Teenagers and Pornography

In my last post, I discussed Amanda Todd, a bullied teen who was eventually pushed over the edge and took her own life. It all started for Amanda when as an 8th grade girl, someone online convinced her to flash him via webcam. If it seems odd that an 8th grade girl would be willing to flash someone who is telling her she is beautiful and perfect, well, think again. That may have been unheard of years ago (like in the 30s), but nowadays that is far from the case.
Back in December, ABC News reported on a Massachusetts Clinic study that showed 1 in 13 girls who had visited the clinic had participated in group sex. The study showed that some girls were as young as 14, and that the average age was around 15 and a half. Many of the girls said they were coerced into the situations after having been “liquored-up.” The findings were based on interviews with 328 participants. It was also discovered that the girls who had participated in group sex were five times more likely to have watched porn within the last month. Also disturbing was that 45% of the girls said they had had sexual encounters without the use of condoms, and 44% said they had experienced dating violence. You can read more about the story here: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/risky-group-sex-reported-teens-young-14-porn/story?id=15191997#.UKP_f4bWEgx
If this were not disturbing enough for me being the father of two girls, on November 6, 2012, a documentary called Sexy Baby was released for purchase online exploring the effects of pornography on pre-pubescent girls.  ABC also covered this film in two stories: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/film-sexy-baby-tackles-influence-porn-technology/story?id=17500927#.UKP81obWEgwand http://abcnews.go.com/US/porn-puberty-film-explores-childhood-parenting-sex-saturated/story?id=17564339#.UKQAYYbWEgx
It is no secret that our culture is saturated in sex. A new study by Dartmouth University has proven that sexual scenes in movies influence teenage behavior: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/07/19/kids-sexual-behavior-influenced-by-movie-scenes-study.  Teenagers who watch films with this kind of content are more likely to engage in wilder behavior as teenagers.
With the plethora of advertisements, especially inappropriate billboards, movies, music, and television, that promote sexual behavior with no consequence, and with schools teaching protection over abstinence, it is no wonder 6th, 7th, and 8thgrade students are doing things that would have seemed unheard of years ago. American Eagles has now released Push-Up bras for girls as young as 15. The question now raised is this, “What do Christians do to raise children that will not engage in the risky behavior?”
Here I have a few observations:

  1. Parents should tell their children that they love them and that they are proud of them.
  2. Parents should hug their children and show genuine interest in their lives.
  3. Parents should shelter their children from being exposed to sexual things too early.
  4. Parents should talk with their children about sex when the time is right, likely around 5th or 6thgrade.
  5. Parents should talk with their children about the dangers of pornography by the time they are in junior high.
  6. Parents should pay attention to their children.
  7.  Parents should talk with their children about things they watch on TV and in movies, and about the content of things they listen to in music.
  8.  Parents should converse with their children about the books they read and what they learn in school.
  9.  Parents should pray for their children.
  10. Parent should love their children and seek what is best for them.

These observations may not seem very focused on the issue of sexuality surrounding teenagers, but doing these things will help the children to grow up with confidence and high self-esteem. Being open with children and talking with them about sex will keep them from learning about it entirely on their own. And loving your children is a good foundation for doing what is necessary to help keep your children protected from online predators, readily available pornography, and for helping them make wise choices about how to live during their teenage years.

