jasonbwatson

October 31, 2012

Reformation Day

Today is Reformation Day. On October 31, 1517–495 years ago today–Martin Luther posted his famous 95 Theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenburg, Germany. Just to provide some additional context, that was just 25 years after “Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

Robert Rothwell has written, “At the time, few would have suspected that the sound of a hammer striking the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany, would soon be heard around the world and lead ultimately to the greatest transformation of Western society since the apostles first preached the Gospel throughout the Roman empire. … Initially protesting the pope’s attempt to sell salvation, Luther’s study of Scripture soon led him to oppose the church of Rome on issues including the primacy of the Bible over church tradition and the means by which we are found righteous in the sight of God.”

Regarding Reformation Sunday–the Sunday before October 31, when many churches celebrate the Reformation–R. Bruce Douglass, Director of the Reformed Institute of Metropolitan Washington, has written this: “What is the point of celebrating Reformation Sunday? The simplest answer is this: to give thanks to God for the precious gifts we owe to the Reformation—gifts that include the very existence of the churches of which we are a part. And those gifts also include, of course, the availability of the Bible in translations that make it accessible to the ordinary person. That fact alone is sufficient reason, surely, to pause annually and remind ourselves of what we owe to the efforts of those who have gone before us. Reformation Sunday also provides an opportunity to educate the members of our churches about broader themes that help to explain why we practice our faith as we do. To be a Protestant is to follow Jesus Christ in a particular way, but that way is not always well understood, even by people who exemplify it. Most Protestants take for granted that our churches are fallible and always in need of the reforming work of the Holy Spirit, for example. Or that it is right for lay people to participate in the governance of our churches, even on doctrinal matters. Or that it is legitimate for our clergy to be married and have children of their own. But even when we embrace such practices, we often lack a good understanding of why they exist, much less why they are not shared by the members of other churches. This is not something that can be overcome in a single day, to be sure, but an annual celebration of the Reformation is an excellent way to begin the conversation.”

The key figure of the Reformation, of course, is Martin Luther. Who was he? How did he spark what has been called “the most far-reaching, world-changing display of God’s grace since the birth and early expansion of the church”? The short answer is, the long way. Stephen Lawson has included a chapter on Martin Luther in his “Long Line of Godly Men” books, and this is an easily-readable overview for anyone who wants to know more about Luther. But here is a brief synopsis.

After he was knocked to the ground by a nearby lightning strike at the age of 21 Luther called out to St. Anna, the Catholic saint of miners, and promised to become a monk if he survived the storm. He did survive, and he did become a monk, greatly angering his father in doing so (his father thought he was wasting his education).

As a monk, Luther spent years striving to find acceptance with God through works. Luther wrote, “I tortured myself with prayer, fasting, vigils and freezing; the frost alone might have killed me…. What else did I seek by doing this but God, who was supposed to note my strict observance of the monastic order and my austere life? I constantly walked in a dream and lived in real idolatry, for I did not believe in Christ: I regarded Him only as a severe and terrible Judge portrayed as seated on a rainbow.” He also wrote, “When I was a monk, I wearied myself greatly for almost fifteen years with the daily sacrifice, tortured myself with fastings, vigils, prayers and other very rigorous works. I earnestly thought to acquire righteousness by my works.”

What prompted Luther to nail his 95 Theses to the church door was the sale of indulgences by the Catholic church. A practice first begun during the Crusades as a way to raise money for the church, indulgences were a way by which people could buy a letter from the church that supposedly freed their dead loved one from purgatory. Now, it is easy to imagine that if people truly believed they could buy the deliverance of a lost loved one, they would do so, and the church made a tremendous amount of money through this practice. In 1517 an itinerant Dominican priest named John Tetzel began to sell indulgences near Wittenburg so Pope Leo X could pay for a new St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Tetzel was fond of saying, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” Luther was incensed, and he wanted the issue to be debated—so he posted his Theses on the Castle Church, a practice that was common among scholars at the time who wanted to generate academic discussion. Only Luther’s list was obtained by a printer, printed and spread throughout Europe.

