Kissing Up to the Trivial

4:21 PM

A couple weeks ago, at camp, during downtime, I helped myself to my friend's Poptarts and Revolve: The Complete New Testament. I guess being out in the boondocks (culturally and literally) leaves me curious as to what the mainstream is. I'd read about Biblezines in the CBD catalog: apparently they're the equivalent to anathema or the only way to reach teen girls, depending on how you look at it.

Its theology blurbs were solid, their advice in the 200+ Blab Q&A's sound. Well, I cannot say that with certainty: I gave up in the book of Mark and nearly performed the cliche act of throwing Biblezine against wall. Not really. But however Biblical the interpretations and advice were, the entire tone of this Bible reeked of triviality and downright hypocrisy...kind of like modern day Christianity, girl-style. 

Nothing interests me more than the faith lives of Christian girls. I am one. My sisters are several. My friends, my campers, my little sisters in the faith -- they're all eager to follow Christ the way Christian girls ought. They soak it all in. They long for Jesus. They want to live radical lives for Him. They want to know the whys and whats of Christian girlhood.

Unhappily for them, a good chunk of the stuff paraded as Christian girlhood (cough -- Revolve: The Complete New Testament) kills pure devotion to Christ. I cannot believe some of the things girls can read hot off the press from Christian publishers. I am appalled at the lack of discipleship and sound theology circulated in youth groups, Sunday schools and women's conferences. In both conservative and hip circles, triviality and manmade doctrine cripple true seekers. You'd think that the ultimate concern of Christian women and girls today is getting married and looking good.

Oh, wait. It is. Pardon my ignorance.

For one thing, the issues hammered home again and again -- fitting in, snagging a boyfriend, body image -- should not be front-and-central in a radical Christian girl's life. Most of the issues addressed in Revolve and girls' ministries revolve around said issues. Instead of redirecting girls' attention to the Gospel, to Christ, to matters of eternal importance, we go round and round on things regarding Christian liberty -- can I do this? Can I touch that? What's the Biblical formula for [fill in the blank]? 

Of course we ought to address questions on friends (boy and girl), relationships and externals. But questions of Christian liberty cannot be adequately answered until a solid grasp of grace and sanctification occur. If a girl has no concept of the black and white, she cannot begin to understand gray areas without falling into legalism, antinomianism or confusion. Basically, if we teach the subjective primarily, the subjective will become objective or the objective subjective, and that stunts faith.

Besides, the conversation cannot stay there. We cannot sit and rehash the fine points of looking cute while being modest, all the while ignoring the greater context of who God is and what the Gospel accomplished. I know many girls who can parrot standard Christian beliefs on the above issues but have no clue what justification is. I'm all for these "girl talks" -- but why do girl talks focus on the trivial instead of the eternal? The conversation needs to be expanded. When a Biblezine for girls comes out with jacket blurbs like "How to Live Holy" and "The Gospel: What Is It?"...sorry, just a little wishful thinking there.

Another trend in Christian girlhood -- the most obnoxiously pervasive and unbiblical trend -- is an obsessive, unhealthy reliance on Guys' Opinions. It's a new trend on man's opinion, except the men are hotter, younger and more immature. I greatly appreciate mature men -- young and old -- when they "speak out," as I do any mature Christian's input, advice and experience. But this trend goes to extremes with more ulterior ends.

So many girls get caught up in the idea that when a guy speaks, his word is truth. Just any random guy. It must be true what he says -- what's immodest, what's womanly, what's desirable. Thus it is that Revolve can grab a bunch of so-called Christian guys, gather their opinions and announce them smack dab on the front cover as if their secrets will revolutionize girls' lives. They might, especially with such sound Biblical definitions of women like these: cute, fun, good-looking, great personality. (Didn't the interviewers feel a little bit tempted to feed them hints like, "Oh, maybe throw in a comment about her spiritual maturity, her Christ-likeness"? Even a little?)

Note from Concerned Big Sister: Girls, dump the first guy whose definition of who you ought to be resembles this. Now. 

And Biblezine publishers? For the love of girls' souls, solicit the advice of mature Titus 2 women who actually exegete the Word instead of spout personal, ungrounded opinion.