Bullying and Christianity

On October 10, 2012, Amanda Todd, a Canadian teenager committed suicide after months of bullying from numerous people online and in person. She posted several videos on YouTube before she died. Here is a link to her cry for help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRxfTyNa24A. In her video, Amanda describes how a mistake she made as an 8thgrade student followed her everywhere she went, leading to alcoholism, depression, cutting, at least one physical beating, several attempted suicides (including one time when she drank bleach), and finally to suicide through hanging.
Over the last several years, bullying has been a big issue. There have been numerous stories in the news regarding teens who were bullied and it has been a major theme on the FOX television show Glee.
In other recent news, Max Duke, a 14 year-old boy in Victoria, TX was suspended for standing-up to a bully. You can read the story here at ABC: http://abcnews.go.com/US/texas-dad-protests-son-suspended-standing-bully/story?id=17482938#.UKPpsobWEgw. After being suspended, Max was sent to the alternative center. After protests from his parents, the boy has been allowed to return to his school, but one wonders how messed up our society is when raising awareness about bullying is being promoted on one hand, and on the other hand, people willing to stand up to bullies are being punished.
What happened to Amanda Todd is a grievous tragedy. Her story raises another question in my mind. “Where were the Christians?” 
Why did this girl have no-one, why was no Christian willing to share with her about the love of Christ? Why did no Christian invite her to church? Where was that support?
Pondering over this issue since mid-October has spurred me on to ask yet another question, “What is the proper Christian response to bullying?”
In the book of Judges, we find a very interesting pattern. God’s chosen people turn their hearts from God and then they are punished. Actually, they are oppressed and afflicted according to Judges 2:18. And in the midst of their affliction, the people realize the error of their ways and repent. Once the people repent, God sends a judge to “save” the people. This pattern happens several times over throughout the book, but from it we can learn that God seeks to deliver his people when they are oppressed.
Looking at the New Testament, we find Jesus calling his followers to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44). In fact, Christians are supposed to love and pray for their enemies. Prior to these verses, Jesus tells his followers that if an evil person slaps them on one cheek, they are to turn the other to that person also (Matthew 5:39). At first glance, this may appear to suggest that Christians are to be nothing more than doormats for bullies, but that is not at all what Jesus is saying. 
What Jesus is actually promoting here is a form of non-violent resistance. By turning the other cheek, it convicts the person of the wrongfulness of his or her ways. It is an attempt to help them see their own errors and repent. In the 60s, Martin Luther King, Jr. also promoted non-violent resistance with the same intention of winning over the afflicters. His message was focused on stopping the evil.
As Christians, I believe we are called to put an end to injustice and stop evil whenever possible, but we are not to do so through violence. We are to love our enemies (and that includes bullies) and we are to stand up for justice. Our goal should never be to retaliate towards bullies out of anger, but it should be to show them love even as we point out the injustice that we must stand against.
When I state that Christians should stand against injustice, I do not simply mean that they should take a stand when Christians are persecuted. I think they should take a stand when anyone is unjustly persecuted. God created humanity in his own image, and in that respect, all people regardless of race, gender, sexual inclination, socio-economic status, political leaning, educational level, or religious preference, bear God’s image. Granted, that image is broken and marred by sin, but no human is any less valuable in God’s eyes than anyone else.
With that being said, Christians should promote equality and peace in all aspects of life. Christians believe that they worship the ONE true God, but they do not believe anyone should have to suffer for worshiping the deity of his or her choosing. 
Christians believe that God intended for marriage to be between one man and one woman, but Christians should not believe that anyone should have to suffer or be ridiculed from choosing a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered lifestyle. 
Christians believe that no one should be oppressed for ethnic, gender, or socio-economic reasons. As such, Christians should be vocal about issues such as genocide in Africa. The intent is not to demonize those performing genocide, but for them to bring those people to an understanding of a better way to treat humanity.
I want to encourage Christians to make a distinctive choice not to persecute others for being different in anyway, but more important, to stand up for the well-being of anyone who is treated as less than human for any reason. 
It is never ok to bully someone or a group of people, and it is never ok to turn a blind eye towards persecution. Christians need to be courageous, and they need to stand-up for humanity, after all, humanity is the responsible agent for caring for the rest of God’s creation. If humans cannot even act humanely towards other humans, how can they care for the rest of the planet?
What happened to Amanda Todd should never have happened. Who are the courageous Christians out there willing to stand up for victims and willing to stand up to bullies? Who are the Christians who are willing to share the love of Christ with both the victims and the victimizers?
Scott Shiffer

Gun Control

In a new study that looks at the statistics of firearms, it was confirmed that nearly 8.5 million new guns were sold in the U.S. in 2010 alone. In 2012 over 16 million guns were purchased.

