‘Killer Culture’: A call to the churches

“Often there’s a kind of official and systematic ‘rebelliousness’ that’s reflected in media products pitched at kids. It’s part of the official rock video world view, it’s part of the official advertising world view, that your parents are creeps, teachers are nerds and idiots, authority figures are laughable, nobody can really understand kids except the corporate sponsor. That huge authority has, interestingly enough, emerged as the sort of tacit superhero of consumer culture. That’s the coolest entity of all.”

– New York University Communications Professor Mark Crispin-Miller, on PBS’ Frontline documentary, “Merchants of Cool

“My students were talking to me about the parties that they were having on weekends. And there was one place in particular where they had lots of privacy – the parents were often gone. They said that they were watching the Playboy Channel in the girl’s bedroom. There would be like 10 or 12 of them up there. And so I said, well, is everybody watching it? Oh yeah, they’re all watching it – and so one of the little guys goes, ‘And we’re getting pretty good at it too.’ And I said, good at what? So he said, ‘Well the game is that you have to imitate what the Playboy people are doing.’ And one of them said, ‘And sometimes it’s all mixed up and its just like there might be three or four of us at one time, and it doesn’t matter if you’re two guys or two girls or a girl and a guy, it doesn’t matter. You just have to do what they’re doing.’”

– Middle School guidance counselor, Peggy Cooper quoted on PBS’ Frontline documentary, “The Lost Children of Rockdale County

Increasingly, the horror of America’s culture is becoming frighteningly clear, both for its evil intent and for its devastating effect on the nation’s children. We see it everywhere, and most of us feel helpless. But I believe America’s churches, of all denominations and races, standing together in every community, can fight the child-molesting culture that is destroying the character and moral core of our nation – and that has especially targeted our teenagers.

Some people think I am exaggerating to call the pop culture a “child molester.” Some have trouble grasping the malevolent power of the culture, as I have found talking on the radio, and speaking to parents. I challenged one church’s men’s group recently – and I challenge you now – to consider the following question:

How would you react if you caught an older man showing your 11-year-old son some pornography (a common first move among child molesters)? Well, guess what? Movie companies have been caught testing adult content movies on 11-year-olds! In fact, these kind of corrupting influences are everywhere in our society. Children can’t avoid it. The average teenager is exposed to thousands upon thousands of sexual images every year. Dr. James Dobson puts it bluntly: “The culture is at war with parents.”

The first thing we must do is face up to the word “war.” If you really lose a war, then everything you have, everything you know, and everything you love – changes. Strangers with strange ethics suddenly are commanding you to learn their code of behavior, and to actually believe it. Strangers break up marriages and rob families of their wealth. Imprisonment of one kind or another is always a threat – and so is death. In the end, if you are conquered, you lose your whole reality.

Over time, that is exactly what the culture has done to individuals and whole families. From drugs to pornography to adultery to divorce to sexual disease, the results have been devastating.

Of course, we are talking about nothing short of spiritual warfare, and spiritual conquest. And when it comes to that realm, the churches are the only ones capable of responding effectively, and in massive numbers.

America needs the churches in this war, because in the end, they are the only ones who can fight to win. Yes, there are church and parachurch organizations already battling the culture, politically and prayerfully, but this struggle must not be left to a few brave souls. A greater movement is desperately needed. This is the Civil Rights Movement of the 21st century, and we dare not fail in responding to its call.

What follows is an explanation of the exact danger we are in and how we can fight the addictive culture effectively by reclaiming ourselves – reclaiming our true God-anointed identities as men and women – and then empowering our children to do the same. Of course, the culture will hate us for it, since expression of real manhood and womanhood is not allowed. It’s not “politically correct” – but then, neither is our faith in Jesus Christ as lord and savior. In the end, America needs its God-centered mothers and fathers.

