I spent the majority of the weekend taking a group of kids to a music festival called Agape, down in scenic Greenville, IL. I don't really listen to contemporary Christian music (my daily listening for the last few months has been Ancient Faith Radio), especially of the rock/pop/punk bands that were the majority of the acts. Overall, though, the shows were good and the bands mostly performed well - there were a couple of local bands that didn't really make the grade. Toby Mac, of DC Talk fame, puts on a great show with at least 3 other vocalists/rappers, a dj with turntables and a full band. There were, at various times, people standing worshipfully with hands raised while a rock band was hammering through one of their songs - how one can worship to hard rock is beyond me, but hey, more power to 'em.
My wife and I found one thing troubling; "Christian-girl" t-shirts. Now, I'm used to all the Christian rip-offs you find at Christian bookstores & concerts - instead of "Abercrombie & Fitch" its "Abreadcrumb & Fish", or "Christ is King" instead of "Calvin Klein" - you know, that kind of crap. Great witnessing tools I'm sure, though I suspect they just make Christians look stupid. No, the shirts that bothered us were these skin-tight, pink "wife-beater" style tank tops with "Christian Girl" emblazoned in a gothic script across the chest. I'm sure the issues of modesty, guys lusting and the paradoxical message that such shirts send in general are quite clear. From the same vendor came another shirt for girls, this time in the form of a fitted t-shirt, with you choice of captions: "Looking for a Christian boy" or "I love Christian boys." On the surface, these may not seem that bad but I found these particularly problematic. The first is yet another affirmation of the message teen-age girls constantly receive: you are nothing if you are not attached to some guy. The latter echoes this same message, but its lack of specificity is the real problem - boys, not a specific boy, kind of implying that the girl will take any and all boys so long as they are Christian. Again, a girl is to get her self-esteem and self-worth from her relationships with boys, not her relationship with God.
Perhaps I'm sounding a bit stodgy and paternalistic. Perhaps there is nothing really wrong with these things and I'm making mountains of mole hills, but I don't think so. Over the last year, I have seen first-hand the corrosive effects youth culture is having on our kids, both boys and girls. As I said above, girls are being taught to derive their sense of self-worth from how they are perceived by guys - there is no other reason why junior high girls would engage in lesbian kisses for a crowd of cheering boys or high school girls in sex acts at school (true stories from some kids in my youth group). Boys, though, are being trained to be non-committal, to be "players." Girls are disposable play-things, there for the boy's entertainment or gratification until the boy gets tired of them. Then its on to the next conquest, the next trophy. It is the culture of pornography playing out in the lives of teenagers.