This week, Sean McDowell and guest co-host Rick Langer discuss:

  • Political Realignment and Identity Politics: A discussion based on a New York Times opinion piece by David French, exploring the potential shift in political alignment among voters of color towards the Republican party. The conversation delves into the implications of moving from identity-based divisions to idea-based disagreements, emphasizing the health of democracy when debates are centered on ideas rather than identity.
  • Marriage and Well-Being: Analysis of a Gallup poll indicating that married individuals report higher levels of thriving compared to their single or cohabiting counterparts. This segment explores how the societal perception of marriage's happiness has evolved and examines the benefits of marriage for personal well-being, children's outcomes, and societal prosperity.
  • Smartphones and Gen Z's Mental Health: Based on Jonathan Haidt's work, "Generation Anxiety," Sean & Rick discuss the impact of smartphones and social media on the mental health of Gen Z, highlighting a significant increase in anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies among young people.
  • Listener Questions:
    • Good Friday's Significance: Should we call Jesus' crucifixion "good"?
    • Single Women and the Soulmate Model in Churches: Challenges in finding a partner within the church community due to prevailing expectations.
    • Integration of Secular Psychology and Biblical Views: Concerns about the integration of secular psychology theories in Christian counseling.
    • Women Pastors: Should it be a divisive issue among believers?

Episode Transcript

Sean: A study reveals that political affiliation may be realigning along non-racial lines. A Gallup poll reveals that married people are thriving significantly more than cohabiters or singles and ways to fix the mental health epidemic tied to Gen Z and smartphones. These are the stories we'll discuss today and we will also address some of your questions. I'm your host, Sean McDowell, and I'm joined by Biola professor and author, Rick Langer. This is the ThinkBiblically Weekly Cultural Update brought to you by Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. Rick, thanks for coming back to unpack these stories with me.

Rick: So glad to be with you, Sean.

Sean: Well, these stories are fascinating, so let's jump right in. And this first one is from the New York Times and it's an opinion piece from David French. And the title is "A Racial Realignment in Politics Could Be a Good Thing." So, here's what he said. He said, "There's evidence that voters of color are trending Republican." Now, I pulled some extra data from outside of this article specifically. He's talking about Hispanic, Asian, and black voters. But specifically on black voters, Trump got 8% in 2016, 12% in 2020, and now studies are showing 15 to 20% possibly in 2024. Now, he says some other things in this article and I really wanna know what you think about this. He said, "How did this happen?" He says, "Well, voters of color are trending towards Republicans and Trump, but this was offset by more white voters voting the other direction." Now, in this article, he says, "His purpose is to answer the inevitable question, is this a real realignment along racial terms? And what does it mean?" He said, "If so, in the short term, it could make a Trump victory more likely." He says, "But in the long term, any realignment that moves our democracy from identity-based division to idea-based disagreement is healthy for the US." That's where he had me. This is so interesting. So, he talks about how identity-based divisions tend to dehumanize people as we jump into our camps and identify with them and demonize the other. He makes a point that identity politics are uniquely vulnerable to zero-sum messaging—me-and-mine versus you-and-yours. But then here's where I think it's so interesting. He says, "When fundamental ideas are at stake, there's an opportunity for persuasion. It's nonsensical to think about trying to talk someone out of his race or class or some other form of identity, but you can talk someone into your favored welfare policy or your favored foreign policy.” And then he writes, he says, "To put it another way, when ideas trump identities, hatred becomes an obstacle to success because it interferes with your ability to persuade." So, if you care about ideas, then it makes it harder to demonize people according to their group and hate them. On the flip side, when identities trump ideas, hatred becomes an asset. Whipping up fear and hatred of the other is the shortest route to political success. The more fear, the more hatred, the better the turnout. Now, he goes into some depth on this, and I think he's so right about that. He says that, "Factions of black and Hispanic voters from the Democratic party to Republican party are heavily concentrated among those who describe themselves as conservatives." Now, a couple more things I want you to jump in here is, he says this wouldn't necessarily mean the end of identity politics. Is that he points something out really interesting. He says, "Pew reports that 72% of white Republicans and 60% of non-white Republicans say they believe in the God of the Bible." So basically, three quarters of white Republicans and two thirds of non-white Republicans believe in the God of the Bible. But then he says 61% of non-white Democrats or minority Democrats, but only 32% of white Democrats have the same beliefs. He says that represents a significant cultural clash within the Democratic coalition. And this is a really fascinating line. He says, "For every white atheist progressive posting scornfully about Christianity online, there's a black Baptist reading her Bible every day." Now, I've got a ton of thoughts on this that I want to weigh into, but I think we've laid it out for our folks. I'm really curious, what's your reaction, Rick?

