What we've learned in 2024 | Concurrently: The… | God's World News

68. WHAT WE'VE LEARNED IN 2024

Kelsey Reed • 05/15/2024
Concurrently Ep 68 Thumb 2

Kelsey Reed
Hello, welcome to Concurrently: the News Coach Podcast from WORLD Radio and God’s WORLD News. At Concurrently, we approach the news through a discipleship perspective. We tackle the challenging topics in culture and current events as learners and fellow laborers with parents, educators, and mentors of kids and teens. We consider the whole person, promoting growth in knowledge, attitudes, and action in the world. I’m Kelsey Reed. I’m here with Jonathan Boes…

Jonathan Boes
Hello!

Kelsey
…and Amy Auten.

Amy Auten
Hello!

Kelsey
We welcome you to the conversation. In fact, we’d love to hear from you. Please send in your questions or comments by way of voice recording or email to newscoach@wng.org.

Jonathan
We love hearing your comments. We received an email the other day from Martin Gish, who said, “The News Coach is very helpful. Thanks.” Even that much is a huge encouragement to us here at Concurrently. So thank you, Martin. And, again, we love to hear from anyone who wants to reach out to us whether it’s encouragement, criticism, topic ideas that we could cover, all of that stuff. We love to receive it. Again, that’s newscoach@wng.org. We are approaching the midpoint of the year, which is hard to believe. It’s almost the end of the school year. And over the last few months, man, we’ve covered a lot of different topics. We’ve had some incredible guests on the show to share their wisdom with us. And we’re excited for the guests we have coming up this summer. We’ve recorded some of those interviews already, and we’re so excited to share them with you. But before we get there, it feels like the right time to slow down and take stock of where we’ve been. You know that part of our mission here is to encourage this good, slow-learning process in the face of a mile-a-minute news cycle. The news often gets us jumping from subject to subject so fast that events from January already feel like ancient history. We forget to stop and think about what came before, about the lessons we’ve learned, and the way these things connect and form us. So today, we’re going to take a look at where we’ve been in the first half of 2024 and connect the dots, so to speak.

Kelsey
So far this year, we’ve talked about vocation, formation in education, social media, technology. We’ve talked about mental and emotional health. We’ve talked about identity a good portion, and that will come up again and again, particularly through the stage of life that we’re mostly focusing on: equipping your discipleship towards the teen years where identity is such a huge question mark. We’ve talked about home—even what it means to design the physical things of home. And, of course, community. What are things that that you noticed, each of you, in these conversations we’ve had?

Jonathan
Definitely the themes of technology have come up over and over again: We talked about artificial intelligence—things like DALL-E—with Michael Finch as well as with Andy Crouch. We talked about social media with Chelsea Boes here on the podcast with us. And again, [with] Andy, we touched on that as well. Vocation, as you mentioned, came up again and again—specifically this idea of vocation not just being our day job but our work as educators, parents, whatever that might look like in your life, all these roles that God has placed us in.

Kelsey
Thinking about AI for a second. I think I’ve mentioned before that my family really likes the TV series Person of Interest. We only have one man in our household, so we have to watch some action in order to engage him well and to be a community to him. We have to love him well through watching action. And so—jam-packed with action—but every once in a while, you see on the screen the network that is representative of the AI mind that this show mostly concentrates on. [There’s] one AI that’s actually a good AI, working for good, and [the story unfolds showing] how to have a relationship with it. But it shows a picture of what looks like the neural network and the interconnected themes and all of these memories, these events throughout the show that they get mapped up, like threads interconnected with one another. And when you just talk about technology and vocation, I’m seeing all of these threads mapping together about what it looks like to live out our human callings in this world—or our human calling. What it means to be those who interact with the current cultural climate, the current pieces of culture like AI or social media. What does it look like for us to map well and to engage well in these areas and with intention and for us to connect it to other parts of our human experience and existence, so that we are having a more complete and mature response—a more mature vocational expression?

Jonathan
Amy, what have you been seen in the first half of this year, whether it’s things we’ve covered in the News Coach, or even just things you are seeing out in culture and the news?

