If you want a taste of what it's like to be a teen, here's a tip: tune into MTV's Video Music Awards.
This year's host, Russell Brand, decided to take on the Jonas Brothers' pledge of purity -- a move that's been discussed by culture watchers throughout the media in the last couple of days.
The squeeze to laugh at meanness, to laud the culture's cynicism about faith, to enjoy watching someone labeled an "innocent" squirm at the hands of a "funny" bully -- our teens face that pressure every day in the halls of their schools, on the web, and everywhere else they assemble. Even at youth group on Sundays.
That's why I loved Jordin Sparks' feisty improvisational response to Brand's bad boy riff. "It's not bad to wear a promise ring because not everybody, guy or girl, wants to be a slut," Sparks said, standing tall at the podium. Her tone rang with assurance, her expression stayed sweet, but she used tough, simple language that was easy to understand. And best of all, what she said was true.
The audience applauded. The host came out and apologized ... sort of. The handful of Sparks' peers trying desperately to avoid getting smashed by the express train of celebrity sat up a bit straighter.
Nineteen or twenty words. That's all it took to turn the tide.
As my high-schoolers, their buddy, and I witnessed the atmosphere in the theater change and felt our own hearts lighten, we talked about the power of truth. My prayer is that like Jordin Sparks, our teens will have the courage and skill to wield that weapon well.