Recently I heard an interview on NPR with an artist whose words drew me in. I’d missed them announcing who it was, so I tried to figure it out as I listened. She joked innocently about how over-protective her childhood was, saying they even had to call the deviled eggs “Angel Eggs”. She appreciated much of that upbringing though, even as the interviewer asked if she now created the kind of music she wasn’t allowed to listen to growing up. I assumed that simply meant “pop-music”. She sounded very creative, and even scorned the over-sexualization of most pop-artists these days. She said she also had the “sex card”, but didn’t feel like it needed to be played. As the interview closed, they said her name….Katy Perry. Hmm, I thought to myself. I’d heard her name before, but never really paid attention to what music she’s made. Maybe I’ll check her out.
So the next day as I’m checking out youth ministry trends/updates, I get a link to a review of Katy Perry’s most recent album, “Prism”. The review was not very kind, pointing out how over-sexed and under-faithful this album was. Highlighting the carnal aspects, and the vague notions of Eastern spirituality she flaunts…there didn’t seem to be much redeemable content on the album.
I found myself wanting to pray that the artist I heard on NPR might someday come full circle, seeing the emptiness of a pleasure-seeking lifestyle, and create great art that had depth and wisdom. As I check out the lyrics myself, I do have a bit more hope than the above review. The song “ROAR” expresses frustrations with experiences of being “bound/held back/controlled” by someone else. The song “Unconditionally” reveals a tender heart that wants to love and be loved in ways God has expressed His love for us. Unfortunately through most of her songs, she tries to dull the pain through sex and party-life….but it’s obviously not fixing things. The realities of a divorce come through loud in “Love Me“, and “By the Grace of God“. She’s been hurt and broken by life, and is processing her pain loud, publicly, and through music. In time, hopefully she’ll stop using pleasure as a band-aid and shed the songs that make her album hazardous. Just Googling her name leads to plenty more interviews/appearances in pop culture that prove she’s not someone our young women can look up to just yet.
Now imagine that same “pop-star” problem, multiplied by the amount of people we have today creating content for the internet.
This problem used to be reserved for the influences of pop-culture. A young star comes out, and creates music/content that praises sexuality and indulging “self” in pleasure. We try to filter it, waiting to see if that artist ever “grows up”.
But today, the content creators are not just pop-stars. They’re everyone. Sharing on Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Facebook, Tumblr, Blogs, and more as new programs come out regularly. Content is being created and shared at a rate no one can keep up with. There is no filter big enough to keep out all the garbage flooding our feeds, except perhaps a power outage. In the midst of it all, our youngest “content creators” are attaching huge personal value to the general public’s response to what they’re creating and sharing. Expressing what they feel to be their deepest identities, frustrations, and being impacted to the point of suicide….it’s almost like every young person now faces the same issues that used to be reserved for child-stars in Hollywood.
We can pray, someday, that many of them come “full circle” to create content that is God-honoring, and contains wisdom and depth that contributes something beautiful.
Or we can do more. We can help our children/young people to have their identity solidly grounded in Christ. We can call our children to think critically about the “content” they’re creating/sharing, and pull the plug when necessary. We can model for our young people what it looks like when someone uses their technology for a purpose larger than “self”. We can have conversations about popular content, and help our young people to ask questions about why something might be “trending”, and if it’s worth it.
Because it’s not just artists like Katy Perry that are influencing and shaping the world of content any longer. It’s everyone with an internet connection. We cannot simply educate/guide our children to be good & faithful consumers….we must raise them to be faith-centered content-creators as well…