The Super Bowl is perhaps one of the most insightful reflections of pop culture Americana.
From the multi-million dollar entries in the annual competition to produce the most shocking commercials, to halftime shows featuring outrageous moments like a menopausal Madonna jumping around on stage in leather hot pants, to Beyoncé channeling her personal demon Sasha Fierce.
A snapshot of popular culture across America would feature masses of Millennials sitting at the edge of their seats with their thumbs poised to tweet the most clever reaction to these spectacles.
One of this year’s commercials in particular may have inadvertently captured the zeitgeist of the Millennial generation.
This year’s Bud Light commercial, based on the Pac-Man video game of yore, invited one random bar goer to unexpectedly enter the “House of Whatever.”
The chosen stranger opens a secret door across the street from the bar, and a party explodes into a laser show, flashing stage lights, and booming music.
An audience of thousands of young people stand by cheering for him to compete in a live version of Pac-Man.
The crowd roars as the guy races into the video game-like maze. The DJ blasts the original Pac-Man theme, the iconic ghosts pursue, and party goers cheer our hero on through the course.
Meanwhile, sentimental music plays underneath that evokes feelings of pride, excitement, and intensity, as if you were watching Michael Phelps backstroke his way to an eighth gold medal.
The crowd is patently emotional as the man wins the game and is ultimately rewarded a Bud Light.
People are interviewed – all experiencing this amazing, unbelievable, random moment – tied together by Bud Light’s creative director, Miller Jones, explaining, “We wanted to give one person the experience of a lifetime.”
The commercial ends with their catchy slogan, "The perfect beer for whatever happens," which helps explain the current surge of fraternity gang rape cases.
The very idea that a commercial about the experience of running through a maze chased by life size Pac-Man ghosts while drunk people cheer you on could be viewed as an inspirational tale uniquely embodies the vacuous state of Millennials.
Whether it’s the hipster who purposefully wears his shirt inside out, the celeb-uttante wannabe who takes 35 selfies a day, or the social media bloggers/photographers/fashion gurus/irony-philosophers sharing their deep, uncredited insight with the world in real time, this generation believes that everyone is a creative genius imbued with power to convert any trivial moment into a photo-op.
One article coined the term “trophy kids” to describe Millennials as the generation who receive a trophy for merely participating.
Is it any wonder today that many have grown up not only to idolize themselves, but to actually interpret their narcissism as a robust form of spirituality?
The Millennials are also the most non-religious generation, compared to their predecessors.
Their self-seeking instincts have detoured them from seeking a higher power or a greater purpose beyond themselves.
Who needs a pastor, priest, rabbi, or judge to marry you when your best friend can get ordained over a website? It's all the same.
Suddenly the value of a 4,000-year-old religion has been equated with amoral shallow impulses.
By contrast, juxtapose this kind of “spirituality” with radical Islam and its rapidly growing numbers.
Even Western Muslims who have grown up with first-world opportunities are becoming radicalized at an alarming rate. How can a self-immolating doctrine of hate be so alluring?
The fact is America is not simply being labeled infidel because the entire Muslim world is jealous of our way of life. We are in an ideological war.
A recent article in The Atlantic by Graeme Wood entitled “What ISIS Really Wants” discusses the determining religious factors that motivate jihad.
He quotes George Orwell’s firsthand observation of Nazi Germany to describe why indoctrination into the cause of terrorism can be so effective:
“Nearly all Western thought since the last war, certainly all ‘progressive’ thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security, and avoidance of pain. Hitler, in his own joyless mind feels… [that] they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flag and loyalty-parades... Socialism, and even capitalism in a grudging way, have said to people: ‘I offer you a good time.’ Hitler has said to them: ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result, a whole nation flings itself at his feet.”
Wood’s conclusion is that this religious ideology married to a blood-thirsty culture wrapped in a delusion of holy purpose is the most dangerous of possible scenarios.
Yet President Obama, who is the sum reflection of the Millennial spirit, refuses to connect jihadists to their Islamic roots.
Professor Obama prefers to take the more humanistic viewpoint, blaming these countless conversions on years of colonialism, on poor U.S international policies, on lack of education, and on a need for cultural respect on behalf of the West.
Because like all leftist conclusions, when people are behaving destructively evil, it is a result of not having enough government-provided equal opportunities.
Who knows what catastrophic tragedies could have been deterred if only Hitler had been encouraged to pursue his artistic interests for which he lacked the talent... like most Millennials?
In spite of what Western leaders would have you believe, radical Islam is experiencing a revival of their version of “old time religion” – a Muslim Great Awakening, if you will!
My question is, do our millennials have an answer to such a movement?
Perhaps there is something percolating underneath.
One of the most positive characteristics of Millennials is our constant need to feel that we are making the world a better place.
Time magazine’s comment about the young aid worker recently killed in Syria, Kayla Mueller, identifies this quality: “She didn’t want to be seen helping people: she wanted to help people.”
While many mock pop culture philanthropy, it is undeniable that young people have responded to whatever social media causes arise.
We saw this in the ALS ice bucket challenge, in KONY 2012, and of course in the election of the first African-American president.
Millennials are hungry for purpose, but their socialistic progressive politics don’t quite add up with their celebrity-obsessed lifestyle delusions.
II Corinthians 3:17 says, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."
The millennials may seem like the most liberated generation, but they are not free.
Teen pregnancy, abortion, suicide, rape, murder, public massacres… I mean, our personal list of transgressions might read differently when compared to ISIS, but I dare say our numbers may add up the same.
Jesus said, "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8:34).
Millennials have more access to global information and networking than ever before.
The potential to change the world is not a far-fetched fantasy; it is literally at their fingertips.
They are the largest generation at an estimated 11 million strong, and they are also the most educated generation.
Juxtapose those credentials with jihadists, and it is perplexing how rapidly Islamic indoctrinated hate is growing within their numbers.
The world is becoming increasingly unstable, but if the Millennials in this country will return to their Judeo-Christian roots they will find a profound sense of purpose and vision.
Proverbs 1: 22-23 says: "How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings."
The answer to combating radical Islam will not be found in mere military muscle or Tea Party politics, and most definitely not in Professor Obama’s scholarly dialogue.
Millennials have power in their religious roots as well, and the answer is found in repenting and turning back to the living God, the God who values humanity and the soul above all else, the God who gives individual purpose and power over the flesh.
If Millennials choose to be lovers of themselves over repentance, then running around chased through a maze by life-size Pac-Man ghosts will indeed be the most meaningful experience of their generation, while Islam maintains the radicalization of the disillusioned youth.
The value of this generation is directly connected to their religious roots, as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 5:13:
"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet."