us right now?
(Or, to phrase this a better way, "What would you say to a close friend of yours who had performed the way Miley did?")

It wouldn't hurt to read the lyrics to her song, We Can't Stop with your student(s). Okay, actually, it might hurt a little bit. These things have a tendency to take on a different feeling in the cold light of day. A discussion of what these lyrics imply, and how they compare to the way Christ calls us to live, would not be inappropriate.

Some passages of scripture to encourage and inform this discussion:

Media suggestion:
Along with Miley’s video, you could also show the music video for Casting Crown’s song Slow Fade. Casting Crowns lead singer, Mark Hall, explains that a slow fade marks the regression that happens when Christians aren’t living intentionally. 
He explains: 
“People don’t crumble in a day. You don’t fall, you fade. In your mind, there’s that pride that says ‘I’d never do that’… but you don’t just do it, it’s a slow, series of compromises, little ones that go there eventually, until you’re sitting in a place you’d never go, doing something you’d never do… and yet the way you’re living totally makes sense to you somehow because you’re so numb.” Maybe that's what happened in Miley’s life. It has certainly happened in mine.
Finally, remind teenagers how deeply they are loved and valued by God and the people in our faith community, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Lead them in a time of reflection and prayer to ask God to help them live lives committed to Him.

So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet. James 4:7-10 

(This post has been adapted from a blog post by Helene Foust and a Facebook post by Mark Riddle, two very insightful and interesting youth ministry veterans, who submitted their thoughts as resources for folks dealing with this very event, and edited/amended by me.)

Thank you for all you do to be parents to your children, and partners with me.
Grace + Peace,

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