But the thing driving me up the wall is the disconnect between belief and practice. In Revolve, a blurb noted the importance of dressing modestly -- so cover up that tummy! The very next page showed a cartoon girl baring her midriff. So which is it -- tummies or no tummies? On a deeper level, cluttering the front cover and inserts of the New Testament with the oh-so-important topics of fun dates with your boy and wishing the latest celebrity a happy birthday contradicts the central message of the NT and the "radical faith" sections: is it all about Jesus? Or is it about hipness, guys and fun times?

Girls don't need to be challenged to have cute dates and listen to One Direction (not to say that it is sinful for them to). They do need the challenge to be wholeheartedly devoted to Christ. They do need encouragement to willingly give up the typical Christian girl's life and trade in their CDs and designer clothes for a servant's hands and heart. 

A great place to start? Read the New Testament straight through and see what real people faith thought the Gospel and sanctification and the church and unity and maybe even a little Jesus thrown in on the side. 

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22 impressions

  1. Once again, I'll have to pat you on the back for this one Bailey. I have to say kudos for going for the ones who are to blame (the publishers and creators of this kind of stuff) rather than the victims (the young girls who are naturally drawn to it).

    It's frustrating because when I was a pre-teen/teen, it didn't take long to recognize that most "real" theology was written by men for men, and was the default option for men. But as a girl, my default option was modesty issues, submission, relationships, "emotional purity", and perfection.

    I got sucked into a vicious net of legalism via the Ludy's theology that took me years to untangle. I know others have been blessed by their ministry, but it was like poison to me.

    I yearned to find mature Christian women to teach me "real theology". I gobbled up Elisabeth Elliot's writings, but most Christian stores in my area only carried her books on romantic love.

    Luckily later on I discovered women who held gospel over culture and who "did theology" with the best of them, addressing the deepest issues of humanity, without erasing or ignoring their womanhood. It's important for us to continue to open up a space for serious female theologians and to lift our young women's visions to Christ and the Gospel, not simply boys (marriage), and clothes (modesty).

    God bless,

  2. Yes, yes, yes, and amen! Girls don't need more pressure to have intrest in or master areas like beauty, dating, etc. They receive enough of that from the rest of the world!What they (we!) need is true examples of Christ-like humility and faith playing an active part in their lives!

    Thank you for blogging. I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now and I am really thankful for it. :)

    A sister in Christ,

  3. I wondered why those Bible-zines made me mad! Thank you for putting it into words, though I must confess, I am far behind on my Theology. I can hardly tell you what Justification is, much less Grace, and my view of the Gospel is very narrow. I have been wanting to learn more about these topics, because I feel that they are so urgent and important. Do you know of any resources that would help explain these, and which parts of the Bible specifically to read to get good grounding on these? I truly long to go deeper than the shallow, surface issues that the modern Christian culture seems to think we need an in abundance.

  4. BAILEY ROCKS! Love it, this much -->
    Value of love=infinity(infinity squared)

  5. I think you must have convicted some people, Bailey. There are no comments on this post :)
    I appreciate this. I completely agree that so much of what is written for teenagers (boys and girls) is written in a trivial, casual, and often irreverent tone. It really makes me mad that they can't turn out anything more serious and solid Christ-honoring.

  6. Absolutely true. 100%. This kind of teaching is entirely pervasive in our 'Christian' book market. If this is what is pushed and taught everywhere no wonder we end up with weak, lukewarm Christians more concerned about the world than Christ? Seems to me I remember a chapter in James that talks about that. "You adulterous people. Don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think the Scripture says without reason the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (I apologize if the punctuation is somewhat off. I'm trying to do this from memory and I didn't memorize the punctuation!)

    There is a huge lack of training material for the average Christian girl that is solid Scripture based and convicting. We don't like being convicted, but we need it. Biblezines and the like water down the hard truths of the Gospel and make it all to easy to focus on triviality. Just about everything out there to day is well meaning fluff. We need meat to survive. We are no longer babies, we need the meat of God's word- difficult as it may be.

    This sort of thing encourages girls to stay in the ruts we naturally gravitate towards. Things like focusing on appearance, acceptance, popularity, guys, clothes and the like. We do NOT need more encouragement to feed our flesh! We have plenty of that on our own, just inside ourselves. It is called a sin nature. These sorts of 'Christian' materials I believe is promoting the troubles we already have. Instead of encouraging girls to focus on Christ, serve others and love selflessly, these materials seem to try and sell the opposite.