There are nearly 130,000 licensed gun dealers in the United Sates. There are only around 37,000 grocery stores. Though to be fair, over 60,000 of the gun dealerships are collectors, and a large number includes pawn shops.

That being said, the study shows that murder by use of firearms remains high in the U.S.
So I looked at the FBI list of murder statistics. From 2006 to 2010 and 47,856 people were murdered with firearms. During those same years, the number of murders totaled 70,975, making firearms the weapon of choice for nearly 68% of all murders committed.

However, murder rates have been steadily decreasing as gun sales rates have been increasing.
In 2010, there were 2,000 fewer murders than in 2006.

And if 8.5 million new guns were purchased in 2010, a year that only saw 8,775 murders with firearms, that means that less than 1% of the firearms purchased were used in these crimes. I know that assumes that everyone murdered in 2010 was also murdered with a gun purchased in 2010, but here I am simply trying to show how few people are being killed in relation to the number of guns being sold.

So what does all this mean?

Well, for one thing, I am not in favor of gun control. I believe that people should have the right to bear arms.

And I think the data shows that the vast majority of people who bear arms do so responsibly.

The Giffords believe in responsible gun control and the NRA has a made a good point about the only person able to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

I am not attempted to start a heated discussion here, just a cordial dialog.

The FBI List is found here. Here is the reporton firearms sold in the U.S. for 2012. Hereis the list of gun owner background checks. And hereis the report that made me think about this issue.

For your own fun, here is an article about gun crime statistics in the UK: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6960431.stmWhile the number of homicides by firearms is drastically lower than in the US, there are still between 15,000 and 20,000 firearm related incidents in the country each year. And in 2004 there were somewhere between 22,000 and 58,000 committed knife crimes.

Confessions for 2013

This year, Sean Penn, made a remarkable celebrity confession. He stated that “We all want to be loved by someone.”

This is a remarkable confession from him as it followed his comments about never really being loved despite his numerous high profile relationships.

This year Angus T. Jones also made headlines when he called his own show filth after becoming a Seventh Day Adventist. It seems that Penn was not the only one searching for something this year.

In fact, it seems to me that many people in Hollywood in front of the camera and behind the scenes are searching for something.

Join with me this year in committing to pray for the people who make culture by working in the entertainment industry.

Pray for the spiritual and moral content of the best TV Shows, Movies, and Music. Pray for the salvation and faith of those writing, acting, singing, and directing. Pray for the struggles that people will face and pray that in those struggles the people and their families will look to Jesus.

This year work to support the best that entertainment can offer, so that their standards will rise, and as you support their works, remember to think through the material and analyze the messages in light of the Christian faith and good philosophical inquiry.

Governmental Change

This year a record number of female Senators will be sworn into office-20. Of those women, two are not Christians. Tulsi Gabbard a Hindu and Mazie Hirono a Buddhist. Both of these women are from Hawaii.

With Obama winning the election by a significant amount, one wonders if this year marks the most significant change in American politics of our history.

With states voting to legalize pot and recognize same sex marriage by popular vote, it clearly marks significant changes in the common worldviews of the American public.

 I have a few thoughts about the changes in our political system.

1. I think it is good that more women are being sworn into office. I think that men and women desire an equal chance at running the country and that people should be elected based on ability not gender.

2. I think it is good that two openly non-Christians are being sworn into office.I believe strongly in religious liberty. America should be a place where practitioner’s of any faith can be welcome. We do not have to agree on everything. I think Christianity is the only true religion, but in many places people are still persecuted for their beliefs. America was partially founded as an escape from persecution. It should be that way for all faiths…so long as the people practicing those faiths do not abuse the freedoms and rights of others.

3. While I may not be excited about Obama being re-elected, I think I honestly like him being in office more than I would have liked Mitt Romney. I also do not think 4 years is really long enough to get that much done on a national scale. Perhaps we will see more good come from the next four years I am hopeful that we will.

4. The American values are clearly changes right now. I think some changes are good and others maybe not so good. But one thing is clear. If anyone wants to do well in the next election, they are going to have to appeal to a changing population.

So what are your thoughts? Are these changes good or bad? Are they overdue? Or are they scary?