Rick: Well, I thought this was a very, it was a great article, very interesting. And there's a couple of things it does really well that I thought were valuable and worth noting. One of them is a kind of dismantling, not—that's probably overstating it—but weakening the claims of identity thinking on our mind when we think of this. And this is one of the challenges we have when we see people as the particular identity group, as French points out, that's the thing you can't change. So, he develops that part with ideas. But the other thing is that category, that framework for understanding the world becomes your way of viewing everything. And you've discovered in this moment that that isn't a good way to see things. It blinds you to a whole set of things. For example, it blinds you to the 60% of people who are Republicans who are believing in God in this incredibly small percentage of Democrats, white Democrats, who are. And so you begin to realize, oh, the racial divide is a very blunt instrument that does catch some things, but misses a whole lot of others. I think for a lot of white people, there's things about Donald Trump that have become more problematic over time. But interestingly enough, that hasn't been reflected in minority populations, probably not so much because all these things about Trump have gotten that much better, but rather because they realize the Democratic Party is moving further away from a batch of core values that they have. And many of these, he calls them ideas, but they're really, a lot of them are just religious convictions. And the black community, the Hispanic community, and even a lot of the Asian community, you have an awful lot of people who are committed Christians and their Christian identity is more important to them than their racial identity when it comes time for doing a vote. So, your best explanatory technique may not be simply appealing to race. And that I think would be a healthy corrective for just our normal viewpoints in our political society and discussions.

Sean: That's a really helpful way to look at it. Now, by the way, part of what we're doing here is we're not even commenting on whether we think people should vote Democrat or Republican—that's not our point in drawing attention to this article. We're saying when there's a shift towards focusing on ideas rather than being expected to vote a certain way because of your race, that's a positive thing. Now, this goes both ways. Like certain people, maybe who are white Christians might tend to associate, well, we vote Republican because of our group identity. I would say the same thing. I'd say regardless of your race, regardless of your sex, regardless of your socioeconomic status, we should all look at political parties through the lens of ideas and as Christians through scripture rather than some group that we're expected to be a part of because of some identity factor. So, as a whole, there might be certain people going, oh, this is great when we look at certain minorities or less to vote a certain way. And I'd say, okay, you're welcome to celebrate that, but make sure you're not making a mistake on the other side and just being a part of your expected group identity. As Christians, we all need to go back to scripture. We all need to look at what these parties stand for, what lines up with scripture, and then just vote the way according to our conscience, we think things line up. So, if we are moving possibly towards ideas being more important simply than identity, as professors, that's something we can celebrate.

Rick: Yeah, indeed. And I would say particularly for us as Christians, as you mentioned this, to say, where does our allegiance lie in predetermined categories? As Paul so famously points out, neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, barbarian, Scythian, these categories kind of collapse relative to one's identity in Christ. And when it comes time to be thinking about politics, to be reading it through a tribal lens, be it ethnic or be it class or be it whatever it is that you're reading it through, those are the things that kind of get collapsed out of the picture in a Christian worldview. And you have to at some point say, so what about other biblical concerns? And these may overlap with the different categories. They surely do overlap with these other categories, which is part of why you get a certain amount of momentum for these distinctions. But I think it should be really clear to us as Christians that those things can't be our first concern. And if the overlap is such that you think you have a rough and ready indicator by race of how a person will vote, I would think that would be inherently problematic that you'd have a concern to say, hey, there's deeper things that we've got to probe than just those kinds of issues for all the importance of what those underlying concerns may be.

Sean: Well said, we are all easy to succumb to identity politics on a range of issues. Let's go back to Scripture. Let's evaluate this and make sure we do what is biblical. And he ends the article by saying, we don't know for sure whether racial realignment in partisan politics is underway. There are, the signs are there, but it may take a decade or more to determine if the present point represents a blip or a trend. In the meantime, this should give us a degree of hope. And I agree, a lot of people have said things like, demographics are destiny. And that assumed that people would vote a certain way based primarily and essentially because of their race. If we're seeing a shift, then maybe we're moving back towards where we can debate and persuade and go to ideas. That's something that we would welcome.

Rick: And one final thought I have about this issue is that he mentions about the ideas that can rehumanize people. I think that's a good thing to just stop and savor. And I would say even going a little bit beyond simply the ideas, I think it's a good thing to talk to people about their whole backstory relative to their political convictions because some of it is just idea-things. Some of it is their own personal experience that may relate to their class or to their agenda. I remember talking to a friend who had grown up in an upper middle class family until dad left the house. And suddenly they went from being relatively wealthy and comfortable to being impoverished. His dad, the dad in question committed adultery, left the family. Suddenly you've got a single mom who's trying to make things work and their essential support came from a welfare system and certain other resources, everything from food stamps to whatever else. And so, it isn't so much an idea-thing as a real experience that they had to make me realize, man, there's a slice of the world that I had never seen before that I suddenly got introduced to at age 13. And that has reshaped my thinking. Doesn't make them right, doesn't make them wrong, but it makes it wildly easy to understand why they might have a bent to vote, particularly on particular policies or sometimes for a particular candidate. And that's really helpful for rehumanizing the person. Instead of them having a faulty idea, they've had an experience that you can hardly diminish the significance of and oftentimes would actually endorse their thinking. The reason why they held their position even if you don't agree with the idea itself.

Sean: So, as we move into one of the most dicey political campaigns, at least in my lifetime, someone sees the world differently, there's a backstory, there's an experience. Let's find common ground, humanize them, try to persuade, but make sure we do it in a respectful way, understanding there's more at play. Good word.