Amy
One thing that came into my mind as we’ve been discussing and reflecting is: Both Andy Crouch and Nancy Pearcey pointed out the importance—and this is a good time to pause—of looking at history. And so, Nancy Pearcey was saying, if you want to understand well, how you got where you are, look back at history. Like, what did the Industrial Revolution do to our understanding of work, our understanding of identity, our understanding of family and home? And then Andy Crouch and others have brought up if you want to understand your identity, and God, and the news, read old books, understand your roots. And, again, you have to have time to reflect on history. And it’s such a worthwhile endeavor. And you have to figure out, “How did I get where I am in terms of how I’ve come to understand purpose, and how I coach my children?” What does your own family history contribute to? History is the big word that came into my mind.

Jonathan
Yeah, with that breakneck pace of the news and the cultural conversation moving from one thing to the next—even recent history—it’s like we’re constantly being disconnected from what came before. And then we talked about in one of our episodes in the first half of this year, the generational divide, and how we are divorcing ourselves, in so many ways, from those living testaments to history: the older people in our lives. There’s a question I want to throw to both of you, which is: Through the first half of this year at Concurrently, what is something—whether in our conversations together or through our guests—what is something that you have learned?

Amy
That’s great question.

Kelsey
I think I was particularly challenged by the content with Dr. Finch—and learning comes with challenge. I would say I’m still grappling with a learning arc with the things that he challenged us about. And so I can’t say that this has been a fully accomplished learning. This is a learning process that I’m in. But what it means to equip my children for a world where technological change—you know we’re on the cusp of another huge change technologically—and that what that looks like, is the same thing for the Christian life that I talk about a ton in my writing: that we move in, instead of withdrawing. I’m challenged by him to move into learning about the use of AI. And to partner that with our conversation with Andy Crouch is this learning how to use technology as a tool, as a partner, as an expansion of what we can do as human beings, but not as a replacement. But that, in order to do so well, we actually have to practice using it. In order to shape culture well, in this area, I actually have to know this part of culture. And so, I would say I’m still at the place where I’m wrestling with heart level learning on it. Because there’s a lot of resistance in this area for me. And yet, if I’m going to equip my almost nine-year-old, I need to be able to know some things about AI technology in order to help give her categories for the world that she’s living in. So that’s something I’ve learned. It’s something I’m challenged to continue to grow in my understanding. That’s a great question.

Amy
It is a good question. I want you to answer it. I just want to commend you and Kelsey, for two things: One thing you continually encouraged me to do as a listener is to look for what I can affirm and then to look for what I should challenge. It should not surprise us that we have to do both to basically everything we see, or learn, or get exposed to. But I just feel like that’s such a healthy approach. What can we look at—whether it’s AI or social media, or how did you go about vocation, what we are seeing in history, what we’ve been taught: What can we affirm, and then what do we need to challenge? And the basis of affirming and challenging it is ultimately rooted in Christ and His word. And that’s another thing I want to commend you for. As I was coming to this talk, I thought, “What is one of the most effective things we can do as we’re trying to scan and look at 10 topics that we’ve covered?” And I thought, “How does anyone do that well?” and I thought, “Go back to that beautiful framework of scripture.” Everything is created; everything has fallen; everything is being redeemed; and at the consummation, all things will be restored. But also, something you’ve done excellently well, is not just look at that framework from an individualistic perspective. That’s so my reflex of my identity was created. And it’s fallen. And it’s being redeemed. What about the global identity, and the global understanding of community, and the global understanding of vocation? And so, think big because God’s kingdom is big, and He’s redeeming all of it. But all of it’s also broken. You have to really grapple with that. Those things have been profoundly a blessing to me.

Kelsey
Which is why we have you on here, so that you can give us props.

Jonathan
Yep, you just earned your spot in the next episode. Thank you so much, Amy.

Kelsey
Yes, and you challenge me to continue to stay the course. When you reflect the things that you’re hearing, it’s such good accountability. And the thing that you’re also holding me accountable to, as you mentioned these ideas, is this idea that there is a global perspective. A “kingdom mindset” is the way that I would want to rephrase it, only because we can get, unfortunately, we can trip on that idea of “global” and think of globalism, and we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about what it means for there to be an identity we have in Christ that is placed within a greater kingdom. And what that also means is not only are we bringing things that we can affirm about what we see in the world on the global scale, or bringing things that we’re challenging in the world, but we’re also looking for places that we can bring the gospel and for that kingdom to continue to expand. And that’s the challenge that you’re bringing to me as you reflect what you’ve heard. Where can we continue to seek to bring the gospel as a part of our response to what we’re looking at in the news and what we’re hearing from these great speakers that we’ve been with?