Identity war

Recently, I attended a friend’s church and several pews in front of me there sat a baggy-clothed boy around 12 years old with his hat still on. It was a dark blue wool pullover, with white skulls patterned around it. That’s right, human skulls! Since I’ve spent most of my life in the culture as a filmmaker, writer, editor and talk show host, I’d like to say I wasn’t affected. I’d be lying.

Perhaps it’s a small example, but I think it’s one with huge implications. It seems so odd that this child would attend a church service (about life and how to live it joyfully) with a clear symbol of death on his head. After the church service the skull-capped boy turned around – it was a girl.

Now, let’s get past all the adult excuses about typical teen rebellion and really see this for what it is. The culture war going on in America is nothing less than a battle for your child’s mind. At heart, it’s an “identity war” (including gender identity) that can leave your child lost, frustrated and alone – and perhaps permanently so.

Some children get sucked into the media “mind maze” and still manage to escape, but many don’t escape. It affects their lives and their behavior for years to come. I know too many aging “hippies” who never got over the cultural revolution of the 1960s and ’70s to think cultural identity is just “a phase.”

Kids are looking for an identity, and there is a huge mass media machine eager to give them one – one that has nothing to do with reality. If you are a Christian, of course you want your child to have a Christ-centered identity, but you need to know that the culture-centered identity is the exact opposite.

Culture of death

Don’t kid yourselves. This issue is a matter of life and death. And not just because of drugs, or AIDS. There is the slow death of betrayal, anger, despair, lost opportunity and broken dreams – as many 12-year-old girls are learning at the hands of 13-year-old boys. Christians have been warning America to get serious about the culture for a long time, most famously former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett, who popularized the term “culture war.” And yet, we all know who’s winning that war.

Christian researcher George Barna, who has also been warning the churches for years about the growing destructive influence of the mass media culture, despairs of our current situation. A recent national survey taken by Barna’s organization concluded that of the dominant social influences, including things like movies, television, books, popular music, parents, politicians and the like, the churches do not even make it to the top dozen “influencers” in our culture. This does not bode well for the future of America since the churches are our primary wisdom source when it comes to nurturing families. Without that wisdom in society, the culture runs wild – and children are its primary victims.

Let me be blunt: Unhealthy children become unhealthy adults. Unhealthy adults create unhealthy marriages. No healthy marriages, no healthy children – and so on in a downward spiral. Yes, individuals can and do turn their lives around, but the odds get increasingly dangerous since the culture corrupts young people with frightening speed.

According to New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, there are over 5 million young people between ages 16 and 24 who are out of school, out of work, with no skills, no prospects, and no hope. Five million Americans in their prime, roaming the streets prepared for nothing but misery.

This is a time-bomb waiting to explode. And we can’t just blame their dysfunctional parents, because the fact is, something corrupted the parents too. Ask yourself: Who told baby-boomers that illegal drugs were “recreational,” and that promiscuous sex was “freedom”? For the most part, it all comes back to the lying culture.

However, even healthy families have plenty to fear. Think of the culture as a tank of water with many different kinds of fish swimming in it. They may be fed well; the oxygen supply may be great. But if the water is toxic, you’ll get toxic fish, no matter what else you do. Parents must not kid themselves. Winning the Culture War is about changing the water our children swim in – nothing less.

What the experts know

The question is, how can we change the “mindset” we call the popular culture? After all, it has been around a long time, effectively rearing its ugly head back in the 1800s. By the 20th century, and the coming of radio and movies, a few influential people located in city centers gained the power to affect how regular Americans saw themselves.

This is nothing new to media experts. They have long since known about the impact of the culture on social habits. In the 1930s, when the hugely popular movie star Clark Gable took his shirt off in “It Happened One Night,” revealing a bare chest, American audiences took note. Suddenly the undershirt industry was in big trouble. People stopped buying them because Gable had. Of course, the reverse was obviously also true. The same technique could be used to get people to buy undershirts – or whatever.

Take this famous example of the marketing impact of movies and apply it to everything going on now in America’s mass media – not just movies and television, but also the Internet, computer games, music CDs and videos, and cable like Playboy Channel, VH1 and MTV. Do this and you’ll start to understand the profound effect culture has on our behavior – and not just our shopping habits.

