A Question of Survival
What would you do if you saw a tornado approaching? Would you run to safety in the basement, or would you climb onto the roof to get a better look? Suppose you learned that your lunch today was laced with poison which will take effect at 6:00 tonight. If I told you that I am carrying little white tablets of antidote in my pocket, would you ask me for one?
Everybody wants to be a survivor. Nobody wants to die. The Bible says,
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; . . . .
Even the person who commits suicide loves himself, or else he would not take such drastic action to rescue himself from misery.
But if everyone is determined to live until tomorrow, why are so few concerned to live forever? Many people enthusiastically embrace anything that offers a little happiness in this world, but have no interest in a gospel that offers them wonderful happiness in heaven.
Resistance to the gospel is found not only among heathen savages in the jungle, not only in the vice-ridden back alleys of the big city, not only among arrogant professors in universities, but also among children of Christian families. Many of these children rebel against the truth, haul up the anchor to their Biblical heritage, and sail off into life with no captain but their own fantasies. In the end, if God leaves them alone, they sink beyond help in the seas of spiritual ruin.
Are you the child of a Christian home? What are your chances of survival? Are you one of the few who has followed good counsel and remained true to God? Or have you chosen to go your own way?
Growing up at the start of the twenty-first century is no great privilege. You face enormous perils. You are surrounded by a monsterlike world that has no love for your welfare, much less your soul, and that wants only to corrupt you, by making you a satisfier of somebody else's greed or lust. How can you withstand all the temptations hurled at you every day? You need the help of adults, and you need to appreciate the help they give. All of the adults responsible for your care must cooperate in enclosing you within a stout wall of defense, and if the enemy breaks through, they must stand in the breach.
Contemporary Youth Culture
You can be thankful that the three principal dangers you face come at different times. In early adolescence, from ages ten to fifteen, the danger is youth culture. In middle adolescence, from ages sixteen to twenty, sexuality is the chief source of trouble. Then in late adolescence, from ages twenty-one to twenty-five, comes the great temptation to live for self, in fulfillment of some secular ambition.
When a child reaches early adolescence, he enters a crisis of identity—a struggle whether to give his heart and allegiance to traditional culture, represented perhaps by parents, pastors, and other significant adults in his life, or to the culture of his peers. That culture of his peers has been termed "contemporary youth culture." It is the way of life preferred today by many young people as well as by many adults. Youth culture applauds when you dress down in sloppy clothes and frowns when you dress up in nice clothes. It tells you that the ultimate achievement is to look weird. It urges you to try drugs and sex. It demands allegiance to a certain music, a certain talk, and a certain negativism in your attitude.
Since this youth culture has been recruiting members for more than a generation, it embraces multitudes of adults who are no longer youthful. Thus, many children today know few adults who still belong to traditional culture. In early adolescence, such children suffer no crisis of identity, because they feel no conflicting pressures. They slip easily into youth culture without being aware of alternatives.
The term "culture" refers to any set of shared customs and beliefs that binds people together, making them feel as if they all belong to one social group. The customs cementing youth culture encompass dress, language, and music.
Dress. Youth culture lays as a requirement upon all who wish to belong that they follow a simple rule for dress. The rule is, look weird, and if you can't look weird, at least look sloppy.
Until the 50s, jeans and T-shirts were the working clothes of the lower class, but by the late 60s these had become the fashionable clothes of upper middle-class young people going to college classes. The devil's original objective in getting youth to dress down was to weaken their desire for conventional middle-class respectability. In traditional culture, that respectability was inseparable from living a clean, moral life.
In the 60s and beyond, youth culture required long hair for boys as well as girls. The idea expressed by long hair was that we need to get back to nature and in touch with our natural selves. Since we are basically animals with animal desires, we should let treat body hair as a wild beast would, leaving it uncut and uncombed.
Today there is more variation in acceptable hair length. Really long hair appears a little dated. Short hair, or even a shaven head, has come into style for girls. The idea is to look like a lesbian. For boys, the latest trend is a stubby beard, sporting a few days growth as a statement that the wearer was too lazy to shave this morning.
The biggest rage among this generation of youth is tattoos anywhere and everywhere on the body, with a decided preference for juvenile art work. Another aberration in self-grooming that has become popular is body piercing. The emergence of these crude styles has coincided with a radical decline in modesty, especially among women. Nowadays, if you want to feel fashionable, you have to show bare skin and adorn it with some form of self-mutilation. Satan's goal is for young people to cultivate the look of naked savages.
