The Easy Sell of Irresponsibility Excuses

Series | Lies Every Teen Believes

This is (finally) the eighth and last ingredient in the growth of adolescence: it appeals to the flesh. Everything about adolescence appeals to human nature, which left to itself pursues laziness, irresponsibility, and if possible, an excuse for it all.

For example, adolescence appeals to the most basic attitude of sinfulness: pride. It makes adolescents out to be special and unique, significant and great. And if a teenager’s problem is a lack of self-esteem, their pride doesn’t need to be deflated, but inflated! This is certainly anti-biblical.

In addition, adolescence appeals to the most basic expression of sinfulness: rebellion. We are presented as if it were a medical fact, that a teenager will be rebellious. They will always want to break out of the cocoon and get out from under the umbrella of parental authority (not to mention other God-placed authorities).

But think for a moment about the chief biblical commandment for children: “honor your father and mother.” The fifth of the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20:12 provides a clear word to children of all ages – including teenagers.

And here’s what is so instructive, apparently God does not expect young people to despise their parents and see them as irrelevant and useless and restrictive. God expects young people not just to submit and obey with unhappy hearts. Instead, God expects that young people look up to their parents. He expects that they “honor” both their father and mother. The word “honor” has the idea of giving weight or value or importance to. In other words, God requires young people to attach value and worth to their parents and respect them accordingly.

Don’t you think this exactly where Satan would challenge? Young people today are encouraged to think of their parents as irrelevant, restrictive, and narrow. The examples they see night after night in TV sitcoms, the typical parental models found in movie after movie and in popular music indoctrinates teenagers into thinking that their parents are incompetent. Media brainwashes adolescents into thinking that parents are incapable of understanding them. You can forget the old-fashioned notion that “Father knows best.” Make way for the wisdom of the teens.

By the way, this aspect of the parent-child relationship is so important that the death penalty was prescribed for disrespect towards one’s parents. Exodus 21:17 “Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.” While this was typically only applied to over-the-top rebellion from an older child, it does remind us that God has a very serious perspective toward rebellion against parental authority.

The bottom line here is that the Creator of humanity did not chalk up teenage (or any other age for that matter) rebellion to raging hormones. To disobey or disrespect one’s parents is not a mark of adolescence, it is sin. And one more thing, just as God did not excuse sin in teens, He likewise does not permit parents to passively sit back and excuse such rebellion. Again, God takes this very seriously. So should we.

Adolescence Growth Enhancements

Series | Lies Every Teen Believes

Though we’ve finished covering the eight ingredients in the growth of adolescence there are a few additional elements that have enhanced its growth.

For example, the age of marriage. The myth of adolescence (and its real results) has obviously had an impact on the age young people get married. Under Roman law (2,000 years ago) women could marry at twelve and men at fourteen. A thousand years ago this was true under English law as well. Two hundred years ago in the United States it was still the same: women could marry at twelve and men at fourteen. For at least three thousand years, the minimum legal age for marriage stayed the same. I didn’t include this as an element in the growth of adolescence, though perhaps it should be. Maybe it is more a result. Regardless, today we have trouble imagining that a person would be ready to get married until they have finished at least a Bachelor’s degree and established themselves in a job and whatever else. Currently the average age for first marriages in the United States is 26, and that will only continue to rise.

Now I am not suggesting that we promote and push teenagers to get married. Many teen marriages in our day end in divorce, though obviously age is not the only problem. But we might argue that it is precisely because of our assumptions about adolescents that parents don’t even consider it possible to train their young person for marriage-responsible maturity. Perhaps if our society expected them to act like responsible adults, many of them would be mature enough to marry (impacting a significant number of additional problems that later-age marriage brings with it).

But beware, parents, allowing this immaturity has results. It used to be in the United States, at least to hear the older generation tell it, that young people reaching adulthood could not wait to leave home and be on their own. And their parents longed for an empty nest and quieter lives. But young people are spoiling these plans. According to the 2000 Census, nearly four million Americans aged 25 to 34 are still living in their parental homes or have moved back in with Mom and Dad. Boomerang kids, as they’re called, leave home for college or a job or the military, only to end up back home. Newsweek magazine called them “adultolescents,” young adults who just aren’t ready to face the world on their own.

Perhaps still another adolescence growth enhancement is the invention and accessibility of the automobile. The most obvious value of a car for a teenagers is that it is a private space in which to be alone. Not only is a driver’s license probably our culture’s most important rite of passage, cars impress girls and get you away from your family for a little fun.

Still yet another enhancement relates to the current American economy, namely that the United States is wealthy enough for most everyone to afford to have a troubled adolescence. Many dads (or dads and moms together) make enough (or borrow enough) so that their kids don’t have to work to support the family. There’s no reason for them to act mature if they don’t have to. Why work today when you can put it off until tomorrow?