    I'm not questioning the heart of the writers and publishers, I'm sure they're trying to do their best to reach girls, but I firmly believe they are going about it in a way that is not only ineffective, but quite possibly even detrimental to the Spiritual growth of their readers. These materials are trying so hard to take the world's views and put a 'Christian' spin on them, that they end up watering down the message of Christ- the message He gave His LIFE for. What right have we to in anyway turn the focus off His sacrifice!?!

  7. ~Continued- I had too many words for just one comment!~~~

    2 years ago (my Sr. year of HS HS) I was done with subjects at home so my parents gave me permission to go to a drama class 2 days a week at a local Christian private school. The teacher was amazingly good, and I learned so much from the class, but I found several things surprising in the student body. Not only were they treating me as an outcast (Totally ignoring my presence even though I ate lunch with them both days I was there every week. The conversations I started were quickly dropped by the other party but that's a whole different discussion...) the things those supposedly 'Christian' girls (Though of course, the Lord looks at the heart, He knows who truly are believers and who aren't) talked about were not any different than the conversations of non-Christian girls. And you know what? Nothing they talked about mattered. None of it. I never learned anything of value from hearing those conversations (besides the inevitable how-cute-was-that-guy-in-that-movie) I would come home and tell my mom that out of the 30 minutes I spent at lunch with those girls 2 days a week I could remember none of the conversation. It didn't matter. Now, not to say I'm somehow 'above' them or more 'mature' than them, I am just as guilty at focusing on trivial matters with my friends in conversation as they, but the difference is I'm aware of my sinful tendencies in these areas and I desire God to change my heart. What brings these desires? The Holy Spirit's conviction, good solid 'meat' Bible reading, a Church that doesn't entertain, it instructs and convicts, and parents who care enough to train me in the Lord's way.

    I could go on and on. You've struck a topic close to my heart. I ache for those poor girls who think that's all there is to the Christian life. They're throwing away the true excitement, pleasure and joy of following Christ for the trivial, inconsequential things of this world. Thank you for bringing up a topic that is so often overlooked and neglected.

  8. When I first saw your picture for this post I thought it was a joke - maybe someone mocked up the cover of a "teen magazine published by and for Christians!" After reading the post I am still struggling to accept that the picture is the real cover of a real magazine that you have actually read. In my opinion their tag-line may as well be, "Offering Christian girls reading material just as trashy and superficial as the heathens read." Well, I guess that's only fair. My daughter does not read teen magazines because I don't want her ultimate concern to be looking good and getting a boy either. I would not forbid her to read them, but lucky for me she has no interest in those types of magazines.


  9. Lindsey Elise --

    Theology resources...oh, boy. I got into hardcore study because of different controversies that forced me to go back to Scripture and start from square one, so I don't have a set book or series or whatever. I think theology -- the learning and the appreciation of it -- takes a whole lifetime. I'm just on the brink, but it's so much fun.

    If you're serious about studying theology, particularly gospel, grace and justification, start with Galatians and Romans. What I do is comb through the entire book again and again, rewriting the argument Paul's making in my own words, linking all the therefores and so thens.

    As for extrabiblical theological help, I go to often (it's Reformed in leaning) and admire John Piper, David Platt, Francis Chan and R.C. Sproul the most -- check out the library for their books or Google their names for their online resources. (Sproul's website) has some excellent audio resources for free on the Gospel, justification and essential Christian truths. (Again, it's Reformed and I don't agree with everything he teaches, but he's pretty solid.)

    Hope that gives you a place to start!

  10. Thank you so much! I am super excited to dig in and discover these things for myself!

  11. I have to agree. I admit, I'm drawn to this sort of stuff -- but it doesn't draw me closer to Christ. I wish there were more REAL Christian resources out there to read and enjoy. But I like what you said. Start with the New Testament. :)

  12. Yes! I once was given a biblezine, and I disliked it for exactly these reasons. I have only just discovered your blog, but trust me I'll be back.

  13. This is a great post. Unfortunately, the current trend seems to be that if we lure people, especially young people, to Christ with marshmallows and Twizzlers, they will somehow develop a taste for steak and taters.

