We must resist the teenager concept, understanding that it doesn’t come from the Bible but from the rock & roll culture that began in the 1950s.
There was a “baby boom” in America following World War II. Whereas at the end of the war, there were about 5.6 million teens in U.S. high schools, by the time Elvis blasted on the scene in 1956 the number had almost tripled to 13 million (David Halberstam, The Fifties, p. 473). There was a corresponding increase in personal wealth and leisure. Between 1950 and 1960, per capita income increased from $1,500 to $2,788. Teens suddenly had free time and money, and a new music came along, preaching, “Do you own thing; live your own life; you can be a cool dude, a rolling stone; throw off the shackles.” The newly-invented, ultra-portable 45rpm record and the transistor radio enabled young people to have this exciting new music wherever they went. Radios were well entrenched in automobiles by 1956, so that the new “teen” class could tool around in their cars, listening to rock & roll and impressing one another with their coolness. Alan Freed, Dewey “Daddy-O” Phillips, and many other rock disc jockeys used the radio to help create a new teenage culture with its own music, language, and moral code.
“In this new subculture of rock and roll the important figures of authority were no longer mayors or parents; they were disc jockeys, who reaffirmed the right to youthful independence and guided teenagers to their new rock heroes. THE YOUNG FORMED THEIR OWN COMMUNITY. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN AMERICAN LIFE THEY WERE BECOMING A SEPARATE, DEFINED PART OF THE CULTURE” (The Fifties, p. 474).
Television also helped create the teenager. By 1956 there were 37 million TV sets in America. This powerful new medium had a great influence in the spread of rock and roll. Elvis Presley’s appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 attracted 54 million viewers, which was a whopping 83% of the television audience. Dick Clark’s American Bandstand was inaugurated in 1957 and was watched by millions of teens. “Every day nationwide, teenagers rushed home from school to watch their favorite singers, and learn new rock & roll dance steps. ... As viewers watched them day after day, they got to know the dancers’ names; THEY COPIED THEIR CLOTHING AND HAIRSTYLES; THEY MIMICKED THEIR ‘COOL’ BEHAVIOR...” (Richard Aquila, That Old Time Rock & Roll, p. 10).
(For more about the history and influence and dangers of rock & roll see our 473-page book Rock Music vs. the God of the Bible, available from Way of Life Literature.)
The “cool teenager” was invented as a clever marketing tool, but it is a concept that appeals to the innate rebellion and pride of youth and was a grand satanic device.
Christian families and churches that cater to the world’s concept of “the teenager” are foolish and are not following the Bible. They are bowing to popular culture, and that is idolatry. God will not accept it. His Word is very clear in this matter, that we are not to be “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2) and that “whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
The goal of the pop culture is to alienate young people from parents and other authority figures, and wise Christian parents will do everything possible to protect their children from this evil influence and to keep the children’s hearts.
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