There’s more going on than merchandizing product. There’s the buying and selling of “attitude.”

One historic example of changing attitudes through movies was the team of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, two stars who hugely influenced the World War II generation. Many of their movies were intentionally planned as a way to change America’s view of how men and women should treat each other (by changing attitudes among the young). Some of it was positive social change, but the lesson was clear. Hollywood could not only sell product, Hollywood could change minds. This skill became especially dangerous during the sexual revolution of the 1960s when Hollywood’s power was released on the whole baby boom generation, just coming of age.

I learned about the power of pop culture not only because I grew up in the culture capital of the world, New York City, but also because I was lucky to learn the trade from one of the very best graduate film schools in the country, New York University’s Institute of Film and Television. For three years, we learned all this in class. Nothing I write about here will come as a surprise to any media expert or communications professor. Unfortunately, most Americans are less aware of what’s going on.

Rebel culture: That’s entertainment?

The reason I went to film school was so I could affect mass media and “change attitudes.” It was a conscious decision on my part – I wanted to “make a difference.” Ironically, it took me a while to realize that what we film students understood as purposeful “mass manipulation,” most people saw as nothing more than plain old fun, relaxation, entertainment, whatever.

The reality of the culture’s impact on us all is hard to face. We don’t want to think our attitudes can be changed in such a calculated manner – although advertising executives will tell you how that’s exactly what they get paid to do. And if the wrong people are in charge of the culture – that is, people with a corruptive nature – the overall effect can be devastating to innocence. Young minds previously open to “reality and truth” change into minds full of fantasy, false assumptions and raw rebellion.

By the 1960s, the churches had given up their official guidance role, to which Hollywood had voluntarily submitted since the sex scandals of the early 1930s. After the churches pulled back, the floodgates opened. Each movie seemed to try to outdo the next in pushing against the sex-violence barriers. Needless to say, the rock music industry joined the cultural slide.

In the early ’60s, the Beatles were singing “I want to hold your hand.” Only a few years later it was “Why don’t we do it in the road?” And that was tame compared to everything else. The “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll” slogan of that era was no joke. And remember, that was over 30 years ago, when the technology was ancient and access to the American mind was limited.

Fast-forward to today’s America, and you have a scene right out of the popular and pointed science-fiction film, “The Matrix” (the first one), about a futuristic world where “reality” is an addictive computer program from which people must break free and find true reality. The film was a huge hit, partly because young people instinctively understood the bottom line: America has become a fantasy-addicted, highly commercialized population, “wired in” to practically every media source anyone can imagine. Computer games that are hardly more than pornography can effectively also train kids to be killers. And real pornography is out of the closet, brought to you by corporations like GM and AOL/Time Warner.

Shows like MTV’s “Spring Break” reveal teen sex playgrounds where orgiastic behavior is the whole point. Modern movies have perfected the sex-violence formula to such an extent that James Bond movies are positively bland. And the cycle is endlessly downward. Not only are consumers addicted, but so are the producers, who depend on the “revenue steam” to keep their companies solvent. The culture has almost become an independent living organism with a mind of its own, which increasingly victimizes everyone from corporations to consumers to little children. Who can say stop?

Growing alarm in America

James Dobson, Bill Bennett and George Barna have spent a good part of their adult lives raising alarm and urging action against this corruptive culture, as have many other Christian leaders from Don Wildmon to D. James Kennedy. But increasingly, a broader, more secular political spectrum is also genuinely alarmed.

Over the last few years, more and more secular media have begun to protest this corruption, even Public Television. “Merchants of Cool” and “The Lost Children of Rockdale County” produced by PBS’ “Frontline” and quoted above are full of shocking information that every parent and church leader should know – that every American should know. Both “Lost Children” and “Merchants of Cool” are available on video from PBS. Together, they paint an ugly – and accurate – picture of how the mass media manipulate American children to devastating effect.

