How should a Christian discuss "The Hills" by The Weeknd with kids? (for youth pastors, teachers, and parents)
If you're a Christian, a mistake you can make right now is to ignore songs like "The Hills" by The Weeknd and to write them off as evil, pointless pop hits that encourage the depravity of mankind and corrupt children. If you and your kids intentionally interact with the lyrics of "The Hills," the experience may change the way you see pop artists. Discussion of this song is recommended for ages 15-18.
Content and Topic Preview for "The Hills"
"The Hills" is actually a fairly dirty song about a love affair and drugs. There's a bit of swearing, and the music video has less-than-well-clad women in it. While these content issues will convince many to steer clear, keep in mind that youth will be listening to it anyway--explicit issues are no respecter of boundaries or parental ratings. Engaging one of the most popular hits of 2015 where we find it and talking about songs like it with youth may be the only chance pastors, teacher, and parents have of making thinking about the song a positive experience.
[Warning: Maybe objectionable content in video.
In addition, if you look below the surface, "The Hills" is an accidental argument for the need for Christianity and a healing relationship with Christ. Not only does Abel Tesfaye explain that the lifestyle he lives makes him empty, but he also asks questions that leave the discussion wide open for Christians to give true and good responses.
Apart from the discussion we could be having with Tesafaye, "The Hills" is an opportunity to apply critical thinking skills and knowledge of Scripture and Christian worldview to a pop song in a way that will teach youth how to interact intellectually with the deeper meanings of pop music.
If you want my explanation of the lyrics, read "What does 'The Hills' by The Weeknd mean?" This will prepare you to discuss the topic in further depth.
1. "I only love when you touch me, not feel me."
Here, Tesafaye's saying that he doesn't want emotional intimacy. He only wants the physical aspect of the relationship. He wants things as platonic as possible and to be able to leave without strings attached. The lack of emotional connection sounds simple and easy, but it doesn't sound as powerful as real romance, and the way that he later says, "You gon' have to do it at my tempo" means he's demanding and emotionally harsh. The way he conducts his relationships sounds neither pleasant nor beautiful.
Discussion: Young people at ages 15-18 are either beginning to date or have been trying to date for a while, and physical intimacy or the desire for it may already be on their minds. We need to ask them...
How would a relationship without any love feel? Would it be strong?
What does it mean to hug or kiss someone without actually meaning it and only wanting to do it because you want to hug or kiss because it's exciting?
What makes a strong and good relationship?
2. "When I'm f**ked up, that's the real me."
This line is vital to a Christian's discussion of "The Hills" because it's the point at which he gets the closest to good theology. Desipte the obscenity, any human would not be wrong in having this same sentiment.
Humans are corrupt. We were once sinless, but we lost that status in the Garden of Eden thanks to Adam and Eve. They, as standard bearers, preceded the rest of the human race and made the choice to disobey God and seek out the knowledge of good and evil. They got it, and now we have a decaying world to deal with.
Because we are depraved, we can truthfully say that when we're doing what's wrong or when we're at our worst, that's the real us. Thankfully, Christ died on the cross to save us from that sin, so we can be redeemed.
But, what Abel Tesafaye does here is promote the minor theme of Christian faith--the idea that we are depraved and at our worst when we're on our own. He sings that "[d]rugs start to feeling like it's decaf" and that he just had sex before the tryst "The Hills" is about. He explains that he's "just tryna live life for the moment." He's trying to enjoy life as much as he can, but it's hard when everyone around him just "want a relapse" because they want him to write the kind of music that a relapse brings on.
The fact that he realizes what's going on around him accidentally puts him miles ahead of other artists who seem to think they'll find meaning in partying or wild sex. Tesfaye still has illicit sex and does drugs, but he's getting closer to understand what those mean for him.
Discussion: A lot of people think that they're pretty good or that the things they do aren't bad unless they hurt someone else. But the truth is that God's commands and character are the standards for behavior and that we've gone against those.
What does it mean to be a bad person or to be messed up? How can we tell if we've done something wrong?
When we know what we've done wrong, how should we respond? What kind of a life will you live if you acknowledge your guilt but refuse to fix the problem?
3. "Who are you to judge?"
Telling someone they've done wrong is largely an unacceptable act in contemporary American culture. Our culture preaches tolerance and acceptance. Telling people that they have to adhere to a higher standard is foreign.
And while Tesfaye recognizes his own problems, he's not willing to hear condemnation from someone he thinks is just as bad as him--the woman in the relationship. But let's pretend like he's asking, "Who are you to judge?" to a Christian who's trying to tell him that he's done wrong things.
The simple answer?
"Someone who's just as messed up as you are and who can help."
And where does this help come from? Again, Tesfaye gives us more help than we expect. At the end of the song, he sings in Ahmaric a semitic Ethiopian language (he's from Ethiopia before he moved to Canada), "I love you very much." It's almost as if he's trying to fight through the terrible person he is to be able to truly love someone.
And strong love is where Christians need to muster their strategy from to be able to help. But before we can be strong, we have to be weak in our own eyes. Christians tend to feel that we have to prop up our own holiness so that people will trust our ability to show them how to be good.
Discussion: Abel wants to know why anyone would judge him or what authority they have to do so
How should a Christian respond to someone not wanting to be judged but knowing that he or she has done something wrong? Should we ignore sin? Should we point it out harshly?
One Final Thought: What's more powerful to you and who do you trust more--a friend who confesses having wronged you or a friend who seems too perfect to be true?
Thus, I think we as Christians can tell the Abel Tesfaye's of the world that, yes, we've done wrong things too--we've murdered in our hearts, stolen, blasphemed, lusted, and more (fill in your own blanks). We know what it's like to hate ourselves for what we've done and to fear at every minute that we'll be found out or that we're frauds and everyone will know.
We know what this feels like, and we'll find that the more we embrace this idea, the more we're able to understand where Tesafaye is coming from and the more we'll be able to say to him, "We're not here to judge you--we have a way to save you from the pit you're in. We love you, brother, and we have something good and wonderful for you. Don't just turn away from these evil and addicting and painful self-destructive things, but turn towards something that has served us well and made us happier. It's hard, but we'll be there for you, and we'll never not forgive you or love you. Please come."