When Luther came to truly understand salvation it was as a result of studying Romans 1:17: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”

The movement that began with Luther’s 95 Theses came to be known as the Protestant Reformation. And the key biblical truths of that movement have been summarized as “the five solas.” (Sola is Latin for “only” or “alone”).

The Solas of the Protestant Reformation

Sola Scriptura

The Bible alone is God’s revealed word (Matt. 4:4; 2 Tim. 3:16).

Sola Fide

Justification is by faith alone. Only through faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross can our sins be forgiven (Rom. 5:1; Gal 2:16).

Solus Christus

Only through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ can our sins be forgiven; He is the One and Only mediator between God and man (John 14:6; John 3:16).

Sola Gratia

Our salvation is a result solely on the work of God’s grace for us (Rom. 2:4; Eph. 2:8-10).

Soli Deo Gloria

All glory for salvation belong to God, and to God alone (Isa. 42:8; Col. 3:17).

The main point of the Reformation? We cannot earn salvation, nor can we buy it. It comes as a free gift from God, which we accept through faith in Christ.

R.C. Sproul has written this: “If we want reformation, we have to start with ourselves. We have to start bringing the gospel itself out of darkness, so that the motto of every reformation becomes post tenebras lux — ‘after darkness, light.’ Luther declared that every generation must declare freshly the gospel of the New Testament. He also said that anytime the gospel is clearly and boldly proclaimed, it will bring about conflict, and those of us who are inherently adverse to conflict will find it tempting to submerge the gospel, dilute the gospel, or obscure the gospel in order to avoid conflict. We, of course, are able to add offense to the gospel by our own ill-mannered attempts to proclaim it. But there is no way to remove the offense that is inherent to the gospel message, because it is a stumbling block, a scandal to a fallen world. It will inevitably bring conflict. If we want reformation, we must be prepared to endure such conflict to the glory of God.”

The gospel message is still a stumbling block, and it will still offend the world. Yet we must not back away from it. We must stand boldly on the Truth of Scripture, “insist[ing] on these things,” as Paul wrote to Titus. Faced with death if he would not recant, Luther refused to budge from his convictions unless he could be shown through Scripture that He was wrong. That did not happen, of course, because he was not wrong. May we be willing to say, like Luther, “Here I stand, and I can do no other, so help me God.”

October 30, 2012

Bridling the Tongue

Mark Ross has an article entitled “Guarding Our Speech” in the October issue of Tabletalk magazine. The article is not limited to discussing political speech, but Ross does use that as an example at the beginning of the article, and it is quite timely for this particular time of this particular year. After all, one week from today the voters of the United States will be deciding whether Barack Obama will serve another four years as president, or whether he will be replaced in January by Mitt Romney. The vote next week will be the conclusion of months and months of campaigning, advertising and debating. According to a recent article, this year’s presidential campaign is going to cost more than $2 billion all told. That’s a lot of speech!

Of course, that is only the paid speech that comes from the campaigns and the various groups that seek to influence the outcome of the election through paid communications. In other words, is does not take into consideration at all the millions of hours of conversation pro and con around cafe tables, kitchen tables and water coolers. And while the content of the paid advertising is relevant, it is this informal conversation that is what I want to address.

Ross writes, “Discussions of politics are especially notorious. Few people hesitate to represent candidates of the opposing party in the worst possible light. Did you know that all Democrats are left-wing liberals bent on turning the whole U.S. economy into a socialist state? Did you know that all Republicans are extreme right-wing conservatives who have no compassion for the poor or any sense of social responsibility? These and other ‘truths’ like them are purportedly discerned simply from a person’s party affiliation. It is not necessary to meet any of these people or speak with them about their views at any length.”

His analysis is sad but true. Far too many of us jump to quick conclusions about politicians based solely on their party, and then we shape our opinions–which shape our speech–around these assumptions.