Jonathan
Yeah, the idea that the gospel, the expansion of the kingdom, goes beyond just the realms we think of as traditionally church realms and into all these different subjects we’re seeing in the news. And I will answer my own question, but you bring up this whole biblical framework of, you know, “good, but broken.” Man, that applies just to everything we’ve talked about this year. And I keep coming back to that in everything we discuss, because so often, whether it’s social media, whether it’s any topic you can think of, there’s usually, like, these polar tendencies where one group of people just wants to affirm it, celebrate it without any caveat, and another group wants to shun it entirely. But so often, the truth isn’t centrist as much as an acknowledgment of, “No, there is goodness that was created. But there is brokenness, and we need to be able to see both.” And that brings me to one of the big things I learned this season of Concurrently. In our conversation with Andy Crouch, his framework of technology as a tool or device—as something we use or something that we just let replace us or entertain us. And the idea that a phone could be a tool or a device. I’ve kind of always intuited that we shouldn’t just embrace using smartphones all the time and hand them over to our kids without any direction. But it felt wrong to just shun technology entirely, you know, that kind of Luddite response. I always kind of felt that, but I never really knew where to draw that line. And then I ever knew quite how to draw a framework for that. But Andy’s idea of “tool versus device” really gave me a good framework to think about when technology is helpful or hurtful. I’ve even been able to somewhat practically bring that into my life with my daughter the other day. It’s always a struggle to keep the kids off of the screens. But she wanted to use the phone to make a movie—she was going around the house filming a movie. My impulse is always to say, “No, no, we’re not doing the phone.” But in this instance, I was like, “You know what, yeah, go make a movie!” And it felt a lot more life-giving than us being like, “No phone, no screen ever.” It was, “You know what, in this instance? Yeah, you’re using it as a tool. You’re using it to create something.” And so, the framework that Andy gave us has actually really brought some life to our use of technology in the home I’d say.

Kelsey
I think it’s a great segue for me into what I learned from Haidt’s work. And so we’re going to mention The Anxious Generation again.

Jonathan
Jonathan Haidt?

Kelsey
Yes, Jonathan Haidt’s work in The Anxious Generation is very helpful in also supplying those categories and practical takeaways. It’s not just “no screens; never.” It’s, “Wait a minute. We’ve seen that social media is particularly pernicious to developing children.” And the practical takeaways are: Let’s limit social media access. Let’s do that on a community level, on a national level, if we can. Let’s make some strides to make some changes for the sake of children. But to go back to his categories, it’s not just “no screens.” It’s not, “Oh, watching TV is going to be bad for you.” And I want to supply a little bit more color even to that. There are opportunities to see story, to discuss story, to draw out learning. Just by way of example, Damsel was a Netflix film that was recently reviewed by one of our WORLD reviewers. I watched that with my daughters last weekend, when my daughter was home from college. She’d already seen it, so she, thankfully, had some categories for the discussion too. But this story allowed for us to do so much work of reorienting our hearts, towards the best story. I think, Jonathan, you’re going to have a blog coming out about giving our children a better story. So when we are engaging technology, there’s a better story than just “No!” There’s a better story than just law. And there’s an opportunity for conversations about each of these things, all the time, everywhere. And I’ll go into that a little bit later, because our scripture points to that. But it’s not just lock down. It’s, “How do we use this as a tool, not as a babysitting device as a, ‘I don’t know what to do with you now that you’re a teen. You’re not driving yet. I’m just going to give you a phone that’s connected to social media so you can connect with your friends.’” It’s pointing to the fact that discipleship is hard work. These categories that we’ve been given, they’re good categories, but they also require that we employ them. We have to learn how to use a hammer well, so that we’re not hitting ourselves in the thumb. That requires some diligent formation work for ourselves, as well as for the children who are across from us.