Important: If you are interested, act immediately. PBS’ rights to “Merchants of Cool” run out at the end of January 2004 and it may cease to be available after that. Both “Merchants of Cool” and “The Lost Children of Rockdale County” can be purchased from WGBH at 1-888-255-9231 or from PBS at 1-800-PLAYPBS or 1-800-531-4727. Although these documentaries were aired on PBS, you should know there is some adult content. We all need to understand the techniques marketers are using to influence our teens and preteens. Tell your friends in other churches. (See action steps at end).

Not only does “Merchants” expose the fact that teenagers (a $150 billion market) are studied like lab rats in order to sell them product, but the video (or CD) also reveals just how the hyper-sexualized culture of MTV corrupts while it sells. And remember, this is not really a voluntary experience (although child molesters always claim their victims “want it”). American children are trapped in this hostile culture. The corruptive influences can’t be avoided, and no one can make a credible case that they can. The toxic culture is almost everywhere!

Parents have good reason to worry their children won’t survive the killer culture. One Columbia University report stated that whereas in the 1970s only 5 percent of 15-year-old girls had sexual intercourse, by 1997 it was 38 percent. Part of the curse of not understanding our own gender is that we then treat our sexuality as something insignificant and therefore cheap. This attitude is something we’ve been sold with devastating results.

Think about 3 million cases of STDs among teens every year. Think about the fact that STDs affect two thirds of college students. Two thirds! This isn’t the ’60s when a trip to the doctor could usually clear things up. Many of these diseases cause long-term effects, from infertility to cancer to AIDS. Kids are learning in massive numbers to accept a self-image that excuses or even glorifies self-destructive behavior. The culture is truly a killing machine, something “Merchants of Cool” makes quite clear.

I guess that video is part of the reason the skull-capped girl saddened me so. I saw her in church right after I’d shown “Merchants of Cool” to a local church leader. He was nearly in tears. And yet, as hard as this video is to watch (sexual images and all), in the end it gives you the kind of hope that comes with the awakening power of truth: Maybe, just maybe, our teenagers can reclaim their true gender identity instead of living the lie being sold to them by corporations.

This kind of “outing the truth” is increasingly common in the mass media. ABC’s Prime Time recently exposed corporate pornography where girls who just turned 18 are enticed into weird sex for broadcast by companies like DirecTV. Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly did a one-hour special titled “The Corruption of America’s Children.” ABC’s 20/20 did an expose on the horrors of middle-school sex. The culture war rages on, but its path of destruction is no longer a secret. Everyone’s talking about it. So now is the time for action.

Unplugging from the rebel culture

It is remarkable that fear of the corruptive, lying culture is being expressed from every corner of American society. However, I believe only the churches can lead America in the battle to reclaim the hearts and minds of our children from the abusive culture. Here’s why.

In order to wake them up to the “culture of death” (as Pope John Paul II called it), they must be shown a viable alternative. We must bring our children out of that false culture into something real. As any teen knows, the main characters in “The Matrix” don’t only come to realize the Matrix is a computerized fantasy. They also actually “unplug,” waking up to true reality, and thus to their obligation to wake others up. After young Americans grasp the painful fact that they are living a “culture identity” lie, there must be a real choice – a true identity made understandable to them, and that journey to their God-centered identity begins in great part with the most powerful and personal identity they have – their own gender identity.

I was fortunate to be given that choice, during my high school years when I most needed it. As a child of divorce, I had a developing identity problem – I didn’t know who I was. Raised in Manhattan, I was surrounded with and “plugged into” the mass media pop culture of the 1960s, which was always trying to sell me something (and very good at it too). By then, the image of traditional men and women was being undermined at every opportunity.