Even worse, perhaps, is the vitriolic rhetoric that “we the people” tend to throw at elected officials and political candidates. There is nothing wrong with being politically involved (I encourage it, in fact) or with trying to influence the opinions of others, but there is something wrong with hurling insults, half-truths and even outright lies at those with whom we disagree.

Far too often this happens most easily in forums like this one–a blog–or on social networking sites, like Facebook or Twitter. We see or hear something and want to reply, and, let’s face it, we get a kick out of stoking the fires of the debate, so we will post something that is over the top. Maybe we do it specifically to get a reaction, maybe we really believe it; regardless, it’s wrong. The Scripture has plenty to say about bridling our tongues and carefully choosing our words. I believe those passages apply equally to our blog posts, status updates and tweets.

Jesus made it clear that the sixth commandment’s prohibition against murder is violated not only by actually taking a life, but by angry and insulting words. Numerous passages of Scripture refer to the one who is careless in speech as a fool.

Should we engage in political debate? Yes. Should we avoid critiquing or criticizing those with whom we disagree? Not necessarily. But we need to stick to the issues, not attack the people, and we need to, to the fullest extent possible, adhere to the facts. Scripture is equally clear, by the way, that those in positions of authority are there because God has placed them there or allowed them to be there, and as such they are His representatives–and their positions are worthy of our respect.

October 26, 2012

Selling What’s Priceless

WARNING: This post contains content that may be offensive to some readers. Discretion is advised.

You may have seen the story on the news this week: A 20-year old woman from Brazil, sold her virginity via online auction. The final price: $780,000, to a buyer from Japan. The highest bidder beat out five others who bid above $600,000 for “chance to bed the virgin,” as the Toronto Sun put it.

There are all kinds of stipulations and particulars attached to the auction. For example, Migliorini must be examined by a gynecologist and provide the winner with medical proof of her virginity. The winning bidder must submit to a medical exam and criminal background check, and cannot be intoxicated at the time of the “meeting.” There is absolutely no kissing permitted. Migliorini and the winning bidder will agree to the length of their rendezvous, though the rules for the auction clearly stated that “the minimum consummation time is one hour.”

There was, by the way, a young man who also auctioned his virginity. His was sold to a buyer from Brazil for $3,000.

Now, Migliorini says she intends to use the proceeds to start an organization that will serve the poor in Santa Catarina where she was born. In fact, she has pledged that at least 90% of the money will be used for that purpose.

She also says of what she did that she does not think of it as prostitution. That is interesting, since the definition of prostitution, according to dictionary.com, is “the act or practice of engaging in sexual intercourse for money.” It would seem that what Migliorini has done is exactly prostitution.

From a purely ethical and philosophical standpoint this topic could generate a very interesting debate. After all, I can imagine passionate and vehement arguments being made on all sides of the question of when, if ever, it is acceptable to sell oneself or one’s virginity. The fact that Migliorini purports to have noble intentions for the money makes the question all the more ripe for debate. Of course, the concept of buying and selling sex is not a new one; prostitution has been called the oldest profession. Big-budget movies starring major Hollywood players have addressed the topic of a one-time sexual rendezvous for a huge sum of money (Indecent Proposal).

The problem is, ones virginity is, short of life itself, perhaps the most valuable thing anyone possesses. Doesn’t it cheapen it to sell it, to surrender one’s most intimate moment to a complete stranger…for money? I would say yes, of course it does. But I would also suggest that we live in a world that has created the environment for this to occur. After all, sex has been devalued through a constant cultural shift. First sex was no longer something to be reserved for marriage. Then it wasn’t even important that sex be reserved for two people who were going to get married. After all, the argument went (and still goes) it is important to experiment and try it out before making (what is supposed to be) a lifelong commitment. It was not long before we moved into a “hook up culture,” with media of all kinds glamorizing the lifestyle of sleeping around and engaging in sex with lots of people, even complete strangers. Within that context, how can we fault Migliorini for at least putting a price on what our world has argued so long we should not treat as so valuable? Put another way, it is quite fascinating to ponder how she could cheapen something that so many give away every day for “free” by selling it for three-quarters of a million dollars.