Jonathan
You’re bringing to mind what I think is another one of the big overarching ideas that has come out through all of these discussions we’ve had on Concurrently so far this year with our guests, which is this idea of the holistic, whole view of the person. We put that in our episode intro every week, “whole person.” But what do we mean by that? We talked with Dr. Gene Veith about vocation, the idea that our day job isn’t just our day job. It is part of our love of neighbor, part of our spiritual formation. We talked about the way technology forms us. The way the things we do with our bodies shape our spirits. The way spiritual health and mental health and physical health are all connected. So many of the conversations we’ve had this year are constantly reminding us that all these things that we like to try to fit into neat little buckets don’t really stay in their buckets. That’s going to continue coming out. A little preview of the conversations we’ve already recorded that we’ll be releasing soon: When we’re talking about subjects like politics, we’re talking about subjects like disability, that holistic view of man continues to come out. We can never just keep things in little neat boxes. God created a world where everything is meant to glorify Him and work together to do that. And when part of that breaks, when part of that comes under the fall and the curse, it reverberates into all these realms.

Amy
That’s well said. That makes me think of something I learned this week: Pastor John MacArthur, in late April, was at a conference. This is not the first time he’s expressed this perspective, but it was very explicit, his language. The subject of mental health—and again, we’re talking about the whole person—got brought up. And what he said was, “There’s no such thing as PTSD. There’s no such thing as OCD. There’s no such thing as ADHD.” He argues that those categories of disease excuse people to just medicate, over medicate. So he says that we’re supposed to “think on good things,” take God at His word. And you begin to see his language is very, “You take charge of this, and you’ll be fine.” And I think in the same conference, he said something along the lines of, “If you raise your children with intention, they will be fine.” And we have to call that out. There are other things that Pastor John MacArthur has said that are spot-on true. This case, he’s completely wrong. So, we have to call him back to scripture. We also have to say what he is saying is profoundly damaging and dangerous—and not biblical. Because in the end, he’s advocating a prosperity gospel. Mind over matter: You do these five things, go read your Bible, go meditate on these verses, and you’ll be fine. You go teach your kids perfect theology, they will be fine. He himself knows that’s not true. He has a son, who has, I think, done criminal activity. He knows that this is reductionistic and not reflective of scripture. Dr. Gavin Ortlund who runs a beautiful YouTube channel called “Truth Unites” spends about 18 minutes, very graciously saying, basically, “Brother, this is wrong. You’re causing damage.” And he also says, “I’m not saying don’t go meditate on what is good and true. Go get sleep, go exercise, go eat well. But even if you check off all those lists, you may have clinical depression, you may end up being diagnosed with schizophrenia.” So, he just encourages people: “Remember, you are a whole person, you’re made in the image of God. But even your brain is affected by the fall. And part of the redemption that’s built into God’s creation is therapy, medicine, the community of faith to come around you and love on you through these hard dark spaces.” The creation/fall/redemption framework is coming through in his response.

Jonathan
It comes back to our affirm/challenge mindset. You know, there can be teachers who have produced some great biblical commentary. But then there could be things they say that we’re like, “No, we’ve got to challenge that.” And you can do so graciously, but while standing in truth. Going back to conversations we’ve had with Michael Coggin about the reality of trauma, even on the physical level of the brain. And back again to the idea of the whole person versus wanting to put things in the boxes. When we have these category boxes of, “This is the spiritual realm. This is the physical realm. This is the political realm,” whatever those category boxes are, it’s not just that things spill over. I think we also tend to want to want to grab things from the world and fit them into the box where we feel most comfortable. If I feel really comf—confident—I can’t say that word—If I don’t feel confident in my ability to say confident. If I feel really confident in my theological knowledge, I will tend to want to fit everything into my category box of theology. And you see this out in secular rounds, even where, you know, “I feel really confident in this oppressor/oppressed framework that comes from Marxist thought, so I’m going to fit everything into that category box.” And we can do real damage when we try to fit all these disparate things into little category boxes. Instead of opening those boxes and allowing a more holistic picture to form.