Increasingly, the culture told women that career was more important than marriage and children. Men were also lied to. It was the era of Playboy magazine promoting an “animal man” attitude that found its greatest mass media expression in the James Bond movie series begun in 1962. This false image of manhood, which even Bond’s creators admit was a fantasy formula of sex and violence, was presented to young boys as legitimate and real. Many of us didn’t survive that lie intact, and are still living out an aging playboy fantasy, right along with Hugh Heffner and his silk pajamas. Very sad.

Luckily, I attended two private schools that sought to tell me truth and teach me about real life. After attending a solid progressive school named Dalton, I was also privileged to attend an all-boy Episcopal school, steeped in traditions that dated back to its founding in 1709. Dalton was wonderful but it was co-ed, casual, and essentially secular. Trinity School gave me the cultural choice I desperately needed. Imagine, right during the gender rebellion of the Beatles and the larger cultural revolution, I was educated in an atmosphere that President Teddy Roosevelt, adventurer and builder of the Panama Canal, would have recognized as healthy for young men.

I entered this “old world” nervously in the eighth grade. It was truly a different universe, requiring tie-and-jacket uniform attire and the formal address of “Sir” or “Mister” when talking to a teacher (a respect that was returned). It was a sobering experience, an atmosphere of “men-in-training” that was a balm to my dysfunctional soul. I’d been struggling to find myself and Trinity School gave me that chance by providing a firm starting-place – my identity as a young man.

Ironically, while we “Trinity boys” were learning that respecting authority was the path to accepting our own authority as free citizens, and as men, the pop culture was actively rebelling from gender and teaching disrespect for authority – lies we still live with today. Notice that two of the toughest subjects to talk about are the value of submitting to proper authority and gender normalcy. Even traditional Christians sometimes shrink from the subject, yet the culture never hesitates to sell its rebellion and its own peculiar view of gender identity.

Selling gender attitudes

“Merchants of Cool” is an instruction manual for parents and teenagers, showing us all just what is really going on. It gives us some stunning examples of modern gender-bending, and how it’s used by corporations to sell product. Frontline analyzes the two gender icons used in most marketing strategies – called the “mook” and the “midriff.”

Both media caricatures will be immediately recognizable to you. The “mook” is the wild man you see everywhere, from the wild antics of comedian Tom Green and talk show host Howard Stern to just about every male you see on World Wrestling Federation. He’s crude, he’s rude, and he’s in your face. This sells boys a false sense of male power. And girls are no better off when it comes to their cultural image. They also get indoctrinated, as the PBS makes frighteningly clear. Girls are turned into dehumanized, nymphet “blow-up dolls,” symbolized by an over-sexed character marketers call the “midriff.” She’s everywhere in the advertising world. Pop stars across the spectrum play this role and present it as feminine, from Britney Spears to Jennifer Lopez. Ironically, they have to play these roles – because the “culture machine” demands it.

Meanwhile, our children become the victims of false manhood and false womanhood – the barbarian and the whore. “If he is arrested in adolescence,” says Frontline, “she is prematurely adult. If he doesn’t care what people think of him, she is consumed by appearances. If his thing is crudeness, hers is sex.”

And don’t be fooled by celebrity singers who dress down in rebellion from the “midriff” stereotype. Remember my skull-capped, angry 12-year-old girl, dressed in “baggies” and looking like a boy? “Finding yourself” is about finding true manhood or womanhood, not finding new ways to rebel against it. It’s about exposing the lie that says gender rebellion is freedom and sex is love. It’s about coming back home to the truth that transforms a life from one of empty despair to one of joy and productivity.

Once the culture convinced parents it was wrong to support children as young men and women in training, the trouble started – and soon schools weren’t doing it either, public or private. Very few single-sex schools survived the cultural revolution, and very few if any secular institutions still understand the American patriarchy, men and women who love and respect each other as men and women (definitely not gender-neutral).

Without that wisdom, love grows cold in secular society because men and women no longer trust each other enough to get married, much less to raise families. Recently, the New York Times reported on the alarming birth-rate drop in Europe, especially in Italy where city officials talked about lack of young children in the neighborhoods, the closing of schools, and the “pervasive sense that something is missing.” Of course something is missing, because the pumping heart of society is the family, and the key to understanding family is understanding men and women.