All right, let's jump to this fascinating story that came out this week about married people thriving more than cohabitors or more than singles. Now this came out by a Gallup poll, which obviously gives it some force. It was picked up by a number of different publications. And the title says, “Married Americans thriving at Higher Rates than Unmarried Adults.” Now, what's so intriguing about this is they have a general social survey that documents between 1988 and 2012, a significant change in Americans believing that married people are happier than unmarried people. So, you've seen this shift where Americans have increasingly begun to believe that the happier people are not married. At the same time, the study's showing the exact opposite and the exact reverse. But Gallup wellbeing data from 2009 to 2023 found that married people are much more likely to be thriving in their well being than adults who have never married or divorced who are living with a domestic partner. So, this is all audio. But if you could almost imagine like a graph going down, which is the amount of Americans who think that married people are happy, crossing a graph that says Americans who are actually happy, they'll literally be going the opposite direction. So, Americans' beliefs are increasingly not lining up with reality. And what do they mean by thriving? Thriving, they mean people who describe their lives as like a seven or eight and higher in terms of just their current life and their expectations and how positive it is. The difference is it's actually a 16 point gap. So those who are married, 61% fall in the gap of thriving. Those who are single, 45%. Now they point out a couple of things. They say statistical models show that the association between marriage and wellbeing is not explained by educational attainment or age or even by race. So this becomes a significant factor that crosses age, crosses education, crosses racial difference—marriage does. And they say one indication of why married people express higher subjective well being is that the quality of their romantic relationships tend to be higher.

Now, again, if we did a study and said, who has better romantic relationships, singles or married, Americans would largely say singles are having better romance. And yet again, this poll says the opposite. So, this is also true with cohabitors. So it's not just living in a home with somebody. There's something about being committed to life with people that makes you happier, which is interesting. And then they wrote this couple more points than wanting to jump in. It says within the US, it is clear. And by the way, when polls and academics say it's clear, they better have the data to back it up. “It's clear that married adults rate their lives more highly than others and have done so for the past 15 years.” That's significant. Now, why does this pattern exist? They say married people may possess long-term personality traits and characteristics that tend to make life better for themselves and their intimate relationship. But this doesn't explain all of it. So, here's the bottom line. Last point I wanna make is I just interviewed Bradley Wilcox who has an amazing book out called, “Get Married.” We haven't posted it yet. But when I was interviewing him, I asked this question. I said, married people rate themselves as being happier and thriving more. Is that because happier, more thriving people get married? Or is it something about marriage that creates a kind of happiness and helps people thrive? And he's a sociologist. He said it's both. There's a certain kind of person that gets married, but there's something about marriage where you stop focusing on yourself and you sacrifice for your spouse, you sacrifice for your kids, you start building a meaningful life, and therefore you're more likely to describe yourself as not only happy, but thriving. This doesn't surprise me as a Christian 'cause I think God has made us in a certain fashion. But tell me your thoughts and reflections as you saw the study that just came out.

Rick: First thing, when I read the headline, when you sent me the copy of the article, I thought, Sean, this isn't a news article. This is like calling the sun rose this morning. News flash, the sun rose, you're kidding. How did that happen? Was it in the East again? I have been teaching a class here at Biola called “Money, Sex, and Power” for almost 20 years, and I had been teaching on things related to marriage for about 10 years before that as I was a pastor at the church. And the data on human thriving and traditional marriage is simply breathtaking. And so, the actual data from Gallup was interesting for the reason that you just pointed out was that the decreasing expectation that marriage is actually a thing that makes you happier, that is a bit of a change. But the overall happiness, the brute fact that married people are much more likely to see themselves as thriving, that has just been true for as long as I've been able to drum up data from sociological studies on this kind of stuff. It's just crazy, the difference that it makes. And it's not just for the parents, benefits for children from marriage, better academic performance, less criminal behavior, less premarital sex, less vulnerability to peer pressure, less abuse, less poverty. Basically every single meaningful indicator you could find of flourishing children is improved by being in an intact home. And the bottom line is, I think you were mentioning it a little bit earlier, is that this is one of those reflections that marriage is actually a thing that is very much designed into the human person. When I talk to my students about this, I say something, to get their attention, I say, “Actually marriage is not a Christian institution.” And everybody sits up, the rocks begin to come out. And I said, “No, it's a divinely ordained human institution. If you want a Christian institution, look at the church, look at baptism, look at the Lord’s supper. So those are things for Christians. Marriage is designed for humanity. It was in the garden. It was before Judaism existed, not just before Christianity existed, right?” This is a thing that is intended to be an essential part of human beings living successfully and thriving in the world. The absence of marriage, you're not gonna be able to fulfill the creation mandate, the thing that human beings are meant to do as part of our species function.