Kelsey
It reminds me of our episode that we recently released on conspiracy theories as well. In absence of surety, sometimes we are clutching at straws to make sense of a story. I don’t want to sound like a Biblicist when I say that idea of mystery—and what I mean by biblicism is to say that we can only know the things that are of the Bible, and we can’t know anything else. I don’t believe that is biblically accurate. But I do think that the biblical idea of mystery, and the understanding that God has authority, are so key to our discipleship in these areas. And that we don’t need to place ourselves as the authority on all things of life. We press into our relationship with the Lord, we press into scripture to feed us. But we also realize: The Lord is the one who made all intelligence. He made the world; He made us to interact with the world. And even those who are not His followers can observe something that is true, that is correct about the way that our minds work, the way that our bodies work. And we can, with a mind of Christ, look at those things that have been well-researched, the data, the scientific method applied well and for the good of humanity. We can look at those things and we can affirm those things without fear that we are traipsing into territory that’s going to lead us away from biblical truth, and our confidence in God as authority. And so, I think it’s really good that we’re talking about that, in respect to the temptation to become an authority on things. And in our secular world, where we have often, in many philosophies—like what you’re mentioning, with Marxist ideology—where we’ve canceled out God’s authority. Those are one of those things that we are steeped in in the world, and that require that backing up and going, “Wait a minute, this is a godless philosophy that is trying to rearrange the world in a way that we can make ourselves authority over it and call the shots.” We won’t affirm that—that’s not something we can affirm. On the other hand, a scientist who, with wonder, is looking at the world; a psychologist, a neuroscientist who’s going, “Look at how the brain works.” We really can see that trauma has an impact on the brain, we really can see that trauma that is done in generations past. Sadly, and because of the outcomes of the fall, it has ramifications into the next generation. There are little boys and girls who have had fetal alcohol syndrome. You cannot just say, “Dwell on good things.” They have been rewired. And so, where can we point to some other good resources? We’ve mentioned before Michael Coggin, his excellent, helping us think through categories to define terms—I hope we’ll have him on again. But we also would like to point to people, like Gavin Ortlund, who take a scholarly view, or to Curt Thompson. Dr. Curt Thompson, who has a podcast, has written several excellent books—he takes not only a scholarly view, but a very pastoral view, as I would say Gavin does too. He’s very pastoral.

Amy
Yes, he admits he struggles with his struggle with depression in that time.

Jonathan
Another resource I think we’ve mentioned before on the podcast, J.P. Moreland, the Christian philosopher, has a book called Finding Quiet, that, I think is specifically more along the lines of talking about anxiety. And he gives it a very thorough treatment that is not just based in his skill as a writer and philosopher, but also in his personal story of dealing with anxiety.

Kelsey
So, whole persons. Why do we talk about whole persons when we talk about the news? Because I think this is another one of those things that we need to pop open, this can of worms, and identify what’s going on with why we think about ourselves, and talk about whole person categories, when we’re talking about what’s going on in our world.

Jonathan
The news, I think, is almost never concerned with whole persons. A news article is almost always concerned with one facet of a person. Somebody is a “Republican.” Somebody is a “person of color.” Somebody is a “Christian.” Somebody is a “Muslim.” If there’s an article about a politician, we’re rarely also thinking of them as father, as Bible-study leader. If there’s an article about a refugee, we’re rarely thinking about them as daughter, son, husband, wife. But these are real stories. There is more than what’s on the page or the screen, there is the flesh-and-blood reality. It can really skew our view—and sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s unintentional—when we don’t see the whole persons behind these stories. Then it’s really easy to demonize other people. It’s really easy to caricature other people. And so I think it’s just a good practice to bring that whole-person thinking to every story we read. When you’re reading something about a gay rights activist, and you’re getting really angry about what they’re saying, stop and think: “That somebody’s son; that is somebody’s friend; that is a person made in the image of God who goes home at night and watches Netflix, and it’s a real person.” And that goes for everything we encounter in the news. It’s so easy to lose sight of that. And it’s so easy, especially in this digital age, coming back again to that technology, social media theme. We only see little parts of people on the internet. We rarely see the whole person. It’s easier than ever to tear others down because we see a little sliver of somebody on social media. But the volleys we send, the anger we send in a comment or a retweet, leaves that little sliver of social media and hits a real, whole person full-on, in ways that effect not just that little sliver of them you see on social media, but it affects their soul, their mind, their body even. And so bringing that whole-person thinking to everything we encounter in the news. I think it can really—I don’t always do it, it’s hard—but I think when we do it, it can really revolutionize the way we engage with these stories.