This is what happens when we treat carelessly what God has designed to be special and beautiful and priceless.

I believe it was that great philosopher Yogi Berra who said, “Be careful. If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up there.” When it comes to the “sexual revolution” that has been going on around the world, I don’t think Yogi could have been much closer to the truth: No one stopped to consider where we were going, and now, here we are.

October 10, 2012

The Death Penalty

Filed under: Biblical Worldview,Politics/Current Events — jbwatson @ 6:59 pm
Tags: ,

Another one of those topics that’s always good for a lively debate is the death penalty. It seems most people have a strong opinion about it one way or the other; rarely do you find someone who shrugs their shoulders and says, “I don’t really have an opinion,” when this topic comes up in conversation. But since I enjoy a good debate, have never shied away from contentious issues, and have the luxury of my very own blog space to express my very own opinion, I might as well jump in, right?

Why now, do you ask? AOL is currently running this question in it’s Questions and Answers feature: “Is the death penalty a moral solution?” The question contains this subheading: “More and more countries abolish the Death Penalty. Do you think all states should follow suit? Do you support the Death Penalty?” Anyone can weigh in on this AOL discussion, though at the time of this writing only 14 people have commented. Not surprisingly there are opinions on both sides, and some of those commenting have suggested things I have never before heard of (such as allowing those on death row to choose between being executed or used as subjects for lab experiments). An AOL comment board is certainly not a scientific sample, by the way, and is not always likely to produce intelligent or informed discussion, but this is a question that is worthy of discussion.

First of all, the death penalty is actually the first civil ordinance instituted by God. Genesis 9:6 says, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” In fact, just Google “foundational civil ordinance” and you will find that even sites like WikiAnswers and answers.com list the death penalty as the foundational civil ordinance. There are numerous other passages of Scripture that support the death penalty for certain crimes. At the same time, there is no verse of Scripture that contradicts or overrides the instruction that murder should be punishable by death.

Second, Jesus Christ was in an excellent position to speak out against the death penalty, but He chose not to do so. As He stood before Pilate, He was asked, “Do you not know that I have the power to take your life?” Pilate was reminding Jesus that the death penalty was perfectly legal under Roman law, and it was Pilate–and Pilate only–that would make the determination of whether Jesus would live or die. Jesus could have spoken out at that time, saying that the death penalty was immoral, if that was His position. He did not do so, however; instead, Jesus only reminded Pilate that he had no power at all except that which God allowed him to exercise.

So why is the death penalty not only an acceptable penalty, but a moral one? Very simply because, as Genesis 9:6 says, man was made in the image of God, and every human life is sacred. If someone willfully takes the life of another he has forfeited his own life; the only acceptable consequence of such a crime is his own life. It is the harshest possible consequence, reserved for the harshest crime.

Is the death penalty a deterrent? I think it can be. Actually, I think it would be more of a deterrent if such sentences were carried out more quickly, rather than decades after the sentence. I do recognize that humans are fallible, and therefore our justice system is fallible, and accordingly it is possible for someone who is not guilty to be convicted of a crime. So every precaution should be taken against executing an individual who is not guilty, and every opportunity for appeal should be exhausted, but if an individual is still found guilty at that point, the death penalty is appropriate.

Interestingly, I have heard people express complete inability to understand how someone could be pro-life when it comes to the unborn, yet also be a supporter of the death penalty. On its face, I can see the merit there. But they are not really the same issue at all, because they are both related to the sanctity of life. If life is sacred, the unborn baby’s life must not be taken through an abortion, but the life of one guilty of premeditated murder must be taken because life is sacred. What does not make any sense at all, however, is someone taking the position that abortion is fine–it’s a right, a matter of personal choice–but the death penalty is not. How can it be okay for an individual to decide that she does not want to allow her unborn child to live–a truly innocent life–yet at same time argue that it is not okay for society to sanction the taking of the life of an individual who has been found guilty to taking the life of another? That simply does not compute. While I do not hold to either of these positions, I could understand from a logical standpoint why someone might oppose both abortion and the death penalty, or support both abortion and the death penalty, but it seems that the majority of those who support the first oppose the second…and that just not make any sense.