So, this is one of these areas that you just look at and say, yeah—I guess two things I wanna say. One, is it's a reminder that this is divine, part of God's design, and that human beings can't really dodge that bullet. Whatever our expectations and thoughts are, reality has a way of doing away with fantasy. The other thing that's interesting about it to me is the incredible value that we should place on the people who are actually doing the social science research about this. So, you mentioned Brad Wilcox, and I hadn't realized you'd interviewed him, but I just picked up that copy of his book on getting married. He has this great line at the beginning of it. He says, "For most of us, getting married and forging a strong family is the best way to build a prosperous, meaningful, happy life, and a way that needs a lot more guidance and support from culture and law than it is now garnering. Nothing less than the future our civilization depends on more Americans succeeding in this most fundamental social institution." And notice what he's saying is it is a matter of broad civilization flourishing. And the other thing he points out, marriage needs more cultural and legal support than it's garnering right now. And I think the key thing for us as Christians, and we might say, "Why don't we just read the Bible on this?" You know, it would have told us to do this. I'm like, "That's great, but do we care about our neighbors or do we not?" And if we're living in a secular culture or a pluralistic culture for whom everyone would benefit from healthy marriages, should we not be supporting that? And if we're going to support that for a culture, don't we need to have arguments that are appealing to things other than merely scripture? Not because scripture isn't true, but the point is, we're gonna have to persuade people who don't read scripture or don't believe it's true. And the work that people like Bradley Wilcox and many others have been doing over the course of these last several decades has been a wonderful resource on that. And so, yeah, I mean, I look at it and say, if my local government said, "Well, we don't really care about a program that gives better academic performance for kids and decreases criminal behavior and decreases your pre-mural sex, abuse and poverty." You know, if they don't care about that, they should be voted out of office, right? And marriage produces those kinds of human goods. And we ought to know that, we ought to trumpet it. And I am thankful for people who have done that research 'cause it's very, very helpful for kind of making a natural law argument instead of just a biblical one.

Sean: That's really well said. On your first point, even in the scriptures, we have marriage in Genesis 1 and 2 before the nation of Israel appears in Genesis 12 and the Christian church appears, you know, thousands of years later. It is built into the fabric of the world and our bodies that for civilization to thrive, we need successful marriages. Now, by the way, it doesn't mean every marriage is thriving and it doesn't mean singles aren't, but it's largely what the statistics show. That's vital. Now, another point you made, I love that you quoted this, Wilcox's book—you're gonna love it, it's fantastic. Marriage is not just about our individual happiness. It is required for society to thrive as a whole. It matters. Now, what we've seen is the replacement rate has dropped from 2.1 kids per woman to 1.6 since about 2007, 2008, around the time of the initial economic collapse. That equals seven million less people born because of that rate has gone down. Think about the societal impact of seven million less people born. That's huge. We need to have enough babies and the replacement rate is 2.1. So, now we're falling behind it. And so people are less likely to get married, they get married later. And then they're less likely to have kids. And when they do have less kids, that's just where things are trending. And yet studies are showing married people are happier and it's required for a thriving civilization. And Americans are buying into all these myths that marriage won't make me happy, these soulmate kinds of myths. So we're really at a pivotal spot in our civilization. He points out, for example, this is what Wilcox points out in that book, that even marriage creates wealth. So, for example, a married couple, a man's household income in his 30s is $95,000, median income in the US. Cohabiting, it's $68,000. Singles’ is not half of the married, it's 42,000. So, there's something about marriage that domesticates a man, so to speak, and makes him think about sacrificing, working harder, caring for his kids, caring for his spouse. And that's why most of the crime is done by single men. So when men get married, that has less effect on society. And like you said, with kids, with the mental health of kids, anxiety, depression, suicidality, less risky sexual behavior, I mean, it's clear that the defining factor for a healthy society is the state of its marriages. And sadly, we're seeing that decline. So, in some sense, it gives us an opportunity as the church to model this, to care about this. And frankly, when we live healthy marriages in a world that is less and less living that, there's a certain draw because we know that we need a mom and a dad, we yearn for that family. So, it's just a chance for the church that I hope we'll take. Anything else in this one that jumps out to you, Rick?

Rick: No, I do think this is one of those areas where we should be vocal about the value of it for the sake of human flourishing. This is just a thing that we need for our culture. And I've noticed in recent years, an increasing number of Christians kind of saying, "Well, look, who cares what the government says about marriage or things like that? The Christians should just do what Christians and let the government do anything it wants." And I'm like, "I don't think you're actually loving your neighbor because healthy marriage practices are a blessing to people, period. It doesn't matter if they're Christians or non-Christians. It just is one of those things." So, I think we should be concerned about that and not just say, "Hey, the church will do what the church will do and let the government do what the government does." This is an area that ought to be of real concern.

Sean: Amen, preach it brother. All right, let's move to this one. This is an article you sent me and I got this book, but had not read it yet or this article. And this is by Jonathan Haidt, who is, as far as I understand, he's not a Christian. I think he's probably politically to the left of both of us if I had to guess.

Rick: He's definitely to the left of both of us.

Sean: Okay, all right.

Rick: Secular, liberal,, Northeastern Jew would be, I think, his self-description.

