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BreakPoint This Week: The Lonely Generation

John Stonestreet interviews David Eaton of Axis Ministries and Andy Braner of Kivu Camps about re-connecting the most 'connected' generation.

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The culture at large is at war against our young people: music, TV, movies, the internet and the new media bombard them 24/7 with values antithetical to our Christian faith. But during today's broadcast, you'll hear from David Eaton of Axis Ministries and Andy Braner of Kivu Camps, who will show you how we can fight back with the biblical worldview.

David Eaton with wife, Lindsey. David is co-founder and CEO of Axis Ministry.
You spend the early years of a child's life trying to impart godly values to him or her, only to be undermined in later years by the culture at large, and cutting-edge technology has only exacerbated the problem. As John Stonestreet discussed on "The Point" recently, this generation is both the most connected and most alone in history. iPads, computers, smart phones, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, video games and of course, television were all originally intended to connect us with the people and world around us, but they've ended up doing the opposite.

Many today say they feel isolated. According to Sherry Turkle, sociologist at MIT and author of the new book, "Alone Together," as we stare into the glowing screens of our new "connectedness," which is free of commitment and real intimacy—where we are in total control of the image we present and how vulnerable we become—we're actually forgetting part of what it means to be human. For no one is this truer than teens and young adults, who grew up in the information age, and many of whom cannot imagine life without this impersonal connectedness.

Today's guests agree. David Eaton, founder of Axis, a traveling training program which teaches students to think critically about media, has devoted himself and his team to equipping young people to understand the power of the information they're bombarded with every day, and to master their interaction with technology, rather than allowing it to master them.

"One of the ways we talk about this at Axis is how media can sometimes hijack our imaginations," he says. "Sometimes it's very passive—you're sitting there and absorbing the ideas that are flying at you...But all of the sudden, you're being shown something, but not told something. It's describing rather than prescribing."

Andy Braner, founder of Kivu Camps and author of
"Alone: Finding Connection in a Lonely World."
Eaton echoes the thrust of this week's "Theme of the Week" and "Two-Minute Warning" at the Colson Center, in which John Stonestreet warns us to beware of hidden ideas. According to Eaton, the ideas which influence us the most are those which we do not perceive as ideas, but as mere entertainment. They slip in unnoticed under the guise of compelling stories and likeable characters, and quickly become unexamined assumptions and attitudes which shape the way we see people, morality, and even God.

But as Eaton acknowledges, parents don't want their students' assumptions shaped by media, but by godly instruction and the biblical worldview. "It all has to do with time," he says. "One of the things we can ask is, 'how much time are we spending with rectangles?' By 'rectangles,' I mean TV, computers, movies, and your iPod. It seems like we're spending seven-and-a-half hours a day with these."

The answer as to who is discipling the next generation, he says, is obvious. It isn't parents and the Church, but the culture via technology. This has to change. And that's exactly what David Eaton's ministry, Axis, exists to do.

Our next guest, Andy Braner, confronts the problem of disconnectedness head-on. Braner has dedicated his Christian camp ministry (the first location of which is camp Kivu), not to reversing the influence of media and technology, but to building the kind of community and connectedness these things have so poorly replicated. Returning to the foundations of biblical thought, Braner sees a picture of humankind in Genesis as incomplete without one another. A relationship with God, he says, is not enough. "It is not good," said God Himself, "that man should be alone."

Braner_Alone"It just clicked," says Braner. "Hey! We need each other. And in a Facebook, Twitter, Google+ world, we really don't have that communion with people that we once had—where we learned how to rejoice with people, we learned how to mourn with people, but rather I've seen this 'social connection' worm its way into our lives to where friendship is relegated to a click and a 'like.'"

Braner cautions that he did not write his book, "Alone" or establish Camp Kivu to demonize social media, but to help students learn how to live together--what some might call being truly human.

He illustrates this profoundly by retelling interactions with students in which he's helped them see just how disconnected their apparently 'connected' lives have left them. A young person with 1,500 friends on Facebook, for instance, might discover very quickly that only a handful at best of those who 'like' his statuses and 'share' his posts actually care about him in any meaningful way. The word 'friend,' Braner says, has come to mean so much less than it once did, that we're left wondering whether most of our online subscribers even know us beyond the edifice we allow them to see.

That's why Braner wrote "Alone," and what he hopes to change through Camp Kivu. As parents, pastors, educators, true friends, and members of the Body of Christ, we owe each other and our Savior much more than a friend request or a re-tweet. We were never meant to live in loneliness like this, and certainly never meant to imbibe our values and beliefs from impersonal media.

We invite you to share today's broadcast, check out the links below, and challenge the young people you love and mentor to re-prioritize the "rectangles," evaluate the depth of their relationships, and re-establish the kind of connectedness which God intended us to have with one another.

Make no mistake: This generation is the loneliest in a long time. It's up to us to reach out and connect with them in the ways they desperately need.

Learn More...

  • Visit Andy Braner's Kivu Camps. >>CLICK HERE.
  • Watch last Friday's video broadcast of "The Point" as John Stonestreet challenges our culture's idea of 'being a friend.' >>CLICK HERE.
  • Pick up your copy of Andy Braner's new book, "Alone: Finding Connection in a Lonely World." >>CLICK HERE.


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A couple of points
Interesting interviews. But just let me make a couple of minor points:

1. When Project X was mentioned, I was wondering whether you meant the movie I saw on TV years ago, the 1968 sci-fi film about brain experiments in 2118 on a spy in cryogenic suspension since the 20th century, or the 1987 Matthew Broderick flick about a soldier taking care of chimpanzees. So I checked with and found that there was also a movie by that name in 1949 about Communist infiltration and atomic espionage; a film by that name released in 2008 in the Philippines; the 1991 film JFK, which had Project X as its working title; and a documentary TV series in 2007-8 about a team of scientists. Of course you couldn't possibly mean the 2012 flick by that name that I had not heard of before. Or maybe you do.

2. When you mentioned rectangles, I thought, "Oh, good. You're going to talk about geometry." But when you gave examples of what you meant, I thought that a better word would be screens. That conveys exactly the kind of rectangles you were talking about, and excludes lots of other rectangular objects (like a page or a book or newspaper, an envelope, the top of a box, etc.) that you were not. It also would include a movie screen in a theater, which I think should be included.
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