Youth Culture Window
Madonna's two cents on religion isn't very far off from mainstream youth culture today. Maybe that's partly because Madonna historically has influenced youth culture more than almost any other individual, save Snoop Dogg.
None of us would deny that media influences youth culture. But certain artists carry a greater impact. Madonna, for example, has not only been a direct influence on youth culture for the last 20 years, but also a huge influence on younger artists like Brittany Spears, and Christina Aguilera (Brittany Spears' song "Toxic" was the #1 music single in last year's Teen Choice Awards.) Many of these younger artists look to Madonna as a role model, imitating her "shock" performances and risqué marketing strategies. When Madonna talks ... numerous people listen. Madonna impacts today's youth directly, and indirectly.
That's why I couldn't help but pick up the latest issue of Ladies Home Journal from the grocery rack last week. (Sorry, I don't have a subscription!)
In this issue, Madonna opens up about her marriage, her kids and her faith.
Do you care?
You should. Because the kids we are trying to reach are hearing her message-directly and indirectly. The world is taking notice of her spiritual interests. But most of all, we should be interested because Madonna speaks the heart of this post modern generation-a point of view we should try to understand. It not only echoes the thoughts of many of the kids in our youth group, it influences them. I want to know these thoughts and beliefs so I can better understand the needs of today's culture and reach them with the life changing message of Jesus Christ.
Madonna gives us a peek at three characteristics of today's culture:
1. Like much of our culture today, Madonna rejects religion in all its hypocrisy.
Madonna has never been a very big fan of religion.
"I was raised in a very Catholic house. So religion was a big part of my life ... I never really got a lot of my questions answered, so consequently, I just sort of moved away from religion." (Ladies Home Journal, July 2005)Like many of today's generation, Madonna has questions. But she isn't looking to the Bible for answers. The answers she wants don't subscribe to a certain list of right & wrong. To Madonna, right & wrong is relative, a belief over 90% of American teenagers subscribe to.
Many of us remember her preaching this in her and Christina Aguilera's lyrics at the 2003 MTV video music awards after laying that famous kiss on Brittany Spears.
Madonna reiterated that belief in her Ladies Home Journal interview.
How could it hurt you when it looks so good?
Music stations always play the same song.
We're bored with the concepts of right and wrong.
"Morals and Ethics change depending on what corner you're standing on, and to me, don't answer the bigger questions."But even a bigger deal for Madonna is the way we act. I know ... some of us probably think that is ironic-that Madonna would be appalled with our actions. But that's a huge factor to many who don't come to Christ-the reputation of Christians.
"I don't think all religious people are decent." Madonna argues. "I think they hide behind the cloak of being religious– they don't have compassion for their fellow men, they're judgmental of people who are not their religion, and I don't subscribe to any of that."Madonna isn't alone. The church doesn't have a good reputation. 91% of the "unchurched" surveyed contend that "the church is not interested in my needs."
So for those reasons ... Madonna rejects religion.
But Madonna doesn't stop there ...
2. Madonna recognizes our focus on the temporary
Madonna was pretty transparent in the Ladies Home Journal interview. She shares a frustration with society's fascination with the temporary distractions of life.
"We live in a society that encourages people to just live, base all decisions on what we see ... We are raised to believe the world begins and ends with our five senses. We live in a world full of distractions and tinsel and things that are going to constantly distract us from looking inward. So you're always at odds with yourself. ‘I do care about the state of my soul. But there's a great movie playing down the street' ... Or, ‘There's a football game I want to watch.' And we are constantly bombarded with this seduction of the senses."Then Ladies Home Journal's Jeanne Marie Laskas nailed her on it-and Madonna owned up to it:
Jeanne: Of course you spent a lot of your career deducing our senses. You were part of the machinery-the engine-creating our pop culture. Do you now say, "I was a distraction?"
But temporary isn't enough ...
Madonna: Yeah, I know I was. Definitely. Listen, there were some times I really had an altruistic goal, I really did want to help people. And then other times, I just wanted to show off-let's call a spade a spade. And I knew I could get away with it, and I knew I could get people to pay attention to me.
3. Like today's generation, Madonna realizes her need for something - something missing in her life.
Madonna's search has recently led her to Kabbalah. But has she really found the answer she's looking for? Every interview I see, hear or read from her, one common denominator exists: she's still searching. You don't even have to read between the lines:
"I'm a person who's searching. I don't see myself as a holier-than-thou, righteous soul, but I'm a person who's been through a lot. I've lived the highest highs, and the lowest lows. I've attained all those things everyone wants to attain, and I'm here to say, it doesn't mean s---. If you don't have the other things in your life, then all the money in the world, and all the beautiful children in the world, and all the talented husbands in the world are not going to make you happy." (Ladies Home Journal, July 2005)This generation is searching. They have a huge void in their life and they're looking for answers.
The only answer is the life changing message of Jesus Christ.
How are we going to reach "the unchurched" with this message?
, president of The Source for Youth
Ministry, is the author of numerous books including the new
Should I Just Smash My Kid's Phone?
, and youth ministry books like
Ministry By Teenagers
Connect: Real Relationships in a
World of Isolation
, and the award winning book
Do They Run When They See You Coming?
speaks and trains
at conferences, churches and events across North
America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his
. You can follow Jonathan on
, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help.
Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live
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