Did you stop reading the Bible Jenna Hamilton?

I have been watching MTV for 34 years. (My devotion will not help the network’s pursuit of the 12-34-year-olds it targets). I watch it:

  • Because I am regularly entertained — like by my latest TV-binge Awkward,
  • I want to know what the youth of the nation are being fed instead of the Bible.

How many of the youth MTV is still feeding is under dispute. The network has been recently punished in the cable ratings — down 29 percent in 2015. But their Facebook fan base is 48 million compared to Fox News’ 10 million and Fox has a much bigger cable rating number. It is hard to measure what people are doing on their phones and computers. But it looks like they consume a lot of MTV.

THAT GIRL STILLS MTV LAUREN IUNGERICH

What first made Jenna “that girl”

MTV is not kind to Christians, most of the time, although one or two did come off relatively well on Real World, back in the day. In Awkward, the Christian girl has a closeted gay dad, a judgmental mom and is consistently stupid and fearful. But then the outlook of teens on Awkward is not kind to most people and sees most adults as especially useless. As far as these MTV teens are concerned, what is important is not being awkward, succeeding at something, and fitting in – and having sex. For instance, Jenna Hamilton, the lead character, has an unusual opportunity to have her first sexual experience with her impossible crush, Matty, and then finds out he wants to keep their relationship a secret because she is so uncool. She thinks: “With my v-card safely tucked away in his back pocket….he hit me with ‘but nobody can know that I like you.’ So…I was still Jenna Hamilton.”

So how does one get into a dialogue about the Bible with Jenna Hamilton? Just asking that sounds sort of uncool, right? Is she and all her friends fully plugged in and not listening outside their cocoon? Are they hypervigilant against anyone telling them that anything but what they feel might be relevant? Are all adults useless? I have a lot of questions that, well, make me feel awkward. Especially when I want to talk about the Bible, does that make me even more useless, like that Christian girl on Awkward? I probably am a Barney (a dork, a nerd boy, or a goober; guys with whom you don’t want to be seen with in public — there is a wiki).

I have to ask the question, however, since it might be true that MTV and all her media sisters have become more of a Bible than the Bible for many 12-34 year olds! MTV, in particular, is certainly a postmodern propaganda machine. You could say it is just channeling the zeitgeist and selling it back to kids. But it is also creating it and codifying it without an actual dialogue with what is being replaced (and what is being mocked to death, like opposing views were treated in high school).

Yes, this could have been resisted.

I can see why Jenna may have stopped reading the Bible. There are a lot of good reasons. For instance:

  • Christians got sucked into the Enlightenment/modern paradigm and all their teaching got boiled down to extra-biblical, “scientific-like” principles. (But not all Christians did that, Jenna!)
  • People, in general, are decoupled from their own history. They really do think they have no choice but to make it all up as they go along. If someone (like the Bible writers) tell them what to do they are instantly resentful.
  • Likewise, “science” supposedly says that 90% of what we are is hardwired. So finding your label is inevitable. You can fight it, but “it is what it is.”  So all the talk about choice and miracle in the Bible seems impossible.
  • The biggest reason to not read the Bible, of course, is the absence of the supernatural in the everyday life of most people. The teachers for the last 50 years have made sure that “nature” is free of God. Science cannot be tainted with the unmeasurable, so everything is now subject to the oversight of materialism. The Bible assumes that God and creation are intertwined, so reading the Bible can seem quite a leap, unless it becomes another story, like Awkward.

Did you stop reading the Bible for some of the same reasons?

It is kind of easy to never be too serious about much more than who will have sex with you, or not. Like this preview for an episode of Awkward: “Having survived the title of ‘that girl’ by the skin of her teeth last season, Jenna once again risks the label now that a former schoolyard indiscretion may have been caught on tape. ‘The Sanctuary’ [sic] behind the bleachers at Palos Hills High seems like it’s anything but in the upcoming episode of “Awkward,” and Jenna is determined to get to the bottom of things before Jake finds out about her fling-plus with Matty.” Yes, I saw that episode. I admit I was entertained. Even more, I was enlightened. Somebody channeled what was going on in the world and made a little chapter of the ongoing video bible they are writing. Who knows how many people interpreted it as inspired?

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About Rod White

Pastor for Circle of Hope. Graduate of Fuller Seminary, PhD in MFT from Eastern University.
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