Amy
That’s a good word. I’m humbled and gripped by not only the way we easily caricature other people, but, one thing Andy Crouch pointed out was, our surfing starts to yield certain sidebar, “Don’t you want to hit this?” But, have you guys noticed this when you surf YouTube? The commercials that come on before the video you watch are targeted to you, the individual. And mine are, “What if you have a house fire?" And then the other one is, “You’re trapped in your car, and it’s sinking in water!” And so, I thought, “Okay, you’re trying to scare the daylights out of me so I’ll buy a product. Because apparently, I seem nervous or something.” And then, the ads—you know, when you’re scrolling on articles that have ads—all the ads are these AI, shredded 60-year-olds. Well, you can tell the head got stuck on, and they have ripped abs. I’m 51 this year, and I’m like, “Wow, they’re really targeting me for makeup that will make me look younger, and how do I get abs?” So as I’m watching it, I thought, “This could really wreck me. I could be motivated non-stop by fear and insecurity.” And then I started to think, “How is that fear and insecurity shaping my understanding of vocation and how I coach my children towards vocation? How is that understanding of fear and insecurity shaping my understanding of how I approach their education? How I approach social media, technology, everything we’ve touched on: identity, home life, community, is it driven by what the ads are going after—fear and insecurity? Or is it anchored in, “You’re created in the image of God. There is fallenness, there’s disappointment, you’ll be rerouted, you’ll be grieved, you’ll have to shift gears, but redemption is here. Look for the light everywhere. And all things will be made new, someday.” I just feel like the media and social, and just the ads are trying to drive us in certain directions, that shape how we view everything. So it’s just a real call, “Come back to Jesus sit at his feet.”

Kelsey
And I really appreciate that you’re not saying, “Okay, so shut down all emotion.” And I’m hearing the same thing from you: that what it means to be integrated selves is more important than just quieting all emotion in order for us to just keep pressing on and building our children towards their vocation and engaging… No. The affective realm is something that we have to acknowledge. And that even in the acknowledging we can coach our children better, be better friends, hopefully. “Hey, let me soothe your fear.” You know, I’m touching Amy’s shoulder as I do this, I laughed at her—!

Amy
I’m not afraid of a fire. I don’t think I’m going to be trapped in my car.

Jonathan
And if you do, you’ll have the abs to get out.

[Laughter]

Kelsey
What I’m hearing in terms of this vocational expression of love of neighbor and everything that Jonathan just said: When we approach life with a holistic understanding—not only that I am a head, heart, a body, but that the person across from me is a full-picture person, contextualized within relationships, a family—that this is good work, that we have the great privilege of doing with our kids, helping them to see a bigger picture. And it’s another thing that I’m identifying as work just as I said, you know, we treat a device not as a device but as a tool that takes some work. Formation takes work. Giving context takes some work. Looking at what it looks like for the world to be to trying to tell me who I am and to push back and say, “That’s not who I am.” And for us then to be freed up to be culture makers and shapers, because we have our feet steady. And we’re putting our children, we’re steadying their feet—I’m thinking of the toddler—we are holding their hands, are steadying their feet so they can find their footing in the world towards what their vocational expression is going to be. And I’m thinking about some of the ways that we can do that as well that aren’t just trying to imagine. How do we do this in practice? We have people in our home. And so, I’m connecting again to those things of home that Crouch brought up, that we talked about even when we were thinking of the housing crisis: How do we use our homes for formation? Hospitality is a part of that. We’re welcoming people in that our children would have a more fully-orbed perspective of humanity, of their work, of community. So that question is something that lingers with me: How do I use my home for the Lord’s glory?