But where do young people go these days to learn how men and women should treat each other? There is an almost complete vacuum, except for the churches. The socially ignorant gender rebellion of the 20th century lives on in the 21st century as a central part of the “culture machine.” Grossly dysfunctional gender images continue to be projected on youth, simply because they’re good for business. No wonder everywhere you look these days there are young people living in gender confusion, filling the void as mooks or midriffs – or whatever other identity replacement the marketers package with their products.

This is not to overlook dysfunctional parents who are clearly part of the problem too (a story as old as mankind). We all know if a father (due to his own parental problems) harbors hostility toward women, and allows his own daughters to feel that hostility, those girls will grow up feeling inadequate, less comfortable in their femininity than they should be – the girl in baggies – and sadly, less comfortable with men (and ultimately their own boy children). The same thing happens to boys who regularly hear the phrase, “You’re just like your father” (as I did) spoken as an insult by their mothers. They end up unconsciously passing that pain on to their wives and daughters. And so it goes. But that said, the primary engine of promoting gender confusion is the culture, and the churches are the antidote to that confusion.

Reviving gender power

The road back will not be easy, and yet we must take it. Tragically, secular America has forgotten the power and significance of gender, in this oddly Darwinian world that thinks men and women are separate coincidences of nature – with our gender power/authority being hardly more meaningful than the color of our hair. Even Christian parents sometimes treat their sons and daughters as if they are the same (leading to rebellion). But in truth, the obvious physical differences are indicative of the greater significance – the spiritual essence that makes a woman and that makes a man. Children recognize it, and need it. They need the “father spirit” and the “mother spirit.” Children want the security that comes from order. They don’t want confusion. They don’t want “gender-neutral” parents because, then, how can they begin the journey of discovering who they are themselves, and what their responsibility should be to their future families?

This parental neutrality combined with our anti-gender culture (which acts like that dysfunctional parent undermining our identity) leaves us in total gender confusion, not knowing who we are allowed to be. We are bottled up – like unreleased energy. Or worse, we are like Samson with his Nazarene hair cut off. Having turned his back on God’s anointing, Samson loses his power. Men and women have done the same thing by cutting themselves off from their gender identity. Thus, both sexes have lost their true power – their true authority. We have rejected the Creator’s anointing, as if it had no real meaning.

But God doesn’t create without meaning. Even human artists know they must create with some purpose. And yet, ironically, we somehow think of the Artist of all creation as unsure and hesitant in His image of what men and women should be. He is not. For example, men must bear final responsibility for the safety and security of their families. Real men must be willing to give their lives for their wives, and real women must let them. Watch how this works, and see if you don’t agree!

In the true story of John and Mary Scully, lawyers who happened to be together on an ill-fated day in 1993 at a San Francisco law firm, this truth was heroically demonstrated. A gunman killed 8 people there in a rage of bloody violence – and one of those people was newlywed John Scully. As the deranged gunman was about to shoot the couple, John covered his wife with his own body. She lived and he died. And none of us would say that was out of order. And we all know too that Mary would protect her children with the same courage and selfless nobility. We understand intuitively that this order of responsibility cannot be reversed.

Under normal circumstances, it would be wrong for Mary to try covering her husband’s body with her own, nor would 28-year-old John Scully have allowed it. We would all have contempt for him if he did. That’s just the way it is. God made the order. We know it when we see it – and so do children. Yet, the culture has persuaded us to turn our back on God’s plan for us and to seek our own order, to make our own rules, and to declare our own power. It didn’t work for Samson, and it won’t work for us.

So it’s not surprising we have trouble disciplining our children on moral behavior (one of the more common complaints about baby-boomer parents). We rejected our true authority decades ago. And now, we adults don’t feel comfortable in our “self-made” authority as gender-neutral fathers and mothers.

