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Media and Popular Culture (Camp Emmanuel 2005)

Orthodox Life Session

Distractions in Pop Culture
The focus of this session is to present the idea that we live in a world that values a life filled with distractions that separate us from God.

Activity: Can we hear God?
At the start of the session, as the participants arrive, try not to draw attention to yourself. Rather, let the group talk and wait until the group settles down, even if this takes some time. Begin the session only after a long silence. Finally when ready, ask: "Can we hear God?" After a pause, ask the group if their minds were on God several minutes earlier during all of the commotion. Finally, ask: "When is it easier to listen to God?" Invite the students to respond, then ask, "When do you find it most difficult to listen to God?" Allow a few moments for the discussion.

Activity: Pop Culture & Commercials
Divide the campers into 4 groups. Instruct each group develop two 15-second commercials. The following are potential ideas:
Last copies of the must-have video game
A pill that gives you the body you want
The car you have to be seen in
Designer Jeans
Beer or Cigarettes
Whitening Strips for teeth
Perfume or cologne
Body Building Shakes

Each group will now present their commercials to the whole group. Each group should move quickly with little delay between each presentation to allow time for discussion afterward.

Discussion Questions: Daily Distraction and Fitting into Pop Culture
What messages do commercials give us?
If we were to listen to each commercial we see, how would we be expected to act?
How do commercials try to impress us?
What kind of image do commercials try to express?
What values do commercials stress? (quick, impulse decisions: looking good, money is important, possessions will make us happier, etc.)
Do you feel pressured to follow these goals and values?

The following discussion questions go beyond commercials:
In school, how do people treat one another?
What do some people think it takes to become popular?
How far will people go to "fit in?"
Have you seen people being mistreated or made fun of?
Why do people make fun of others, or put others down?
Why is it so difficult to stand up for other people?
How does peer-pressure influence our decisions?

A Calling:
How would you want to be treated?
What kind of person do you want to be?
What kind of person are we taught that God want us to be?

Is it difficult to follow God? If so, why is it difficult? If not, what makes it easy?
What distracts us from becoming closer to God? Ideas include: We are too busy, entertainment, quick to anger, competition, wanting more or better, focus on the negative, we want to be popular and noticed, obsession with body image, impatient, we judge, do not listen, expect things, we are wasteful, we think we are better than others.
In a life filled with distractions, how can we become closer to God?

After taking time to discuss the above questions, read Mark 12:28-31 on the Greatest Commandment:
"Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘Which is the first commandment of all?' Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all of your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these.'" Mark 12:28-31.

Discussion: Think about Ourselves, Think about Others
Following the reading, discuss the link between loving God, ourselves, and others.
Why does God ask us to love others as ourselves? What does this mean?
Every time we place ourselves first it is like admiring ourselves in a mirror, much like the Queen in Snow White said: "Mirror, mirror on the wall: who is fairest of them all?" How would you feel if someone actually saw you say this in front of a mirror?
Focusing on ourselves is one of the easiest distractions! (How did Satan fall for this?)
In what ways do we place ourselves before others?
How does loving others as ourselves help us to love God?

Pray the Jesus Prayer with the group for the closing prayer. "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me, A Sinner." Repeat it several times and explain that this prayer can be used to remind us about God when we are distracted.

Street Wise Session

The focus of this session is to present the idea that we are called to live "in the world" without being "of the world." In this session, we aim to explore practical ways to live a life that brings us closer to God.
Begin by praying the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

Activity: Straw Builders
Materials for the Lesson:
4 feet of duct tape per group
50 plastic straws per group
1 tape measure for group leader

This activity will test each group's ability to work together in accomplishing a goal. Members of the groups may be tempted to cheat and to go against the rules in order to beat the other teams. Watch the behavior of the groups and be prepared to point out actions, both desirable and undesirable, during the following discussion.

Each group must attempt to build the tallest tower using only the straws and the tape provided. Each member of the group will be assigned a disability. The points of this exercise are to help us recognize and discuss how we fall out of step with who Christ asks us to be; and to help us recognize how easily we are distracted from accomplishing the task of becoming a real Christian. This exercise also points out how we are willing to go about winning the easy way.

The goal for each group is to build the tallest tower in the time allotted. Divide the participants into two groups. Assign to each member a disability: for example, two people are blindfolded, two have their hands bound, two cannot talk. The exercise is to be completed in ten minutes only. No role-changing is permitted; the campers must stay within the boundaries of their assigned disabilities for the duration of the exercise.

The following are categories of discussion questions. Choose a few from each category to discuss with the group. The overall questions are, "how do we become distracted, and what can we do about it?"

Thoughts on the Activity:
What was the goal of the activity?
Did you ever lose sight of the goal?
How well do you think your group worked together?
What may have distracted you from reaching the goal?
What did you to do that may have helped your team do better?
How did you hinder your group?
How did your team develop a strategy?

Who led the team?
Who took directions?
Did you ever want to cheat to "help" your team?
How did you communicate with others? How did it feel not to be able to communicate?
What did it feel like to be blind? Not talk? Not use your hands?
How did you help your team?
Did anyone help you?
Did your disability prove to be helpful?
Did you work as a team?
Did having a disability bring you together as a team or separate you?
Did your disability make you depend on someone else?

Outside the Box:
How would you have liked other members of your group to treat you?
If you had a chance to do the activity again, what would you do differently?
How far would you have gone to "beat" the other teams?
Did you ever think about breaking the rules or sabotaging the other teams?
In what ways are we faced with decisions like this every day?
What are some examples of daily decisions that test us?

Living in the World:
How do we cheat in the game of life?
What distracts us? Why do those things distract us?
How does our cheating ultimately cheat us out of becoming who we were created to be?
Who is Christ asking us to be in this world? (Light, Life, Love, Salt)
How does God ask us to live?

Read Mark 10:17-27, "What shall I do that I may inherit Eternal Life?"

"Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?' So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is God. You know the commandments: "Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.'" And he answered and said to Him, ‘Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.' Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.' But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!' And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, ‘Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.' And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, ‘Who then can be saved?' But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.'" Mark 1-:17-27.

Discussion: Sell Everything We Have
In this passage the young man was keeping his heart and mind on himself, rather than on others and on God.

Why did Jesus tell the young man to sell his possessions?
Does God ask us to sell everything we have?
What are the things that keep us from becoming closer to God?
What do we place before God?

Becoming Closer to God:
How can we remind ourselves about God?
How should we treat our friends, families, and strangers?
Should we compete against others? Is it wrong to want to win?
Does God want us to do our best?
How can we play to win, and continue to follow God?
How can we use and share the talents that each of us have?
What can we do when we get upset?
How can we listen to God everyday?
Should we pray to God all of time?
In what ways does God reach out to us?

Close the session by repeating the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."


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