Sean: Good, now he spoke at Biola about four or five years ago on his earlier book, "The Coddling of the American Mind." It was fantastic. So. yeah, this article is a piece from his new book that's out called "Generation Anxiety." And he says that smartphones have created a Gen Z mental health crisis, but there are ways to fix it. So here's just a little bit of the data he walks through. He says, "At the turn of the millennium, technology companies created a set of world-changing products that transformed life for adults and children. Young people used to watch TV, but now this new technology is portable, personalized, and more engaging than before. Yet companies that developed them had done little or no research on the mental health effects. When faced with the evidence of it, these companies, we've seen it with all sorts of companies, with Facebook, Meta, Instagram, going across the board, denied it, obfuscation, public relations campaigns. They kept trying to maximize engagement by using psychological tricks to keep young people clicking. They hooked children during vulnerable developmental stages where their brains are literally just being rewired. The most damaging effect, he said, was on girls, but video game companies and pornography sites also sank their hooks deepest into boys. And it created a sense of just, we're not playing together outside, we're not looking together face to face, and it's having a damaging effect on mental health. Now, he says, it's basically like this young generation are test subjects. And it's funny to hear him say that, 'cause for years I've said when speaking to adults and youth pastors, I've said, it's like we're doing this big experiment on the next generation, and we're seeing it unfold in front of us. And I think that's right. And so he goes on and he says, in the five years, this is what's interesting. “Between 2010 and 2015, the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and beyond, I know it's true for New Zealand, the number of young people with anxiety, depression, and even suicidal tendencies started to rise sharply. In fact, it surged by about 150% during that time. Now it affected boys and girls, but specifically young girls. So, the rate of self-harm for young adolescent girls nearly tripled from 2010 to 2020. And the suicide rate for young adolescents jumped 167% during that same time.” Now, what I loved here is he says, “Sometimes people think that's just because there's these cultural events going on that's causing the depression.” So one person responded by saying, of course young people are depressed. Look at the state of the world in the 21st century. Began with 9/11, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, global financial crisis, global warming, school shootings, not to mention wars in Ukraine and the Middle East. But what Haidt writes is, well, I agree that the 21st century is off to a bad start—understatement of the year. The timing does not support the argument that Gen Z is anxious and depressed because of rising national or global threats. It's not COVID because the depression was already steep and rising before the time of COVID. It's not climate change he walks through. And he says, in fact, sometimes when there's been larger concerns, it energizes people. And this line is really key. He says, “People won't get depressed when they face threats collectively. They get depressed when they feel isolated, lonely, or useless.” Now, I just wanna say that again.”People don't get depressed when they face threats collectively. They get depressed when they feel isolated, lonely, or useless.” And his argument is that social media, while not all bad, creates a sense of comparison, a sense of isolation, and it breaks down the human face-to-face interaction that makes us whole and live meaningful lives. Now, he gives some steps at the end how to avoid this. Before we jump into the solution, you sent me this article. Tell me what jumps out to you about this.

Rick: Well, I think the issue of the unexpected, I guess, unexpected impact of a technology. I'm sitting here thinking, what, the guy at Apple, when did the iPhone come out in 2007 or something like that?

Sean: That sounds about right.

Rick: So, somewhere back in 2005, there's some guy sitting in his little cubicle at Apple thinking about, hey, what if we, instead of just making a cell phone, what if we put a whole computer in a phone? Wow, wouldn't that be cool? And so, you know, they make it. And I still remember a friend of mine bought one of the first iPhones. He comes to this breakfast meeting we have, and he breaks it out, and he has the Cowbell app. I don't know if you remember the Saturday, I just get one of the guys saying more Cowbell. So, he would shake the phone and would give a louder and louder Cowbell sound. And I'm like, if that's the only app you're making, I think we'll all survive. But of course, one app leads to another app, leads to another app. And the next thing you know, you're making things that are your own destruction. And I got into reading this kind of stream of literature because I was working on some other things just about technology, AI, some of the challenges it poses to us. I'm teaching a Doctor of Ministry class and we're taking a session and looking at that. So, I was intrigued when I saw this book by Jonathan Haidt. And as I was looking through it, I got one more example of thinking that you made something to make that you could use to work on the world. It turns out that tool that you made is actually working on you. Unexpected ways, things that you didn't imagine. And that there's probably some nefarious guy sitting there up at Facebook or Meta or something who is thinking evil thoughts. But by and large, most of these folks are just doing the things that most people do is that they've got a product, they're trying to make it work better, they're trying to get more revenue so they can keep working on it. And the whole machine goes and no one pulls their head up to ask, not can we do this, but should we do this? Is there a moral issue? What is the impact? And as Haidt points out, who was doing the studies of the impact on this? And honestly, it's very, very similar, as you were describing it, it reminded me of exactly what happened with cigarette smoking, where everybody did it. It was very prevalent throughout much of the world. But research began to show an incredible correlation between smoking, nine times so 900% more likely to get lung cancer if you're smoking two packs a day. And I don't know that it was so bad with the first person who realized, man, I can take this weed and set it on fire and smoke and it's kind of good. I doubt he was thinking about that. But the point is sooner or later that information comes up and what do you do when you see it? And the answer is apparently we, as you put it, obfuscate, we hide, we shield, we deny. And I think that the exact same thing that we saw happening with the cigarette industry has been happening with the social media industry where they have not wanted to confront it. And now we're beginning to say, wait a minute, what are we gonna do? And the one thing I'd wanna add about this, and this may lead to something you were talking about with the what do we do about it. It's really interesting, like with smoking, to take that example, you can blame everything on the cigarette companies. And they indeed try to make it more addictive. They try to get the right amount of nicotine to maximize the addiction. All of that is bad, but at some point you would stop and wanna say, but nonetheless, I can decide not to smoke or I can decide to change, I can quit. And I would like to argue we're doing the same thing right now where we want to push all responsibility onto social media companies. And I'm happy for them to take their share. I mean, absolutely. But I would like to argue for us as Christians and for us as parents of children, or in my case, a grandparent of kids who aren't that far from the age that they begin to pick up these sorts of things to say, you know what, we need to decide what we're gonna do. And I'm not sure what the industry will do. I don't know what Apple will do. I don't know what technologies we'll get. But the bottom line is this is really important and I need to take it seriously. And I think the information at this point is no longer anecdotal. We just plain know the dangers and they are profound. It's ugly.

