According to John Calvin, the human mind is a perpetual factory of idols. I’ve been reminded of this dictum as the internet blows up over news of the #Brangelina divorce—what some are calling #Brangelexit. What really got me is the ridiculous number of stories on CNN.com. Seriously, how many different angles can one legitimate news outlet possible find to report on this story?
While #Brangelina may be a predominantly Gen X obsession, the ubiquitous presence of this pop culture story might cause it to surface in youth ministry gatherings this weekend. So youth workers have choices to make. Do you ignore it or find some constructive way to address it?
As my opening Calvin reference suggests, this is a good opportunity to explore what idolatry actually looks like in our culture. Of course, this opportunity presents itself almost every week. But given the flood of important and critical issues in the world right now—including more police shootings and #BlackLivesMatter protests—obsessing over two celebrities getting a divorce seems all the more trivial. Yet this is the point: what does it say about human nature that we would rather dissect #Brangelexit than deal with terrorist attacks, refugee crises, and racial conflict—not to mention the challenges and tragedies of our own personal lives? And—perhaps most importantly for youth workers—what role should the church and Christian leaders play in unmasking these idolatries and reshaping priorities?
This is also an opportunity to remind our youth that #Brangelexit isn’t just an internet meme or pop culture story—behind the headlines and posts are real people, including six children. Many of our youth—and many of us ourselves—have experienced the painful realities of divorce and custody battles. Some have experienced or witnessed how social media publicly objectifies personal struggles and tragedies in ways that only magnify the pain and suffering of the real individuals involved. Youth workers need to be mindful of these realities, and provide safe spaces for young people to talk about the ways in which #Brangelexit might touch nerves and reopen unhealed wounds.
Whether you plan on addressing this with your youth or not, you should at least be prepared in case it comes up. In youth ministry we have the awesome opportunity and responsibility to help young people engage the world around them as disciples of Jesus. In a culture that idolizes celebrity, this inevitably brings us face to face with things like #Brangelexit.