Let me also address the “eye for an eye” argument. The Bible does say “eye for an eye.” Specifically, Leviticus 24:19-20 says, “If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.” Someone once quipped that an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. The problem is, we need to accurately understand the point of this instruction in Leviticus. The point was this: the punishment must fit the crime.

There are examples in the Bible, and examples throughout history, of people or groups of people–clans, tribes, gangs, families–exacting revenge on an individual–or the clan, tribe, gang or family surrounding the individual–who had committed a crime. This can be summed up in the maxim we have probably all heard at one time or another: if you’re enemy brings a knife to the fight, you bring a gun. The trouble is, that is not the end of the matter. If one brings a knife and the other brings a gun, then the one who had the knife (or his buddies) will then respond with a grenade, to which the other side will respond with a bazooka. Then retaliation comes with a tank, which is then upped with a bomb. Do you get the point? Unless “an eye for an eye” is the guideline, the ante keeps getting upped, and eventually we’ll all be dead. “An eye for an eye, tooth for tooth,” is not there to justify or mandate equivalent violence in retribution for a wrong; rather, it is there as a limit on what consequence is justified.

So the death penalty should never be used cavalierly or carelessly or for minor crimes, but it is both a legitimate consequence for murder, and a moral one.

October 9, 2012

Doers of the Word

Filed under: Biblical Worldview,Spiritual Growth — jbwatson @ 3:48 pm

James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” I had read this passage numerous times over the course of my life and felt pretty confident that I knew what it meant…and then I read something a few years ago that gave me reason to believe I had never really grasped the full meaning of this instruction. Quite simply, it is this: there is a world of difference between doing and being a doer, and James does not say “do the word.”

To clarify the difference it may be helpful to think about the difference between running and being a runner. Unless there is a physical disability/limitation, every can run. Not everyone can run at the same speed, for the same length of time, or with the same grace, and certainly not everyone wants to run, but if push came to shove almost all of us could. At the same, not nearly everyone is a runner.

Growing up, I played a lot of sports, but I never much enjoyed running. Not running of any great distance, any way. Baseball was my favorite sport by far, and I could run from base to base just fine; those 60 to 90 foot intervals were no problem, and when I needed to, I could cover those distances pretty quickly. But I would never have considered myself a runner, and unless I was on the playing field I never thought about running.

I have a friend who is a runner. He loves to run. He runs just about every day, and he measures his running in miles, not feet. He likes running so much that marathons are not challenging enough for him; he runs ultra marathons. He runs when it’s hot or when it’s cold; he runs in the morning, or in the evening. He even runs over his lunch break! Because he is a runner, though, his running shapes his entire life. It influences his schedule, his diet, his exercise, his clothing, his choice of shoes, his vacations and travel… There are very few areas of his life that are not touched by his running.

This is the same difference between doing and being a doer. Anyone can do the things the Bible says we should do. But James says it is not enough to do things; rather, we need to be doers. Our entire lives should be shaped by the Bible; God’s instructions should penetrate and touch every aspect of our lives. When it comes to doing only, it can just become another thing on our to-do list. It can become a habit, a ritual, a routine…an obligation. In fact, there were some folks in the New Testament who had mastered the doing, but they certainly were not doers; Jesus reserved His harshest words for these men.

We must not allow ourselves to be only hearers–there needs to be action. But we must not settle for action only, either. The Scripture must transform our lives, it must infiltrate every area. If not, as James says, we are deceiving ourselves.

October 5, 2012

Is Lance a Hero?

