Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Let's talk about this...

A friend just pointed me to this story, about the beating of a high school cheerleader by her peers. Abducted, locked in a house that was guarded by two boys, a young woman was beaten for 35 minutes. She lost consciousness momentarily but when she awoke, her peers continued to pummel her. She's lost sight and hearing on her left side, and it remains to be seen if she will recover fully. After the beating, she was forced into a car, driven elsewhere, and then forced out as the perpetrators sped away.

Read the story, but I'm not sure you should watch the video. It's too much for me. Even more disturbing, the original site on which I viewed this had google ads related to the topic, and the ads were all targeted to teenage girls, about dieting and looking great. What do you think....

1) Myspace and the trash talking that goes on there is doing to people?
2) about the strange juxtaposition of a story about cheerleader jealousy and ads for dieting?
3) about the lack of conscience that would lead the perpetrators to ask whether what they'd done would mean they wouldn't be able to go to the beach for spring break?
4) events like this say about what we value as a culture?
5) what values are most important to build into ministries among high school and college students

When I read this stuff, my heart is sickened, not only by the deeds, but worse, by our collective growing insensitivity to such deeds. We're a nation that's not only desperately sick, but is also blind to our illness. Our collective capacity to deflect blame, as articulated so powerfully in Jack Johnson's song, only makes things worse. God help us...

I welcome your thoughts.


At 8/4/08 23:06, Blogger rivergreg said...

Richard said: Even more disturbing, the original site on which I viewed this had google ads related to the topic, and the ads were all targeted to teenage girls, about dieting and looking great. [...] 2) about the strange juxtaposition of a story about cheerleader jealousy and ads for dieting?

I think this speaks to how opportunistic advertising is, especially in the online world. The site with the google ads wasn't likely doing anything nefarious - rather there were words on the page (such as "teen" and such) that advertisers had requested Google associate their ads with (such as "display my ad when the page has this-word and that-word and that-other-word"). Anyone seen the movie Minority Report? It is disturbing, though, when the technology results in that kind of ad placement. I think this issue, in a strange way, goes along with the Ecclesiastes message about the futility of reducing the complex to the overly-simple: the google ad system erred by reducing a disturbing, heart-wrenching story down to a few keywords, and thus missed the point...

What's probably more disturbing to me is the media's tendency towards sensationalism, and what that says about us as a country. They run stories that will gain them viewer-share. In many ways the news media becomes a reflection of our country's values - not necessarily in the reporting itself, but in what stories are broadcast vs. what stories are not "newsworthy".

I think technology has played a big role in the desensitization. How often have we found ourselves saying something over email or in a weblog or on myspace that we would never say face-to-face?

At 9/4/08 01:37, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think all or any values are what's needed to build into highschool ministry (& the school system at large). last i worked with teen girls it was just a fluffy girly extension of what's already in the world, lest we lose interest or offend. there's nothing fluffy or girly about the meaning of life and a general lack of depth on anything is the great underlying problem of a lack of values & conscience in a society. there are still a few organizations who build up girls & teens well, (eg. Girl & Boy Scouts) & Christian ministry could use to learn from a more solid ideological implementation, but, even these organizations are diminishing. as for myspace, it's just the vehicle, media censorship needs to come back as the hollow, over-sexed triple/quadruple threat of the britney, christina, jessica, lindsay (& paris) machines managed to target & destroy an entire generation of pre-teen girls' values, as jackass etc. did for boys. with absentee parents, media's raising children & ultimately into cold jealous greedy monsters. money really is the root of all evil - parents too busy making it, children wanting only it. we live in hardcore times, with porn & decapitation a click away, of course we're desensitized. it's the internet, it's everywhere & everything. even movies have become machines devoid of feeling. and i'm not sure we can pull back. i'm not sure we're supposed to? the romans watched murder as spectacle, humanity ebbs & flows, who knows.