Sean: It is, and I know you'd agree with this. It's not that somebody just simply chooses to quit something that's addictive, but people can say, I need help. I want some assistance, right? That's where we do have agency and we're not just passive products being used by this. We make choices and we can make choices. Now, what's interesting about this is it's not just people subjectively reporting that they're feeling more depressed. Because some studies on Gen Z, Gen Zers roughly maybe 12 to 30 years old, or 15 to 30 right now, report that they're more depressed. But if you look at the number of suicide attempts, the number of people checking into a hospital because they've been cutting, these objective standards show we've seen an increase across socioeconomic differences and racial differences and even national differences countries going back to around 2010, 2012 when the majority of people had smartphones in their hands and were accessing social media. Now, what do we do about it? We could do multiple shows on this, but here's Haidt’s suggestion and I'm all more just throw them out there for people to wrestle with. He says four things. One, no smartphones before year 10. Now by that he means if you just have a little flip phone at 10, but no, at least with limited internet browsers.

Rick: Give them the cowbell app. [both laugh]

Sean: There you go, exactly. Exactly, even though they won't know what it is, just give it to them.

Rick: Yeah, it doesn't matter.

Sean: At age 14 is the soonest they could have one with an internet browser and access beyond. The only thing I would add to this is we told our kids that the earliest they could have one is 13, but they're not gonna get one until we feel like they're the kinds of kids who can handle it and have boundaries. It's like my kids always said, my dad said to me, he goes, son, you don't get to drive when you're 16. You get to drive when you're 16 and we feel like you're mature enough to handle a car. So. if you say a kid gets a phone at 14, you lose all your power. That's the only little qualifier I'd add to his great one. Although I would say this, my two older kids, my 11 year old, we are pushing it back later and later and later as this data comes out. But then he says, no social media before 16. Now for parents, this is really tough. Because we were the last ones with both our kids at a Christian school in Southern Orange County to give our kids smartphones at the end of eighth grade. And do you know how many times, Rick, I was told you're the worst parents ever, even this kid's parents and they're super conservative, give them phones. So, it's easier to give in and not do this because you don't wanna fight the battles. And I totally understand that. Social media before 16 is a very reasonable one. The only thing I would add is also have your kids handles and check it and follow up. Then third, it says phone free schools. I love that. Now, some people freak out, but the idea of just putting your phones in the locker and they stay away from coming out nonstop in the halls, in class, which affects the culture. I love that idea. Then it just says more unsupervised play and childhood independence. Those four things are great. Anything you would add to that?

Rock: So, one thought that occurs to me is it's very hard to tell a kid to do something that you're unwilling to do yourself.

Sean: Amen.

Rick: So, one of the things with, I admit I parented my kids before cell phones were a thing. But we did have movies, we had a bunch of stuff that was the key thing. So, I was the draconian dad. We did not have a television set. I did go down to Best Buy, bought a 27 inch gold cathode rate TV. On the way home, I stopped at a TV repair shop and I told them to break it so that I couldn't get any channels over the air but could only play videos on it. And so, I brought home this 27 inch TV that I couldn't watch my Denver Broncos win the Super Bowl on. Because I didn't want the TV in the home. When the kids were old enough that, hey, my friends are all going to see R rated movies, I'm like, yeah, well, you know what? Here's the deal. My wife and I won't watch any R rated movies and neither will you until you're 17. I know you're 13 and you're sure it's all good but we're gonna join you in this project and we will give up watching certain movies that I would have watched. “Armistead” was a great movie, it came out during this time. I didn't watch it because I had made that commitment to my own kids. And so, I think some of this, it's hard for people like you and me and many others to actually do their job without a cell phone but it isn't so hard to say, you know what? It's five o'clock, everybody's putting that phone, that locker we were talking about for the school, we're gonna have a locker at home and we're gonna put that thing in the locker and then at seven o'clock before kids go to bed, you can check or whatever it is but you're gonna play by the same rules you want your kids to. And you save a lot of wear and tear that way 'cause they can't look at you and say you're a hypocrite because the bottom line is you're doing what you're asking them to do.

Sean: Good word, I love it. And as kids get older, they get more and more freedom if they show responsibility. All right, let's jump into some questions here.

Rick: All right.

Sean: We'll probably have maybe a couple minutes on each one. This first one, I have breakfast a couple times a week with my son making breakfast and we just talk, my 11 year old, and he asked me this question this week. He said, "Dad, if Jesus experienced such a terrible death "by crucifixion, why did they call it Good Friday?" And first off, I said, "What a great question, buddy. "I love that you ask questions. Use your mind, God has given it to you." And I said, "You know what? There is something intuitive about your question.” We don't celebrate the day JFK or Abraham Lincoln were assassinated. That would be morbid and messed up with what we did. Even someone who's evil, we're glad that their life ended but we don't just celebrate it in the sense of this is an objective good in the way we do the death of Jesus. And so, the reason we call it Good Friday is because his death is what he accomplished by paying for our sins. Jesus willingly laid down his life as the perfect sacrifice for our sins to pay the debt we owed to God. And it was that death which kind of was foreshadowed by the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. He paid a debt for our sins we couldn't pay ourselves. And I'm trying to explain this to an 11 year old. And I said on resurrection on Sunday, we celebrate that he conquered death and offers us eternal life. So. I figured I would ask this question since it's Easter week. Anything you wanna add to that?

