My buddy Andy Brazelton from Simply Youth Ministry has been in town visiting us at CPYU for the last couple of days. Since this is his first-time here in Central Pennsylvania and the Lancaster County area, he’s got lots of questions about the unique and sometimes unusual culture. It doesn’t help that Andy grew up in Southern California – a culture that’s just a little bit different from ours here.

When Andy arrived at the office yesterday we stood together in the parking lot. We talked about things like our unique local smells (could be pig farm or it could be chocolate. . . depending on which way the wind is blowing), our local food, how green it is, and the Amish. It wasn’t long before the conversation turned to our local celebrities and their now-familiar and empty house that we could see just a few hundred feet from where we were standing. Andy asked about what the madness was like in our neighborhood before Jon and Kate (I don’t even have to mention their last names anymore and you know who they are!) up and moved a year ago this weekend. Andy was surprised when I mentioned that there really was no “madness” related to gawkers and paparazzi a year ago.

Think about that for a second. The craziness, fame, spin, tabloid obsession, and personality makeovers the pair are locked in is really only a few months old! As Andy and I were talking, I realized that we are living in some pretty unique times. Theologically speaking, our fallen nature is fed and nurtured by a rapidly changing culture that not only worships celebrities, but allows and encourages anyone who so desires to pursue the creation of a personal brand and celebrity-status through the use (or more accurately “the abuse”)of developing technologies. Don’t believe it? Just consider exhibit A: the family of “Balloon Boy,” who by the way, live in Andy’s SoCal neighborhood!(Imagine that. . . . two guys from different sides of the country standing in a parking lot. . . talking about the famous people they live near. That’s how common achieving fame is now).

All of this got me thinking about our current publicity-seeking self-made opportunity-grabbing celebrity-aspiring culture that’s growing like a cancer and effecting our kids. It also got me thinking about the young celebrity dujour who’s all over the news and most likely will be for a least a few weeks during his fifteen-plus minutes of fame. His name is Levi Johnston. He’s a nineteen-year-old teenager we first met during the summer of 2008. He was thrown into the spotlight because he was the boyfriend of Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol. Soon after the unknown Palin was thrust into the spotlight, it was announced that Bristol was pregnant to Johnston.

Think about what’s happened in the 14 short months since. There’s a baby and Levi is out of the Palin family picture. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t in pictures. All this week the media’s been pumping out info on Johnston’s photo spread in the upcoming January edition of Playgirl magazine. What it appears Johnston is pursuing more than anything else is celebrity, fame, and fortune. Sadly, a host of people will buy into it and fall “in love” with Levi.

It will be interesting and sad to see how this already-sad story continues to play out. It offers what I think is a clear peek into where youth culture is and where it’s headed. It tells us about what our culture and our kids value in life. It tells us just what “image” our kids desire to be conformed to. It also tells us just how difficult it’s getting to lead kids to an understanding of the image to which they should aspire to conformity. Those of us who love and minister to kids long for them to go in one direction, while almost everything else in life pushes them 180 degrees in the opposite direction. What was once seen as vice is now pursued and embraced as virtue. I think if we were given the opportunity to stand outside of our culture and see it for what it really is, we’d see just how pathetic we’ve become.

The NIV translation of the Bible tells us in Acts 17 that when Paul walked into Athens and laid eyes on the landscape covered with idols, he was “greatly distressed.” I’m afraid that our kids are living in the midst of stuff that leaves them “greatly impressed.” Let’s hope and pray that even though we live in the same landscape, we won’t lose our ability to see things for what they really are. We have to. . . . for the sake of our kids. Like Paul, our distress should motivate us to serve as signposts pointing to the cross. . . the only source of transformed hearts and lives.

4 thoughts on “Levi, Playgirl, and Youth Culture. . . .

  1. outstanding walt! i love looking at this in terms of a cancer that infects many of us.

    your reference to acts 17 makes me think that in our church and youth group we should set up altars around the room with all the different gods we serve. [celebrities, alcohol, iPods, clothes, vacations, etc] set it up like our version of athens so that we can expose the joke the those gods are and then talk about the “unknown” God that we are fast forgetting but who created, loves and redeemed us to a life much better than the one most of us choose to live.

    something fun that make shake things up and open some eyes!

    blessings brother,

    ty in holland

  2. Those of us who love and minister to kids long for them to go in one direction, while almost everything else in life pushes them 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

    When kids spend 5-7 hours a day in public school it’s no wonder! I cannot imagine why more Christian parents don’t seriouisly consider Christian schooling for their kids. The impact of godly teachers every day is greater than what churches are able to provide once or twice a week. No responsible Christian parent would keep their kids from attending church, yet many of them have no problem placing those same kids into the hands of secular teaching 30-40 hours a week at the hands of state-controlled education! Wake up, Christian parents. You’re children are indoctrinated from early on NOT to incorporate a Biblical worldview into their thinking. We wonder why so many Christian kids “walk away” from the faith when they get out of college? They never “walk in” the faith as much as the culture! No a surprise that their gods are celebrities.

  3. With any luck, the way this “sad story” will play out is that both Levi AND Sarah Palin will drop out of the public spotlight altogether and that we will hear no more from either of them.

    Both are horrible examples of morality to our society, today (Levi milking Palin’s fame for all its worth and doing pornography; Palin for being a shallow fundamentalist who writes a book blaming everyone but herself for both her extreme short-comings in the 2008 elections, and her party’s loss).

    Look at how these two people are treating one another:

    Palin is brash enough to want this child raised in a loving, family envorionment, but she doesn’t want the baby’s father to have anything to do with its life. Levi’s reply is to use his connection with Palin’s family to go out and make a fool of himself publicly.

    Such immaturity on both sides.

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