At 9/4/08 09:06, Blogger bunabear said...

The hardest part for me is to know that God loves the perpetrators of this violence. I have to affirm daily God's love to all individuals I find disgusting and disturbing. My natural response is to hate and shun such people. I constantly struggle with seeing others through the eyes of God.

May God have mercy on us all.

At 9/4/08 15:01, Blogger Kristi said...

So frightening, also, is the power that technology has over these kids. Whether it's having the right hardware or being always connected, they are addicted to these digital extensions of themselves. They see the Internet as a law-free dreamworld, where personalities and interactions blur the lines of reality. Only once in a while do I hear them even mention MySpace in my classroom--but they list it as an "activity" on student questionnaires!

The numb feelings toward violence spring so quickly from these heated verbal abuses. When they've spent so much time destroying each other with words--and their pop culture references are steeped in violence--physical follow through doesn't seem like much of a jump for them.

In high school ministry and education, I see this huge need to review how to live, how to interact face-to-face in a Christ-like way. The models of friendships and relationships seen through television, movies, and music, are mostly corrupt and, again, NOT REAL. Their relationships, carried out through text-message banter, are suffering from lack of effort. I hope and pray that as a church and a larger culture, we can begin to notice teenagers on a large scale and show them how to live well and in peace.

At 10/4/08 10:34, Anonymous Lisa said...

This is another tragic example of how our society, and even our churches, are complict in the culture of violence. We glorify war and violence, we villify people who are different from us, we value our own lives more than the lives of others, and we call ourselves pro-life?! What a sham.

At 10/4/08 11:28, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I read this news story, I found myself feeling sick as well. I thought what Sheriff Judd said to be very interesting, “this is animalistic behavior” and “this is pack mentality.” These words reminded me of something I read in Rob Bell’s book “Sex God.” In the book he talked about the difficulties humans encounter when we try to be something we weren’t created to be like animals or angels. God created us to be human not animals. Bell continues in talking about how animals were created first and when we act like animals we are moving backward in creation – we are digressing.

These girls are not animals – they are humans created in the image of God. However, they are confused enough to think it is ok to act like animals. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves how we can start teaching the youth what it means to be human, and from there we can progress and teach them what it means to be Christian.

At 11/4/08 08:27, Blogger The Courter Family said...

It is heartbreaking. These teens must truly think they are thought for consequences and now they're being tried as adults for their actions. I wonder if they still care? Just when you think, man this is getting ridiculous...there's more.
Keep on praying.

At 27/4/08 21:57, Anonymous Joy said...

This is incredibly disturbing.

I have been working with a group of very thoughtful and articulate young women at Seattle Girls School, looking specifically at growing up on Myspace and how the culture of cyberspace impacts their worlds.

These girls are addicted to it. I first arrived at a breaktime, and the school has laptops for every student. 90% of the students were on Myspace, some of them chatting with the person sitting next to them. Chatting virtually, mind you. Many of them get text message alerts when there is activity on their Myspace pages. I found this kind of virtual conversation when face-to-face conversation was possible to have really troubling implications.

But in our group discussion, they were quick to express their frustrations that, as they put it, "Myspace is our rock and roll." They told me, with tremendous articulation and historical accuracy, how each generation has had something that their parents didn't get and freaked out about. These girls feel like Myspace is that thing, and adults (old people, they said, like 27 year olds) don't understand and overreact.

Don't get me wrong - this story is despicable and raises all kinds of disturbing questions.

But the very smart and thoughtful girls I've been working with would likely point out that it's one incident amongst millions of people using social networking sites every day, the same way there have been heinous acts of violence before technology and there will continue to be no matter how technology continues to develop.

I'm not saying I don't think kids are desensitized and violence runs rampant. But I want to be wary of using an incident like this to vilify Myspace or technology at large.

I am reading this post late and the conversation is probably over. But I'd be interested to know what the Bethany youth have to say about this story.


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