Rick: I think that's great. Yeah, we don't celebrate bad and dark and suffering things but we do celebrate things like, well, D-Day. So, June 6th. You think of what happened to people June 6th, 1944, thousands and thousands of people were killed but that was the beginning of the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany and it's a thing we're celebrating. And there's this good that comes out of the bad is often a thing we celebrate. I don't know, you're right about the good. I mean, your son's right about the “good” adjective that we use there is kind of like, well, good. Well, it is good. It is good. But you do have to look at the big picture. So, yeah, great question.

Sean: Well said. Here's kind of a more practical one where we're written in. It says, "Your conversation about the soulmate model of marriage helped me make sense of what I've seen among Christian singles in my area. I'm a 33 year old single woman and active in church and our church has many single adults, both men and women. I've only recently started looking for a partner but I'm more practical than romantic in my considerations. When I discussed dating and even approached some of the men at my church, it's obvious that they have a Christian version of the soulmate model. They're searching for the perfect woman and I don't meet their expectations in terms of beauty. What advice do you have for me in such an environment? Should I approach my church leadership? Any thoughts you have are appreciated.”

I wish I had thoughts to fix it for you. I can tell your heart is yearning to be married and to find the right man. So first I just have sympathy and appreciate you taking the time to write in. I think you kind of have two solutions. One is to find a man with a soulmate model and change his mind. Good luck with that. Or find a man who doesn't embrace the soulmate model. Seems more likely. How do you do that? You just find the most social environments, you get engaged as you can. If there's an appropriate dating app and not all are equal, I've seen that work at times for people. A church can be that place. So, you just wanna get out there, make yourself available, try to find relationships. Church is a wonderful place to do that. I would go to your church leadership. I would consider doing so. And you sound like a reasonable person, but with the right spirit and in the right way and just tell your story 'cause they'll understand your community. Maybe they'll have some ideas and maybe that'll spur them to do a little bit more formal, careful teaching about what we should expect in relationships and the myths behind the soulmate model. Rick, do you have any other words of encouragement here?

Rick: I think you made a good point about approaching the leadership. There's two different ways you could be thinking about it. One is to say, well, I want the leadership to work on changing the culture of the church. And that is a helpful plan. The one thing you wanna remember is that marriage really is a human institution and the cultural waters of marriage are much broader than just the church. And so, what an individual church does doesn't change the prevailing cultural model of marriage very much. So, that will be a challenge. But that said, I think you're right to say, some of this is a good thing to bring up. It'd be a good thing to teach on. I worry that we actually often endorse a kind of the Christian soulmate model. And I think it'd be a good thing to speak up. So, I think it wouldn't be a bad thing to talk about it from that standpoint. But at the personal level, it's probably gonna be a combination of perseverance. You don't need to change the whole culture. You need to find a person that shares your image, your vision of a different way to do things. And that will likely take time. But those people are probably likely out there. So, I would encourage you to do the things you see to do, but also to persevere and to trust because I think God will bring people along, but it may be a longer, harder process than a person would wish.

Sean: Good word. Now, Rick, you're in charge of kind of integration at Biola, so, I'm really curious how you'll weigh into this question. But we recently had one of our normal episodes that airs on Tuesday, not these cultural updates. And interviewed a Biola Rosemead professor about mental health. This person says, "While listening to the Biblical View of Mental Health episode, I was disoriented. Your podcast is titled Think Biblically, but you and the guests seem to completely buy into the secular model of counseling. Secular psychology is based around thinkers like Freud, Nietzsche, Skinner, and others. All these are largely haters of God. Their ideas include that people are basically good. We can find the answers to our problems inside ourselves. Happiness is found in having our deepest needs fulfilled. These ideas are completely antithetical to what God's word tells us. In sum, psychology is not science, but a worldview. How do you justify adhering to such a secularized approach to human problems when the Bible has all the answers we need?"

Now, I would just say a couple of things here. The question, which I appreciate, says the guest seems to, and that's right, be careful moving from what seems to, to read certain things into what he believes. And so, he moved from seem to say there's these secular thinkers that are completely haters of God. Therefore, there's nothing we can gain from any secular thinkers, or let alone psychology that's not rooted in Freudian, Nietzschean ideas. Why don't we just go to the Bible? I guess my first response would say a lot of science is affected by materialism, but there's a lot of good things we can find in science. History can be deeply affected by naturalism and deny, say, the supernatural, and have a certain view of human nature. And yet there's a lot we can know and gain from history. I would say the same with psychology. So we have to approach it with worldview differences very carefully, and I appreciate this, but if we're willing to find truths outside of the Bible, because people outside of the Bible are made in the image of God, live in God's world, can use their minds to gain knowledge, in disciplines outside of psychology that add to what's in the scripture. I don't see why we can't in principle do that carefully and thoughtfully when it comes to psychology. What say you?