    The Scriptural pattern is milk, bread, and meat. Not terribly exciting, perhaps, but sure to nurture in a way that 'spiritual' junk food never will.

  14. Lindsey Elise~

    I would like to add to what sites Bailey suggested to you. Mostly about the Gospel. I also have been confused about what the Gospel is, what role it plays in my life, and other such questions.

    I, also like Bailey, am on the brink of Christian theology.(Though, she is far ahead of me!)
    God has brought a wonderful friend into my life, and she has challenged me to search the Bible for everything, but one thing I was always confused about was the Gospel. My family has been attending an Acts 29 "Gospel Centered" church for almost two years now, and it they have only confused me more. But, a wonderful sermon by Voddie Baucham cleared everything up. It can be found here:

    I took 3 pages of notes listening to it! It is amazing. (it's also from Reformed Theology!!! Yah!)

    So, my suggestion to you is to listen and carefully take notes on this sermon. It may change your whole look on Christianity.

    Lindsey Elise~ God bless you on your search to learn more about Him.

    Bailey~ Thanks for being such a bright light in this dark world. God bless you!

    Alexis B.

  15. I've read the Revolve magazine thing. I had it once before I dunked it in the trash.

    I'm with Kendra - it feels like I'm drawn to this kind of stuff, although most of the time, I don't feel drawn closer to Christ, but rather feel discontent with my life as a Christian. I don't know.

    Honestly, I don't like the idea of a Bible being turned into a magazine of sorts... I feel like it almost downgrades the Word of God somehow. I'm sure the editors and creators of it meant well, but we all know that all of us girls are reading the little stories and side things more than we are the actual Bible.

    I think creating Christian teen girl products that are bright colorful and appealing to today's culture (without compromising Biblical standards) and confronting issues that today's teen's deal with is not a problem. It's whenever it begins to compromise the Bible and what it teaches that things like Revolve cross the line. It's not about snagging a boy, being cool, or having the latest clothes and music. It's about Jesus.

    With all that said, I still don't know why I'm so drawn to this kind of stuff.

  16. Alexxus & Kendra -- Your honesty is refreshing. I too am drawn in by these things -- things like Revolve promotes and hipness and teen girl stuff in general. It might be a knee-jerk homeschool good girl thing...tired of being "unsocialized" and ignorant. It might be mere curiosity. It might be because our sinful self craves the "Christian trivial" as an easier way to do the Christian thing.

    I think this stuff has so permeated our Christian culture, though, that it's harder to get out of it than we think. Don't feel discouraged or less-than just because you're human. We're all in this together.

  17. Can someone tell me what "BLAB Q&As" are? I know what a Q&A is - it's the BLAB part I don't get. :-) Thanks!

    -- Adele

  18. Plain ol' Q&A sounds too stifling to the modern teen, so they had to include a sizzling verb word like blab to snag our attention. Apparently the modern teen cannot hold intelligent conversations anymore; we just blab on about our problems to anyone and everyone.

    Blab :: v. to reveal secret matters; to chatter thoughtlessly and indiscreetly

    In short, I think it was a hipness EPIC FAIL makes no sense. :D

  19. Well. That's just . . . sad. And rather offensive to teen girls I think.

    Thanks for explaining, Bailey!


  20. "Instead of redirecting girls' attention to the Gospel, to Christ, to matters of eternal importance, we go round and round on things regarding Christian liberty -- can I do this? Can I touch that? What's the Biblical formula for [fill in the blank]?"

    YES! I am so glad that I'm not the only one seeing this. So many books for Christian gals that I pick up today are markedly me-focused. What happened to "He must increase and I must decrease?" Now, it is important that we have a good handle on biblical femininity and our roles as Christian women, but so many of these books and such seem to be dedicated to the external issues of life without ever addressing the glorious Gospel of Christ. Why is this?

    Thanks for the great post, Bailey! And I published your guest-post yesterday, so check it out!

  21. Ha,wow! Amen. I am so glad that I found your's rare to find someone who will speak out for the Truth.

  22. Oh wow! I cannot begin to say how true this is! Whatever we focus our attention on and spend the most time on is what will consume us and shape our character. Shouldn't we be spending more time with Jesus if we want to look like him? I really appreciated this post.


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