There has been a bit of debate lately over whether or not cyclist Lance Armstrong is a hero. There have been allegations for quite some time that Mr. Armstrong used banned substances and doping in order to accomplish the incredible feat of winning seven Tour de France titles. Now, the United States Anti-Doping Agency has ruled that he is indeed guilty of such activities, and has stripped him of all prizes and titles he has earned since 1998, in addition to banning him for life from cycling. And while he still says he is innocent, Lance Armstrong has said he will not resist those findings or appeal the ruling.

While I do not know Lance Armstrong, his tenacious drive and competitive spirit do not seem consistent with someone who is indeed innocent simply accepting this kind of consequence. Accordingly–much to my own dismay–I have to assume that the USADA’s findings are accurate.

His winning fight against cancer and his incredible return to cycling made Lance Armstrong a household name, a celebrity, and an inspiration to many. I think one would be hard pressed to find someone who has not seen one of the ubiquitous yellow “Livestrong” bracelets. But what about hero status?

Dictionary.com defines “hero” in part as “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.” I’m afraid Mr. Armstrong doesn’t quite measure up by that definition. While he certainly has demonstrated “distinguished courage,” his ability must be questioned if he has in fact used performance enhancing drugs and/or engaged in blood-doping. I’m afraid any “noble qualities” are also called into question in light of the fact that Armstrong left his wife and children in 2003–after his successful fight with cancer through which she was by his side–and began dating singer Sheryl Crowe only weeks later. He has since moved on from that relationship, as well. There have been multiple reports, as well, of Armstrong engaging in angry verbal assaults toward other cyclists. The other part of the dictionary.com definition says, “a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal.” Were there no substantiated cheating, I would say yes, he has performed a heroic act. After all, just completing the Tour de France is incredible, let alone winning it seven times. But that accomplishment is now about as impressive to me as Barry Bonds’ home run record; in other words, not very.

Unfortunately, our culture is so desperate for heroes that influential individuals have intimated that Armstrong is still a hero, regardless of the cheating. Rick Reilly, a well known columnist for ESPN, wrote that if Armstrong “cheated in a sport where cheating is as common as eating” he does not really care. If the standard we go by now is that it doesn’t matter because most everyone else is doing it anyway, we are in serious trouble, and I am not talking about bicycle races. That kind of attitude leads absolutely nowhere good. Newsweek writer Buzz Bissinger wrote of Armstrong, “He is a hero, one of the few we have left in a country virtually bereft of them. And he needs to remain one.” Well, here’s a newsflash for Newsweek: if our standard for heroes is dishonesty, lack of commitment and narcissism, we should have shortage of heroes.

I do not disagree that we all look for people to look up to, to admire, even to aspire to be like. Whether or not that is inherently wrong is probably a discussion for another day. What I do know is that we must be on guard against ever setting anyone up as a hero and thereby putting on blinders to the possibility that he or she may not be quite the shining star we might like to think. The truth is there are plenty of heroes in our world, but none of them are flawless or infallible…and very few of them get attention from the major media.

October 3, 2012

“Complete absence of parental involvement”

I have not seen the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower. All I know about it is what I read in Stephanie Perrault’s review in the September 22, 2012 issue of WORLD Magazine. Neither have I read the book on which the movie is based, a book that Perrault describes as “a series of letters to an imaginary friend, the book tells the story of introspective and slightly awkward Charlie as he starts high school and struggles to find friendship.”

According to Perrault, the book is one of the American Library Association’s most frequently challenged books of 2009–justifiably so, she says. According to her review of the film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is “a morass of teenage drug use, sexual experimentation, homosexuality, suicide, and obscene language. It originally earned an R rating, but Chbosky [the filmmaker] and his associates at Lionsgate Motion Picture Group appealed the rating and got it down to PG-13, removing nothing from the original footage.”

