Aug 26 2013
Sorry, Miley

The problem, this time, is that our society feels like it knows her, knows her backstory, knows she's someone's daughter, and isn't able to forget it. Other women, like the ones on stage with Miley, the ones no one is complaining about? Well, we can sexualize them, reduce them to toys lacking a story, but this girl? We know her dad!

 

I'd like to apologize to Miley Cyrus on behalf of All Adults. 

I know this seems grandiose, or inappropriate, but I'm going to do it, anyway, because I see people issue class-size apologies all the time, plus this is my blog and stuff. 

Now, this next paragraph is so blindingly obvious, so stunningly simple, I almost deleted it. But then, I told myself, apparently it's NOT so obvious, because we, you know, don't do it:

Adults are supposed to protect young people. Adults are supposed to refuse to treat young people like little gods, put them on pedestals, and parade them on stages. But adults do it, anyway, and our culture is just dumb, and just numb, enough to act like it's perfectly normal. Turns out, as we've always known, celebrity messes with people's heads, particularly the young.

A few years ago, I remember talking about this on my radio show.

Me: I'd never, ever let my kid be a celebrity. And not because of a few anecdotes, but because it messes with their           heads, teaches them narcissism, and skews their view of the world.

Callers to the show: But Brant, a good Christian family can raise a celebrity. And kids NEED great role models from strong, Christian families, like, you know, the Cyrus family, or the Biebers, and...

No, actually, kids don't need other kids as role models.

Kids need adults.

And adults are supposed to step in before their children, say, inhale poison. But, as safety-obsessed as we are, we won't do that. So kids, we've polluted our cultural atmosphere - now take a long, deep breath. Just make sure to wear a helmet.

We're supposed to step in, too, before you humiliate yourself imitating our own sickness. We're supposed to say things, impossible-sounding things, like "No." We know you're not going to like us; but we're adults, and adults protect. Kids need adults.

But kids might even want to be celebrities! They might even like the attention! - but kids need adults. Adults who say, "This is not what life is about, and we're not doing this." This isn't a pile-on for the Cyruses, by the way. Miley's father has already voiced his deep regret. Honestly, I feel horrible for him. I simply can't imagine much more humiliating, for a father, than... whatever... that... was... on the VMA Awards.  He's already said what I'm saying: His daughter's celebrity was a horrible mistake.

Am I making excuses for a 20 year-old? Maybe. Or maybe just explanations. I think, were I a child celebrity, I would have a profound lack of perspective, too.

Miley's just doing what she likely suspects she needs to do in her business: Shock people. She's grown up watching, say, Britney writhe with a snake on the very same awards show, so it's hard to blame her if she's surprised by the universally negative reaction. She's doing what she thought we wanted.

The problem, this time, is that our society feels like it knows her, knows her backstory, knows she's someone's daughter, and isn't able to forget it. Other women, like the ones on stage with Miley, the ones no one is complaining about? Well, we can sexualize them, reduce them to toys lacking a story, but this girl? We know her dad!

Kids don't need more kids. They know plenty of them. Kids need adults, actual adults, adults adult enough to reject a culture that is so bored, so dead, that it can only feel alive if given one more jolt, one more shock. And it's hard to shock, anymore, but Miley hit that mark.

MTV has largely been about sex since its beginning, and Miley's performance was almost a brilliant parody. It was a beautiful young woman, very scantily-clad, parading in front of millions, and it was... well, repulsive.

Which brings to mind what Mike Yaconelli once wrote, "The more pagan a society becomes, the more boring its people become." And I, for one, can't help but notice:

MTV, you're doing the near impossible. You're making sexuality seem boring.

Anyway, adults aren't supposed to make kids into celebrities. We're not supposed to let kids just "follow their dreams" without regard to how foolishly tragic said dreams might be. We're supposed to step in. If other grown-ups are creating a toxic cultural atmosphere (uh, no Britney pun intended) we're supposed to at least inquire about the emotional health of those grown-ups, while separating you from them, until you're older and wiser. 

But we didn't. Now, after handing you the keys, the car, and a cliff, we stand around and wonder, "Wow! What happened? What a strange girl."

Kids need adults. 

Jul 31 2011
A 401k Plan You Can Tickle

(I wrote this while in Africa last year. I just got back from Rwanda, and am still thinking about the little kids.  And the God who loves them, and... my money.)

So we're visiting village after village today, and playing with a whole lot of very sweet little kids.  Sweet little kids, I should say, with not a thing to play with.  Literally no thing.  

Nothing.

So we play tickle monster (standard operating procedure for a dad, of course) and we twirl and I laugh and they giggle.  And we take pictures with our digital cameras, and show them what, for likely the first time, is a first look at themselves in a photo.  Their eyes brighten, and they smile, look away -- then look again, and smile.  Thank God they don't think what I thought when I first saw them:  These children are not eating well.  Many have hair missing...in clumps.  But they see themselves, and they smile, and so do we.


It says on our money, "In God We Trust", and many Christians pass emails around, protesting rumors of the removal of that phrase.  Understandable?  Okay.  But so is wondering, of course, if we who protest really, truly trust God with our money...or whether it's easier to have our coins say it.  

I say we don't, really, trust God with our money.  If we did, we'd invest in His ultimate retirement plan:  "He who gives to the poor lends to the Lord, and the Lord WILL repay him."  -- it says that in Proverbs.  I may not be exactly quoting -- don't have my Bible right here -- but I'm darn close.

Our entire banking system -- our entire economy! -- is based on just that:  trust.  Shoot, the root word for "credit" is the same as "credibility".  It means "trust".  You have money, so who do you trust with it?  Maybe you trust a banker you've never met, a broker you'll never see, or a corporation that, God promises, will vanish, eventually, like a vapor.  

People are now struggling to find a trustworthy place, with a solid return, for their money.  May I propose, for those who say they subscribe to "In God We Trust", that they actually trust God with their money?  Maybe that's you.  It's certainly me.

God says:  Give to the poor, and you're lending to me.  And I WILL repay you.  That's a guaranteed return.  God says He WILL repay you.  

Give to the poor.  Give to the poor.  Give to the poor.  God WILL repay you.  GOD will repay you.  He promises it.  

Take it to the bank.

Or don't -- take it to these children, or others like them.  God will repay you.  When?  How?  I don't know.  But He promises it.  Still worried about your retirement years?   Listen to one of these children giggle, smell their milky breath, hold their dirty little hands...and wonder, with me, if they'll even see high school.

God says He WILL repay you.

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