As a Christian I have my fair share of non-Christian entertainment outlets. I listen to public radio podcasts, I watch 30 Rock, I read books on the New York Times Bestseller list, and I really love the Disney channel (no, I don’t have kids…I watch it for myself).
I really enjoy each one of these outlets and I believe that, in a lot of ways, they help me to stay connected with the culture. They also inform my thinking. However as a result of not living under a rock, I also run into a lot of secular entertainment that is totally ridiculous and frequently offensive. Almost every day I want to climb on a soap box and lecture people on t.v. about how they’re being irresponsible adults and teaching pluralistic gibberish to impressionable young minds. I could probably have a blog devoted solely to that end.
But I don’t want to be that kind of Christian. Or that kind of teacher. Which is why I try to avoid writing blogs that constantly talk about how awful the world is and the immorality that Hollywood is espousing. There are a lot of other Christians writing that sort of thing, and I don’t think the internet needs another blog like that.
With that whole background in mind, I’ve been wrestling with the subject of this particular post. In the spirit of my personal blogging commitments, I don’t want this to turn into one of those “Aren’t we so much better and smarter than the world around us!” blogs, but I do want to express something that’s been on my mind. So as I proceed, know that that’s my heart.
So a couple weeks ago I happened upon a music video performed by a teen star (who will remain nameless) who is currently attempting to shed her squeaky clean image. The transition has come in gradual stages–each new video in the past year has been a little bit racier than the one before it. Each one has made me just a little bit uncomfortable, but the most recent one left me feeling like a disappointed mom.
The disappointment was not, however, related to what you’re probably thinking. I was disappointed in her lack of originality. She is not the first, nor will she be the last young woman who feels that the best way to express herself as an adult is through sexuality. And to me, this points to a startling lack of imagination in the arts. Will the truly original, budding female singer please stand up? Because all I see is the same played out story, over and over and over again.
In an age where 13 years olds are “sexting” naked pictures of themselves to their boyfriends and Ivy League students are more proud of their sexual exploits on campus than their academic accomplishments, young women seem to think the primary way to establish themselves as powerful, competent adults is in the way they use their bodies. To young women everywhere, sexuality equals maturity, which is why countless young actresses and singers take this route. Any inkling that mature adulthood has to do with the mind and the soul, not the body, seems to be off the radar.
As an adult, I can say with total certainty that sexuality has nothing to do with maturity. Anyone can be sexual. Not everyone can be mature. With that in mind, Christians need to have a more robust understanding of maturity and adulthood as we teach younger generations how to grow into women of God. We need to articulate personal growth in a way that goes far beyond moral versus immoral, considering instead what is wise versus foolish and what is true strength versus insecurity. We need to be ready with a compelling, thoughtful alternative to the powerful messages that young women are consuming on t.v.
What is that alternative?
To answer this question we need to first identify what immaturity looks like. I think it is best summarized by Ephesians 4:14: “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching…” Immaturity is most notably marked by a lack of stability in the self. An immature woman doesn’t know who she is or doesn’t feel confident about herself, so she is a slave to that search. She does things to get attention, she tends to be selfish and self-absorbed, and she can only mimic those she admires, all because she doesn’t have a clear vision of who God created her to be. As a result, she is “tossed back and forth” by the waves of many different influences–the need to be liked and accepted, societal standards of beauty and success, etc. In this way, an inappropriate use of one’s sexuality reveals not empowerment, but bondage.
Maturity, on the other hand, is a state of being anchored. A mature woman rests in a posture of stability, able to analyze and reject the unhealthy influences around her instead of being rocked by them. As a Christian, she knows who she is in Christ and she knows what her purpose is, so she is able to operate out of that place of strength. She is not a slave to others or her surrounding cultural standards. And because she is not preoccupied with herself, she has the freedom to look outside of herself–not for affirmation, but to affirm and care for others.
Now I know that, according to those definitions, NONE of us is fully mature. Ephesians 4:13 equates full maturity with the “fullness of Christ,” a goal none of us will reach this side of eternity. Maturity is a lifelong pursuit that often has nothing to do with age (I know people in their early 20’s who are much mature than people in their 60’s!). There is a definite spectrum, but within the bounds of the church that spectrum is measured in relation to Christ. As Christians, the key to maturity is found in Christ. The more we anchor ourselves in him, the better able we are to resist the waves that threaten to toss us about. That, not sexuality or even the ability to vote, is the true sign of maturity. And that is a message that we should not only be teaching our daughters, but women of all ages.