American society is responding the same way. Genuine adult supervision of the “public square” is glaringly absent. In both PBS documentaries, it’s clear that no one feels responsible. The producers of the social sewage that pours through your television think they are just giving people what they want – they say the parents have to be responsible. Meanwhile, parents blame the culture, and the accompanying peer pressure.

“I just feel helpless,” said one despairing father in “The Lost Children of Rockdale County,” whose pre-teen daughter had been involved in many sexual orgies, which led to an STD epidemic. “I don’t believe I could put enough pressure on my family, my daughters, to overcome that kind of pressure, the social pressure that they come under. There’s just no way to do it.”

He’s not the only one at a loss. The documentary ends with a mother’s sad comment. “I don’t know the answer to it. I don’t think anyone does – because if there was an answer we’d change it. You would help any kid you could help if there was an answer.”

Thankfully, there is an answer. We need American mothers and fathers to be faithful to their anointing, to once again take hold of our civilization and lead as men and women. We need that new Civil Rights Movement, re-creating the loving environment that blessed this country not so long ago – a child-friendly environment that comes from a gender-friendly culture. Our secular (Darwinist) government – which thinks we are freaks of nature – can’t help us with this vision, because it can’t believe we are created beings, and therefore, it can’t believe we have any spiritual authority, any gender authority. But we do! And you know we do.

Rise up, and be the mother or father God created you to be! Do that and your children will respond – eventually – whether you are a single parent or not, especially if you are backed up by the mothers and fathers of your church. If fact, that’s the secret to the whole thing. If you don’t belong to a church, find one that understands this anointing you have, and honors it. Find one that fully supports you in your desire to be a strong and noble mother or father. Your children need you to be that, no matter what the “culture spirit” in them says. They need to “unplug,” and for that they need the “parent spirit” in you to show them the way. Give them that love, bless them in their gender anointing. Give them their power back –and don’t let anything stop you.

Rise up, churches, and lead us out of this darkness. Our parents need you to boldly support them in their god-given gender identity. Our children need you to show them a social culture that can stand up to the deceitful culture and call it a liar. Gather your men together. Gather your women together – your fathers and mothers, your grandfathers and grandmothers. Connect to other churches. Prepare to lead your community back to the love it once had – and don’t let anything stop you.

You and the wisdom God gave you are truly America’s only hope.

Practical action steps

Important: Please remember the following are only broad guidelines and ideas to get you thinking along certain right lines. It goes without saying that this type of outreach must be individual and spirit-led. So consider these action steps only as general principles, and not a rigid recipe.

One other thing: There are many good fighters in this cultural battle, using tools like education, boycotts, and political organizing. This is good and we should all involve ourselves in these efforts. However, I am addressing here the need for a more personal spiritual fight that begins with recognizing our own authority as men and women, and ends when we use that authority to reclaim our families and our land. In this struggle against the corrupt culture, we must remember they have their own support group (almost everywhere you look). But ours is more powerful by far – if we use it. We have our own support in the body of Christ, especially the church community both local and national, which can demonstrate a life-giving alternative to the killer culture.

FIRST STEP: Following simple logic, the first step is to bring yourself to a full awareness of the seriousness of the situation, and of why something proactive must be done. Most of us can get alarmed about problems, but then do nothing because “the big picture” seems so intimidating. Just take the first step and see what happens.

Order a copy of “Merchants of Cool.” Both the DVD and video are available. (Later, you may also want “The Lost Children of Rockdale County,” which describes the devastating effects of peer and cultural pressure on one particular group of teens in an Atlanta suburb.) But for now, “Merchants of Cool” will tell you all you need to know about the “identity war” going on in your community – and very possibly in your child’s heart. Consider it an essential tool, not only in inspiring your church leaders to action, but ultimately even using it to connect to older teenagers. (For younger teens, and certainly for pre-teens, avoiding certain segments will be necessary.) The point is that you will have a video that will do the talking for you. This is very important. We all think we understand how bad the culture is, but we don’t really. We also don’t understand the techniques involved, but this video will make all that clear.