Jonathan
Thinking back to what you were saying about not just denying emotion, and how that ties back to our theme of formation that has come up time and time again. I’ve heard—I don’t know where this originally came from—but I’ve heard it said, “Emotions aren’t supposed to be the engine. They’re supposed to be the caboose; they’re supposed to trail behind.” I understand the thought behind that, that we shouldn’t just be totally emotion-driven people. But at the same time, emotions do motivate us, and God designed us that way. I think I’m going to paraphrase probably, but C.S. Lewis, one of his most influential books in my life is The Abolition of Man. And he wrote that the head rules the belly, the mind rules the appetites through the chest, through this driving, emotional center we have. And the idea isn’t that we are just following our emotions willy-nilly, but that we are intentionally forming ourselves so that our emotions drive us towards the right things. We can shape our loves, as James K. Smith, the Christian philosopher would put it. We can shape our loves so that they are pointing in the right direction and so that this natural engine they form within us, drives us down the correct paths. And we kind of know this intuitively. That’s why so many news articles are designed to trigger our emotions. Because if they can point our emotions towards where they want to point us, that is where we are going to drive our actions and drive our speech. And so, instead of just trying to turn our emotions into a caboose, which is really hard to do, how can we form ourselves, form our children? Discipleship is what it’s called. So that those emotions are—I think of just trying to turn the cannon toward the right target. The cannon is going to fire. Can you point it in the right direction?

Kelsey
That’s so good. I’m going to bring up Damsel again, because I didn’t really finish my thoughts on that. I realized I kind of threw it out there and then didn’t unpack. But when we watch a movie, all of that is tuned, just like what you’re saying: A news article, or the expressions on a news anchor’s face or their tone, can all prime our emotions. Well, when we watch a film, the lighting, the music, the facial expressions, every single piece of this—which by the way, is why I like to use the SOAR method because I need to slow down and observe—is triggering my emotion. Let me bring it through that logic level so I can understand; not so I can cast aside my emotion, but so that it allows me to go deeper into the process of how the story wants me to feel and wants me to act. I’m trying to make a bid for doing the work here, of looking at a story well, a news story, a film story. They are the places where we can build in these categories so that when our children go out into the world, as young adults—that they have those in place. That they aren’t splintered into separate places in their mind. That they aren’t trying to make their emotions the caboose. That we are fostering whole-person growth and maturity.

Jonathan
So, as we kind of wind down here, do either of you have any final thoughts as we are closing the chapter of where we’ve been so far this year, and kind of launching into this summer season?

Amy
I have a son who is 17. And I’m not sure where all the pressure comes from for him. I don’t know if it’s YouTube ads or what. But he feels a tremendous pressure to have his identity mastered: “This is my career goal. This is my vocational calling. This is where I’m at spiritually. I’ve got a real, deep, restful space, theologically.” He is not in any of those places. And so, he will come to me and say, “I’m really struggling with some things in the Bible, or some things I see in the created order. And I’m having a hard time understanding God’s character with this,” and he’ll be wide open with me. And then he’ll say, “I’m supposed to have declared my major in college. I’m starting in the fall.” Again, you’re looking at this lovely, amazing person, and you have to anchor him in everything we’ve talked about, “Your identity, in the end is always: You’re made in the image of God, and He fiercely loves you. And I’m also completely crazy about you. Even in your state of deep confusion—you don’t have clarity—I think you’re just stunning.” And reminding him that this space, it’s safe to explore. This is the age of exploring and experimenting and trying. And then, I’ll testify to my own story, which is a very crooked line, and I tell him, “You live with me. God wasted nothing.” Just testify. You talk about history, your own living history, and the history of the saints. You have to go back to these beautiful theologians who are already with Jesus. Look at their crooked lines, which God makes straight. Helping our children navigate all these things, while they have all these crisis questions in their minds, nestling them in deep, fixed, covenant love. Whatever the culture is telling you that “you should have this mastered.” That is not true. Even adults don’t have this stuff mastered. And there’s so much grace, and let’s explore together, and we’ll name off what you have that God’s given you. I just saw a fascinating—it’s called “Saints versus Scoundrels.” A Catholic friend tipped me off. They put great minds of history together in the room. They hire actors and give them scripts that are really well written. And they had Flannery O’Connor with Ayn Rand. So you’ve got this gutsy Catholic writer with Ayn Rand who’s an atheistic individualist. And in the course of the discussion and debate, at one point, Flannery gets asked, “Why are you writing?” And she said, “Because I’m good at it.” But she didn’t say it pridefully. She said, “God gives gifts, and we have the privilege of stewarding them.” So gather the church community around you to say, “Yeah, you have this.” And that may mean it’s supposed to be a hobby, or it may be a vocational calling. But this is the beauty of community and church, not just family, but church.