For many individuals, such a long period of education, exploration, and deferred responsibility has been a tremendous gift. For other individuals, it has not been a blessing. … This lengthy waiting period has tended to reduce young people’s contacts with older people and increase them with people who are exactly the same age. That in turn has lead to the rise of a youth subculture that has helped define and elaborate what it means to be a teenager (Hine, p. 7).

I mentioned this before, but I want to say again that I make no denial that most teenagers act like…teenagers. The world and the church are filled with 12-20 (30-40) year olds with the mindset described above. But I truly believe that we are to blame for creating this context, and it only continues because we keep giving it credence. Ideas have consequences and the consequences of the myth of adolescence are no myth, they are very real. But we in the church must work to change our collective thinking as God’s community before we will see any change.

Let me also say again that I am thankful for God’s patience with me, and a rejection of adolescence is not equal to an approval of intolerance or impatience with those who are in the growing process. My challenge is to those who argue that adolescence grants them the right to stay stagnant and prolong immaturity and irresponsibility as long as possible.

The Expansion of National Media

Series | Lies Every Teen Believes

Whether it is mass produces pop music, or cable television, or the internet, adolescent culture is disseminated and domesticated by national media outlets.

One of the first examples of this national media influence in the spread of adolescence was the show American Bandstand. This was the original TRL (Total Request Live). This weekday afternoon dance party program had its national debut in 1957. It was created by Walter Annenberg who was also the owner of Seventeen. With the clean cut Dick Clark hosting, the show made teenagers and their music acceptable to middle America (the majority of the country) by taking the edge off. The dancers didn’t look like juvenile delinquents in their jackets and ties or skirts and blouses, but they did look like they were cool.

The media, which some feared were corrupting youth, had tamed and exploited the threatening adolescent subculture, and together they put on a real nice show.

One of the “advantages” of the nation media is that disaffected young people all over the country (and the whole world for that matter) can find out exactly what gestures, costumes, and attitudes were driving adults nuts at any given moment.

Today the only constant presence in the household is the television set, which instructs children not on what they should become, but rather on what they should buy. If you research the inauguration of media monsters like MTV you will find out that their goal is to promote the ideals of adolescence through flesh-feeding entertainment and then to sell young people on worldly, liberal values as well as the “in” bubble gum to chew.

As you know, the political left attempted to use this force in the last election to their benefit. I guess thankfully the results of the myth of adolescence kept most older teenagers and tweeners from exercising their citizen’s responsibility by voting. Nevertheless, through music and movies and television shows and commercials and magazines and the internet and even video games, teenagers are learning more about who they can and should be from the media then perhaps anywhere else.

Buy Biography

Good afternoon blogreaders! I haven’t much time to dilly-dally around writing a blog, but since Mo and I are off to the elders’ retreat tomorrow through Friday, I thought I’d get at least one in before departure.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been to the one28 home page. And if you’ve been to the one28 home page, you’ve probably noticed that the 05SR Session 2 mp3 on Sola Scriptura/William Tyndale is uploaded for your downloading pleasure. Of course, if you were in big church this morning you also heard that sermon live and in person – maybe for the second time.

But whether you’ve been to the one28 page or downloaded the mp3 or heard my message in big church today or not, the suggestion I’m about ready to make is still for you.

*You should buy the book, God’s Outlaw, by Brian Edwards, a biography of William Tyndale. While I don’t necessarily love history, I had trouble putting this book down. Sure, there were parts that I had to sludge through, but most of it was simply captivating. Here is an excerpt from the back cover:

God’s Outlaw has every ingredient of a thrilling story – a king, a cardinal, secret agents, a betrayer and a fugitive.

William Tyndale lived in the colourful and cruel days of Henry VIII, when men were burned, racked and maimed for lesser crimes than that of smuggling the Bible into England. When Tyndale set out to provide the first printed New Testament in English he was forced to do so in defiance of the king, the pope and almost every person in authority. Compelled to flee from his homeland, he continued with his work of translating the Scriptures whilst slipping from city to city in Germany, Holland and Belgium in an attempt to avoid the agents who were sent from England to arrest him. His story is one of poverty, danger and ceaseless labor.

This fugitive and outlaw gave the English-speaking people their most priceless heritage: the Scriptures in their mother tongue.

And here’s the thing: it’s all true! Tyndale was a stud. By God’s grace, he was the Reformation in England. He has moved up the ladder in my own mind due to his indefatigable effort in the face of ridiculous odds. Get this book, read it, and imitate Tyndale in his love for and submission to the authority of Scripture.