A couple of weeks ago a youth worker was talking to me about his experience reading my book Engaging The Soul of Youth Culture when he was a college student. As we talked about the parts of the book that were most helpful, he mentioned a three-word phrase that he said has stuck with him: “familiarity breeds acceptance.” He says that as a youth worker, he’s committed to knowing cultural forces that have become familiar to kids. Why? Because even those things that are wrong become normalized and accepted if they become mainstream in culture. Then, he knows what he needs to address from a biblical perspective. You see, few of us are really aware of our own worldview and how it shapes what we think and what we do. Rather, we believe that this is the way the world is and that other people see it this way as well. Familiarity does breed normalcy and acceptance.
I was thinking about how familiarity breeds acceptance as I pondered cultural changes that have occurred since George Michael took his song “I Want Your Sex” to the top of the charts 25 years ago (can you believe it’s been that long?!?). I remember talking about that song to my own youth group kids and their parents as we discussed cultural standards and biblical standards for sex. That was back in 1987. Now that those kids are parents themselves, Michael’s quarter-century-old lyrics describe the mainstream assumptions of the generation of kids those “kids” are now raising.
Take a look at the lyrics (below). The words aren’t instructive or suggestive as they once were. They’ve become familiar and accepted. Now, they are descriptive. . .
It’s natural It’s chemical (let’s do it) It’s logical Habitual (can we do it?) It’s sensual But most of all….. Sex is something that we should do Sex is something for me and you
Sex is natural – sex is good Not everybody does it But everybody should Sex is natural – sex is fun Sex is best when it’s….one on one One on one
Sadly, those last two lines might even indicate that George Michael’s sexual understanding is a bit old-fashioned in terms of present day understandings about the purpose, place, and practice of sex.
This morning I was reading a passage from Acts, chapter 2. As Peter addressed the crowd during his sermon at Pentecost, he called them to turn themselves around and embrace Christ. In verse 40 he tells them to “save yourselves from this crooked generation.” As we think about what those words mean for us today, we’re not talking about just one generation, but a crookedness and corruptness that has grabbed us all. . . weaving itself through every nook and cranny of every life. We need to identify with Jesus and his cause with every square inch and moment of our lives. This includes our sexuality. With the culture sending so many familiar sexual messages (it’s become ambient noise that’s hardly noticeable anymore) that breed acceptance, there’s another sexual script that must be taught, told, and lived. Take for example the mainstream Trojan Condom broadcast ad that I’ve posted below. What assumptions does it make about sex and sexuality? And, do you realize that those assumptions exist without question in today’s youth culture?
Here at CPYU, we want to see all people (including ourselves) embrace God’s life-giving and liberating will and way for all things. . . including our sexuality. We want to know the truth so well that those lies which have become so familiar will become clear to young and old alike.