Jonathan
A good Atlas is hard to shrug.

[Laughter]

Amy
One thing we have been very intentional about in our home is we chose a church that’s very intentional about preaching Jesus and the gospel every Sunday. Not only because, obviously we all need it, but I saw in my children a strong tendency to do put all the pressure on themselves, “I have to master this. I have to figure this out.” Human responsibility grew so big in their minds that I could see they were exhausting themselves. And I was like, we need to go sit at the feet of gospel. And it can’t just come from me. Praise Jesus for faithful pastors and faithful friends who speak the truth to them. And I think I’ve told you: One of our projects is, about May/June we interview people who are really anchored in the gospel. And I can list off those questions: We will say, “How has Jesus pursued you over your life? How did you come to the vocation you’re in?”—and it’s often a very crooked line— “Who are your heroes and why? What makes a healthy family? What makes healthy friendship?” All those categories coming through community and church keep solidifying the truth in my kids’ minds. They need to hear it from more than just me: “Rest in Jesus, and sit under the waterfall of truth.” And I said this week to my striving son, and he saw it, we said, “There’s a real difference in getting under the waterfall of truth, because you’re trying to get God to like you, or you’re trying to prove yourself, versus standing under the waterfall truth because you’re starving, and He is the source of all rich food and sustenance.” And he and so many young people need to just rest under the waterfall, and not get under the waterfall to try to prove themselves or to win favor.

Jonathan
I remember in college talking to a friend about church, and we were talking about a specific church. And he was telling me, “Yeah, I went there for a season, but at the end of every service I felt beat up.” And, it was the light bulb in my head because I was like, “Wait, you’re not supposed to feel beat up at the end?” And just how refreshing it was when my family and I did go to a church where they just talked about the goodness of Jesus. And it was like, “Wow! What a novel thing: a church that preaches about Jesus.” But it is a difference and to rest in God’s goodness. And yeah, it’s huge.

Kelsey
Amen. I was going to say, the summation of what you’re saying, Amy, is: more of Christ. As we go into the summer, as we think about the summer, what does it look like for us to intentionally provide that space for our children to rest at the feet of Jesus? It doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be activity. But how do we frame that activity, breathe into that activity, surround it with this intention of “more of Christ”? What we need most is the gospel, and we need it in every portion of our lives. And so the spiritual anchor that I have brought out today, to remind us of that even as we think of some of the hard work of human formation: It really happens everywhere and all of life and it must be gospel-infused. Deuteronomy 6:5[-9] says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” What I would say is: This gospel needs to define us, our every waking moment—that we rise and that we lie down with the words of Jesus on our lips. And that even His law is a law of love. It points first to His love for us, that He is enabling us, His Spirit in us to love Him, our neighbors, even our enemies. Biblical discipleship happens everywhere, all the time, in every category of life. This is the work of the Father that He has given into our hands. And He has equipped you for the work.

 

Show Notes

Another school year is ending. The news has us jumping from topic to topic, but we want to reflect, connect the dots, and trace the thread between the conversations. We’re joined by Amy Auten to look back at what we’ve learned in 2024 so far.

Check out The Concurrently Companion for this week’s downloadable episode guide including discussion questions and scripture for further study. Sign up for the News Coach Newsletter at gwnews.com/newsletters.

We would love to hear from you. You can send us a message at newscoach@wng.org. What current events or cultural issues are you wrestling through with your kids and teens? Let us know. We want to work through it with you.

Further Resources:



Concurrently is produced by God’s WORLD News. We provide current events materials for kids and teens that show how God is working in the world. To learn more about God’s WORLD News and browse sample magazines, visit gwnews.com.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Sam Allberry’s God’s Go-Togethers.

Author Sam Allberry has a new book for kids called God’s Go-Togethers. This colorful book features siblings Lila and Ethan as they visit the beach and discover that God not only made the sand and sea to go together, but He made men and women to go together, too. God’s Go-Togethers offers a thoughtful look at the biblical design for people and provides a helpful foundation for explaining why God made men and women as a special pair to complement each other in marriage and beyond. Learn more at GodsGoTogethers.com.


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