Of course, this article is another tool you have to raise alarm among friends and family. One word of caution: Don’t expect everyone to react with your passion. Your job is to find the people who see what you see, and want to fight by your side. Too often, the first friend we talk to doesn’t have our passion – and we fizzle out. Don’t let that happen to you. Find your team, and that’s the next step.

SECOND STEP: Find a few other concerned parents of your own gender to watch “Merchants of Cool” together when it arrives. Yes, you can see it on the PBS-Frontline website, but it won’t be nearly as effective – especially not for group viewing. The website will be useful later to allow others to preview the program. Partners are good because if two or three people go to a busy church leader to say something is important, it tends to have more impact. Again, find your team.

THIRD STEP: Go to your church leadership and ask for a meeting with as many of them at once as possible. The youth leader should certainly be there. Have a formal screening of “Merchants of Cool.” Ask them if they would consider arranging a screening for the men and women of the church. After that, it is up to your clergy to design a course of action. They may have to present the idea to others in the church. It all depends on how the church authority is structured. Apply the same wisdom here as you did in previous steps. Don’t let one person’s reaction be the end of your effort. Remember, you are dealing with very busy people. Just make sure you’ve reached out to as many as you possibly can.

FOURTH STEP: Hopefully, your church leadership will approve going to the congregation. It should be screened separately for each gender so each can respond spiritually as “fathers” and “mothers.” It is difficult to recommend steps past this point, since everything depends on the reaction you get. What you are looking for is genuine determination: first, the horror that comes from fully understanding and acknowledging the anti-God culture; and second, the inspiration to figure out a way to fight back. Almost anything you do will have impact. Your church can begin the process of healing by simply raising this issue with other churches, youth groups, schools, parent and civic groups. You will be amazed at how many people are also horrified at this thing we call culture. It represents a very different America.

Standing firm and taking action

Rather than describe any more specific steps, I will just give you a few thoughts to point you in the right direction. Here’s another warning: We are talking about a genuine spiritual battle to awaken the youth – and many adults along with them. There will be resistance – after all, the culture is like an addiction and you and your team are performing a real intervention. So don’t be discouraged if things happen slowly.

Even after showing the video to the larger congregation, you will encounter some disbelief. Get your older members to talk about how men and women used to treat each other, and discuss how that “gender respect” was lost. You may want to challenge your church to go without TV for a week. The next Sunday you can all gauge the reaction, and tell your stories. If you dare, challenge yourselves to continue the TV fast for one more week! There is no better way to recognize an addiction than to go without. Few of us really recognize the power of television. For example, challenge yourselves with this question: Which is more real to you, what you read in the Bible, or what you see on TV? I’m afraid many of us would have to honestly admit that the culture is usually more real. After all, your church gets you for only a few hours a week. The culture gets the rest of your time. That says everything, doesn’t it?

Once the full church recognizes the problem, and feels a genuine desire to do something, the next mission is to show it to your older teens, keeping the genders separated. Let them recognize the problem as future men and women. Challenge them with the idea of “unplugging” from the culture. They know the culture is unreal – but they are hooked. A powerful motivation for teens to “unhook” is for them to realize younger children are watching and being influenced by them. So inspire the older teens to help you reach down to the preteens who are especially vulnerable. Let the older teens who are interested be part of the instruction. Challenge the children to join you in this fight against an unreal culture that hurts people every single day.

As your youth leaders will know, video is a very powerful teaching tool. Again, don’t be surprised at how addicted your children (and many of your adults) are to culture. Part of the reason gender power is so important is that you will need something very strong to go up against the culture, including of course, prayer. Remember David and Goliath. David turned away from the king’s armor and went to fight Goliath with the gifts God gave him. Well, the first gift God gives us, along with life and soul, is our gender identity – our true manhood or womanhood. Use that spectacular gift to stand against the Goliath culture, and get ready to watch it fall!