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Sometimes it's hard to get teens to understand that listening to certain musical artists, such as Eminem, is a bad idea. I just like the music. I don't listen to the lyrics. The excuses are many. You've probably heard a lot of them yourself. So I decided to take a different tack to drive home the need for biblical discernment—one more likely to prick their consciences.

I was speaking at our church's Wednesday night youth service about popular music, and some of the teens smirked and murmured among themselves. I could see they were skeptical. One older teen raised his hand. "Are you saying it's wrong to listen to secular music?"

I thought for a moment. "I think that's the wrong question. Instead of asking, 'What's wrong with it?' we should be asking, 'What's right with it?' How can we honor God with our lives and show the light to others if we use our money to consume things that are at odds with His purpose? How many of you have seen the R-rated movie 8 Mile, in which Eminem plays an aspiring rapper?"

Hands went up around the room.

"Okay," I continued, "how many of you have purchased any of his music?"

More hands.

"Fine. Let's get a rough estimate of how much all of this cost."

We went quickly around the room and figured out how much money each teen had spent on the rapper's movie and CDs. The total came to around $400.

"Great," I said. "I have here a copy of some of Eminem's lyrics." I produced a sheet of paper and started to read from the cut "Role Model": "Follow me and do exactly what the song says/Smoke weed, take pills, drop outta school, kill people and drink/And jump behind the wheel like it was still legal … Now follow me and do exactly what you see/Don't you wanna grow up to be just like me?/I slap women and eat 'shrooms then OD/Now don't you wanna grow up to be just like me?" Then there's "Kill You," on which Eminem raps, "They said I can't rap about bein' broke no more/They ain't say I can't rap about coke no more/(AHHH!) Slut, you think I won't choke no whore till the vocal cords don't work in her throat no more?"

Of course, that's just the beginning. From there we got assaulted with f-words and crude references to sex. When I looked up, the entire youth group was wide-eyed, frozen in disbelief. "What?," I asked. "Is it inappropriate to say those things anywhere, or just at church? You tell me, what's wrong with it?"

No one volunteered an answer, so I continued. "This week I had a conversation with a social worker friend of mine. She told me about a woman who was reported to Child Welfare Services because her 5-year-old son was coming to school without shoes. When they went to question her about it, they found that her husband had recently left her and had taken nearly everything. She barely has enough money for food, much less shoes. To top it off, she is due to have a baby in three weeks. Now tell me, how much do you think $400 would help this woman?"

You could have heard a pin drop.

"You make choices every day," I said quietly. "Choices about what to do with your money, your time and your talents. You can use those resources to support the light or to support the darkness. What you should not do is say that you support the light, then make choices that finance the darkness."

Talk about hitting them in the pocketbook.

I'm reminded of Paul's words in Ephesians 5:8 and 11: "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. … Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them."

Most of the kids in our homes and in our youth groups have good hearts. They want to help further the Kingdom. Helping them see a different consequence of bad choices is a way to cut through any resistance they have built up about song lyrics. It hits them where it counts—in the heart.

Chuck Holton, a youth leader and former Army Ranger, is also author of the book A More Elite Soldier.

Published October 2004





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