Rick: Yeah, so I think your point is well made. A couple things I'd probably add to that. One is simply kind of a theological point on this, not just practical benefits that come from studying things. But to say God chooses, if you want to think biblically about everything, you have to take that seriously and say, okay, what does the Bible teach me about how God reveals himself? And the answer to that question is that sometimes God chooses to reveal himself in the spoken word. He will speak words and say, thus saith the Lord is recorded and we get the Bible, in other words. Sometimes weird things happen when God talks. So he'll say something like, let there be light. And L-I-G-H-T doesn't come out, but photons actually come out and we have light. And so he reveals himself both in His word and His world. The thing for a Christian that's important to view both word and world is acts of God's divine self revelation. It's ways He makes himself known to humanity. And sometimes he does that by creating worlds and the world in a certain way, sometimes he does it by speaking about the world that he's made. Sometimes he does it by manifesting himself in an incarnate son of God. He does all of those things to make himself known to us. And if you want to really get a full picture of the mind of God, you have to read both books, so to speak, the book of nature, the book of scripture—if he made them both as an act of revelation, you should read them both. And when they talk about the same thing, you should read them together. So, I think the anticipation would be that the world that we live in was made by God. The words that we read in scripture came from God and we should normally be expecting them to actually coincide. And so, if a psychologist studies something existing in the world, namely a human being or human relationships or things like that, they should largely be finding things that coincide with what you get with scripture. Now a person might say, well, Rick, you need to read more because these guys don't always agree. And I go, yeah, I know they don't always agree, but honestly, isn't that true when you read people who are interpreting God's word as well? Have you ever read a Mormon? Have you ever read a person who's a secular Jew? Have you ever read a person who's an atheist who's reading the Bible? You can misinterpret the Bible. You can misinterpret the world. And in both cases, what you want to do is say, what we need is good sound Christian thinkers reading word and world together with a common purpose of saying, what does the mind of Christ say about this particular thing? And I don't know who said what on your particular podcast. But the idea of thinking about this from the integrative standpoint is exactly that. This is an issue of exactly thinking biblically, but when you read the Bible, you discover we don't have a Gnostic world that is evil and made by an evil God. We have a good world who's made by a good God and he views the material world as actually a good thing. So, it is an act of actual divine revelation.

Sean: That's a great word. So, thinking biblically doesn't mean we only take what we need from the Bible. It means the principles and worldview of the Bible we take to the world and filter it through a biblical lens, both general and special revelation. Good, good word. All right, last question. This one will be pretty fast. It says, I'm writing in response to your discussion, a couple of weeks ago, on the topic of women pastors. You come from a more complimentary perspective and I come from an egalitarian perspective, but I'm curious whether you think this is an issue that believers should divide over or if it is one where there is space to have differences within Orthodox Christianity. Whichever answer you choose, why do you think that? So, I would say it's definitely not a salvific issue that divides in the faith and out of the faith. Now, practically speaking in a church, a church is gonna have to make a decision whether they ordain women pastors or not. And then if, for example, they ordain women pastors, someone who's complimentary is gonna have to decide, do I wanna go to a church with women pastors when I disagree or vice versa? So, to me, you have kind of rungs and at the center are essential issues. God is triune, salvation is by faith. Jesus is both man and God, et cetera. Those are non-negotiable and separate us from either cults or other religions. But then there's secondary issues that are important, age of the earth, role of women in the church, nature of baptism that can affect what denomination we're a part of and how a church is organized, but they're not salvific issues. So, that reminds me that this issue really matters, but let's have some grace and kindness as we engage other Christians on these issues, especially because it's not salvific. Anything you wanna add to that, Rick?

Rick: Yeah, I think you're absolutely right. The issue of whether or not churches divide is different than the salvific issue because you might have, you could imagine being in a church that has an ordained woman pastor and you have a conscience issue about sitting under the teaching of a woman. If you're a man, you feel like that is wrong as a matter of your personal conscience. That may be a reason why you would need to leave that church, but that's way different than saying it is an issue that should divide the church. Those are two really, really different questions. And so, I do think there's reasons why people might divide over things. This is a thing that was common, I think, in areas of persecution historically throughout the church, all the way from the Donatists way back when to the church in Nazi Germany. You have all kinds of different responses to people who all disagree with what's going on, but some people say, "I'm gonna work within the system." Some people are removed. These are matters of conscience. They share a common goal, but they have a different strategy or different appeal. And so these are the kind of things that I think, it's confusing when you ask to divide the church because it may mean that a certain individual may leave a church, but that's different than saying it's the kind of issues you put so well, that's salvific and a core issue of orthodoxy that is incompatible with the authentic Christian faith.

Sean: Rick, well said, my friend. We enjoy having you on. Scott will be back soon, but whenever there is a vacancy and a need for one of us, you are at the top of our list. Thanks for taking the time to give us your thoughts today.

Rock: All right, thanks for letting me join you.

Sean: This has been an episode of the podcast, Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture, brought to you by Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. We have the master's programs in theology, Bible, marriage and family, apologetics, spiritual formation, and more fully online and in person. To submit comments or questions, and please do so, we love some of the thoughtful questions that you submit. We want tough questions to respond to. Email us at That's Please consider giving us a rating on your podcast app. Everyone helps and consider sharing this with a friend. Thank you for listening, and we will see you Tuesday when our regular podcast episode posts. In the meantime, remember, think biblically about everything.