This is alarming to me for several reasons. Taking the last part first, that a film can contain that kind of content and still get away with a PG-13 rating serves only to remind me that I seem to find more PG-13 movies objectionable in recent years than I do R-rated films. Not that I watch all that many of the trending movies (I think the last time I was in a theater was to see Russell Crowe’s version of Robin Hood in 2010), but when I see a preview on television, read a review in a magazine or online, or even watch the movies, I find that the PG-13 movies tend to be more blatantly sexual, crude, disrespectful of authority and all-around offensive than many of the R-rated ones.

According to IMDb.com, the film earned a 15A rating in Ireland (not appropriate for children under 15), and a NC-16 rating in Singapore (children under 16 not admitted). In the UK children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult to see the film, and in the Philippines the movie is strictly for children 13 and up. Also according to that site’s information about the film, “Sex is a big part of the story, and it’s implied (mildly for some) all characters encounter it at some point during the movie, without any actual scenes shown.” The main female character, Sam, has apparently been sexually active since age 11, when she was kissed by her dad’s boss. Furthermore, while Sam does not “randomly hook up” with people any more, when she was a freshmen she would get drunk and engage in sexual activity freely. A homosexual student gets another boy drunk so that they can have sex. And, “On their first date, Mary Elizabeth tries to get Charlie drunk for sex, giving him a bottle of wine, resting her head on his leg, and pulling down her dress, revealing her bra. This fails when her parents come home.”

And this story is set in the 1990s–nearly twenty years ago!

IMDb’s report goes on to include additional scenes of alcohol use, instances of violence and abuse, use of profanity, and more.

According to one of the “Super Reviewers” on rottentomatoes.com, KJ Proulx, this film earns five starts (out of a maximum five). He writes, “This is not a film, this is a presentation of real-life events that stole my heart from the very beginning.” The movie info describes it as a “modern classic,” and “a moving tale of love, loss, fear and hope-and the unforgettable friends that help us through life.”

Eighty-six percent of reviews cited on Rotten Tomatoes like the film, and a whopping 95% of the 14,579 users of the site who have rated it liked the movie.

I do not know which is more troubling…that a movie with this kind of content is so popular, or that the movie is supposed to be such an accurate and true-to-life depiction of teenage life. What does it say about our culture if we are not only allowing teenagers to grow up this way, but we then make movies about it?

In her review, though, Perrault goes on to say that the behaviors depicted in the film are “not the most disturbing part.” What’s worse than that? “[T]he complete absence of parental involvement in the young people’s lives.” The movie’s character Charlie, Perrault writes, comes from a “functional two-parent home” but his parents have absolutely no idea what is going on in his life, or in the lives of his friends.

In reading this, I am reminded of Koren Zailckas’s book Smashed. In her troubling memoir of growing up as a teenage alcoholic, I was troubled by this same thing. She was from a functional two-parent family, as well, and she even interacted with them, but they were completely clueless that she was drinking regularly, and dangerously, all throughout her high school years. I have had experience with parents like this, too. On a personal level, I have never forgotten going to the home of a girl I was quite fond of in high school, meeting her parents, and having them retreat immediately to their bedroom, not to be seen or heard of again the entire time I was there. Yes, they were physically present in the house, but they had no idea what was really going on. I have interacted with numerous parents, throughout my experience as a children’s home administrator and educator, who seem to pay attention to their children only when they need something from them. Otherwise, so long as the kids stay out of the way, it seems not to matter what they are doing.

Teenagers need adults in their lives who are actively involved. Being present is not enough. Teens who have not had this kind of interaction are usually looking for it. That is why they are drinking, abusing drugs, and engaging in sexual behavior, in most instances–because they are seeking an escape from the pain of their life and/or they are looking for a sense of belonging and value from anywhere/anyone they can get it.

If you have children, make sure you spend time with them–really with them. Talk to them, ask hard questions, get to know their friends. And if their friends are missing an involved adult, take advantage of the opportunities you might have to be involved in their lives, as well. And even if you do not have your own children, there are numerous ways in which caring adults can be involved in young people’s lives, from church youth groups to mentoring programs to youth league coaching, and many more. Find opportunities, and take advantage of them.

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