For many years, rock stars have promoted the look of weirdness. A young person who follows their example not only mocks himself, by turning a bearer of the divine image into something ugly, but he also wounds his innocence. Dressing like a harlot or transvestite profoundly undermines the desire to be good. Dressing like a character in a horror movie creates a fascination with evil and builds interest in the occult.
Language. The rule for language is simply, "Be cool"—that is, flippant, irreverent, quick with biting one-liners that exalt self and embarrass others. Members of youth culture know they are insiders if they can excel at being negative and scornful. Youth talk today is everything opposite to serious and nice.
Music. The signature music of youth culture is rock. It began as rock'n roll in the 50's. The Beatles added a lyricism rooted in the English music halls. Then, in the late 60s came hard rock, an original style which was the first music ever to fully exploit the possibilities of electronic manipulation of sound. Hard rock was, at its inception, closely allied with the hippie and countercultural movements sweeping through youth culture. In the years since then, hard rock has undergone little change.
Christian rock was the invention of big, profit-motivated record companies who were looking for a way of selling more rock music. By offering a Christianized form, they sold it to children whose parents would otherwise object.
Through all of its organs of influence—the peer group, the media, even the schools—youth culture fosters an anti-traditional, anti-authoritarian, anti-serious way of looking at life.
- It exalts living for the moment. It says, when you make choices, forget tomorrow. Do whatever pleases you now.
- It dictates that it is not cool to consider risk in the pursuit of pleasure. The rampant disregard for risk among the young has led to widespread illicit sex, drug use, thrill-seeking activities, and vandalism.
- It preaches that it is good to be free from authority control. The youth-oriented media are full of messages that malign parents, schools, police, and adults in general. The belief pervading youth culture is that you should run your own life and do what you want to do.
- It teaches that "bad" is "good." It creates an actual desire to do bad things as proof that one is cooler and more "with it" than other people. Rock stars are at the top in this culture because they are the baddest.
- It laughs at God and finds it thrilling to experiment with the occult. Anyone who wants to live for God is considered a good target for ridicule and abuse.
Where did youth culture come from? Its history can be traced back to the 30s. The previous decade, the 20s, had given birth to the modern entertainment media. Commercial radio started in the early 20s, electronic recordings appeared in 1925, and the first talking motion pictures predated 1930. It was not long before leaders of the emerging entertainment industry realized that teenagers were a vast untapped market, and by the late 30s, Hollywood and New York were producing comic books, records, movies, and other products designed exclusively for them.
All these products were a huge success. The first great idol of the young was Frank Sinatra. In the 40s, thousands of girls flocked to his concerts and fainted dead away as he sang. The world had never seen anything like it. In the 50s, millions of teenagers worshiped at the feet of Elvis Presley. The Beatles were the craze during the 60s. Then youth culture took a sharp turn downward into all the flagrant wickedness of the student protest movement, the antiwar movement, and the hippie movement, and ever since, the wickedness engulfing the loyal followers of youth culture has grown only worse.
The driving force, the engine, behind youth culture is greed. It is the creation of an entertainment industry lusting after money. From the beginning, the elite controlling the media recognized that sin is profitable—that they could boost sales by creating products which chipped away at moral restraints and standards of decency. So, with purely mercenary motives, they deliberately made their products more and more offensive. The music became noisier, the speech became more insolent and vulgar, and the clothing of teen idols became more and more disreputable. Soon, the media were filled with sex, violence, and rebellion. Through its campaign against morality, the entertainment industry succeeded in opening up a gap between parents and children, the so-called generation gap. Children embraced a way of life that scorned the traditional values of the older generation. Over the years, youth culture has sunk into worse and worse decadence and has enlarged its constituency to include many adults as well as many children.
A critical question facing the child of a Christian home is whether he will identify with his parents or turn against them and join youth culture. If you, the reader, are a young person torn between the world of your peers and the world of your parents, I trust that you will resolve this crisis in the right way. I hope that you will let your parents, teachers, and pastors be your models and guides. If you go the other way, in the direction of youth culture, you will be manipulated by people who only want your money. And behind them stands the devil, whom the Bible calls the prince of the world system. He and his spokesmen in the media promise you freedom, but in truth they want to put you in bondage. The entertainment industry wants to make you a mindless, helpless, addicted consumer of their products, and the devil wants to make you a slave to sin.
© 2007, 2012 Stanley Edgar Rickard (Ed Rickard, the author). All rights reserved.