Friday, November 21, 2008
Have you seen the new TV commercial for Levi's jeans?
This ad ran during the 8 pm hour on NBC last week. It features close-up shots of a teenage boy and girl in the process of getting undressed together. It's clear they're standing outside, but not clear at first where they are. The nervous couple exchanges hesitant, intimate words, such as, "This is your first time, right?", planting a clear idea in the viewer's mind of what is about to happen.
The commercial takes a bold turn with a close-up of each teen opening the button-fly on their Levi's jeans and pulling them down.
Just when it seems the kids are headed the rest of the way, they embrace side by side and jump off the pier on which we now see they've been standing, splashing happily into the water below, where they enjoy a swim in their skivvies.
Pretty shocking? No doubt.
Imagine the effects of these images planted in the soft soil of your child's mind.
Imagine the conscience of someone who would create and broadcast such an image, unconcerned for its potential effect on your child. But, how would that person respond, if confronted by you or me? The answer would be quick and brutal: Your child is your responsibility. Making money for my company is my responsibility. Wherever these interests might be in conflict is your responsibility.
A brutal response, but ultimately, true.
Not morally right, but technically accurate.
The haunting fact is: If you don't protect your child's innocence, who will? We no longer live in a world in which merchants are concerned with your child's upbringing. (Was there ever a world like that anyway, outside of our imaginations? Or, has that envelope been steadily pushed all along, shocking each successive generation of parents?)
So, how should the Christian parent respond to such an ad?
*Boycott Levi's? -- Nothing wrong with that, if it makes you feel better.
*Write an angry letter to NBC? -- Again, fine, and who knows? Someone important enough might actually be influenced.
*Cut off TV service to your house? -- Definitely an aggressive strategy, but is it throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
*Aggressively "inform" your child that such an image is bad, and he/she better not ever...yada, yada, yada...? -- OK, but who ends up feeling guilty and alienated from you? Levi's, NBC, or your kid?
*Go to bed in utter dismay over the state of the world, feeling bitter, attacked, and alone? -- No comment.
Any of these reactions might come naturally to Christian parents who love their children and desperately want a Godly life for them. And, if Christian parents feel as though they are at war for the hearts and minds of their children, they are correctly perceiving reality: We are. We always have been. Even back in the good ol' days. To have ever had faith that a secular world would care as much for your child's soul as you do was utter foolishness, even when Ed Sullivan wouldn't show Elvis from the waist down. The problem is not 2008, as opposed to 1958. The problem is sin, in all times, and in all places. The sands shift, but the battle is the same.
But there is still something missing in the parental responses listed above.
King David wrote a beautiful passage in Psalm 101:3: "I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me." Show this to anyone trying to justify pornography. Read this and remind yourself of the value of remaining "unspotted from the world", in the words of James 1:27.
However, as fervently as David and James would undoubtedly speak about the value of purity, neither man, especially not David the warrior, would ever overlook the necessity of one vital element of success in warfare, and one vital element missing in many Christian parents' reactions to the popular culture: Reconnaissance.
Recon, surveillance, scouting, combat intelligence. Call it what you will, no military commander would ever enter into battle without it. To do so would be folly, and suicide. Before committing troops to an objective, what must be known, at least to the degree possible? The lay of the land, an accurate assessment of enemy numbers and positions, enemy fortifications and armaments, possible routes of escape, weather conditions, and so on. All this, on top of a thorough, honest assessment of the state of your own side's capabilities.
The key words in the previous paragraph are "accurate" and "honest". True recon is not concerned with what anyone wants to be true, or hopes to be true. It isn't afraid of reality, or insistent that reality fit a mold of what anyone thinks it should be or used to be. Recon insists on being accurate, conveying the truth of what really is, in order to provide for effective planning that will preserve life. It does no soldier any good for a commander to be unaware of reality. In fact, a nation would be outraged at troops needlessly jeopardized because of a commander's ignorance of recon or refusal to be informed by it.
Most Christian parents are pretty good at their own personal purity, but many ignore cultural reconnaissance on behalf of their children altogether. Would you not be outraged at troops put in harm's way due to the ignorance of those sending them? How is it any different to send your child out into a world with which you're hopelessly unfamiliar and in which you're increasingly irrelevant?
In case you're getting nervous:
*A few things we are not talking about:
Putting your children in harm's way for the sake of exposure.
Sinning for the sake of being familiar with sin.
Immersing yourself in popular culture in order to be the "cool" parent.
Giving financial support to sinful influence. (The web is the ultimate tool, allowing the Christian parent
to scout popular culture without necessarily having to buy it.)
Do you know the names and material of any popular music artist today?
Have you ever read a novel your child is reading?
Are you familiar with any slang terminology your child hears at school? Have you ever asked?
Do you know what your child thinks about sex?
Do you have the kind of rapport with your child that will allow for these conversations to happen without your child
feeling like he or she is in trouble?
Is there some element of risk involved in a Christian parent's commitment to cultural recon? Yes, it's possible for a parent and a home to be led astray by cultural influence. But, this occurrence will be rare in comparison to the numbers of children led astray by the culture, right under the noses of Christian parents who had their heads buried in the sand and never had a clue.
If you're too afraid or bashful to speak up, you're the only one in your child's life who is. This world is not afraid of you, is not the least bit bashful, and it will speak up so your child will hear.
Soldier, where are your binoculars?