A Quick Music Discussion Guide for Parents
The Song: “Russian Roulette” by Rihanna
Main Point of Discussion: Our relationships are incredibly powerful forces that can change our lives in permanent ways, so we must be very careful about guarding our hearts.
Vital Info Before You Get Started: (The following should help you contextualize this very popular song so you can have a great discussion about it with your kids.)
- The lyrics metaphorically refer to the game of love in which you take chances and anyone can get hurt. In an interview with Fuse, Rihanna calls the song lyrics “poetry” and not literally about a potentially lethal game that goes by the same name, Russian Roulette.
- Rihanna has had a well-publicized, violent relationship with former boyfriend/singer Chris Brown, which has led to the belief that “Russian Roulette” must be about their abusive relationship. But Rihanna has stated publically that, “It’s not a literal song but love is a terrifying game. You want to be open and honest but you don't want to end up brokenhearted.”
- At The Source for Youth Ministry, we firmly believe we can teach students about God and his love for them by using secular music like this song by Rihanna without endorsing the music to teenagers. (This practice dates back to the days of the Apostle Paul; see Acts 17.)
- When you do the discussion, don’t appear as if you have a “canned” discussion for your kids and rattle off questions like a teacher giving a pop quiz—they get enough of that in school. This is a guide, primarily—not a verbatim script. Just familiarize yourself with the content here and start a conversation in the most natural, unforced way you know how.
Take a breath, take it deep
Calm yourself, he says to me
If you play, you play for keeps
Take a gun, and count to three
I’m sweating now, moving slow
No time to think, my turn to go
And you can see my heart beating
You can see it through my chest
And I’m terrified but I’m not leaving
Know that I must must pass this test
So just pull the trigger
Say a prayer to yourself
He says close your eyes
Sometimes it helps
And then I get a scary thought
That he’s here means he’s never lost
As my life flashes before my eyes
I’m wondering will I ever see another sunrise?
So many won’t get the chance to say goodbye
But it’s too late to pick up the value of my life
Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):
A: Love is like gambling or taking a big risk. When you enter into it, you can get hurt—sometimes so bad that it feels like death.
Q: What’s the message of this song?
Q: How do you suppose we—as serious Christ-followers—should react to this song?A: First, that taking drastic actions (or even being tempted to act on impulsive thoughts) because of bad relationships is never the answer; second, we shouldn’t be in relationships that cause such strong feelings in us.
Q: How can we move from healthy, Bible-based opinions about this song to actually living out those opinions?
A: We should slow down, take stock, seek counsel from mature Christians who can help us make healthy choices, and ask God to guide us and for the strength to obey him.
Where to Take It from Here:
Wherever it feels natural. If these questions lead to a longer discussion on the topic, wonderful! (There’s a guide just after this paragraph that helps you do just that.) If your kids are barely uttering grunts, don’t get discouraged—the next time it feels right, try out another song. Keep engaging them.
For Deeper Discussion: (If your kids seem into diving in deeper, the following discussion guide can help take you there.)
CLICK HERE if you want to look at a quick training article on small groups and drawing questions out of young people—you may find much of the information applicable as you go through this subject with your family members.
This song, as Rihanna mentioned, is not a literal reference to the game of Russian Roulette, rather it’s a metaphor for relationships and how some of them can feel at times. We don’t have to feel so helpless in relationships. We can protect ourselves from feeling like we’re in a deadly game.
More Discussion Questions:
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Do you know what “Russian Roulette” is? (Parents – Explain that the infamous “game” is played by chambering one bullet into a revolver, giving it a spin, sticking the gun barrel to your head, and pulling the trigger. If you live, you pass the gun to your competitor who then repeats the dangerous steps.)
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Why do you think people play Russian Roulette?
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: How are relationships sometimes like this dangerous game?
- ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Why doesn’t Rihanna (in the song) just walk away from the relationship that is obviously bad for her?
Read the following passage from the Bible:
(2 Corinthians 6:14-18, NLT)
Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said:
“I will live in them
and walk among them.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
Therefore, come out from among unbelievers,
and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD.
Don’t touch their filthy things,
and I will welcome you.
And I will be your Father,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the LORD Almighty.”
ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What is God asking us to do and not do when he instructs us to “come out from among unbelievers”? (Parents – God is simply saying, “Make sure there’s a difference between the life YOU are living and the life an unbeliever is living.” A believer’s life is supposed to be holy and God-honoring…even if the life of an unbeliever isn’t.)
ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: How can you tell if a relationship with someone is becoming like Russian Roulette?
ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Usually the first people who notice signs of trouble in relationships are friends. What are some ways you can help your friends avoid getting caught up in a dangerous relationship?
Pass out paper and pens and ask your family members to write a response letter to Rihanna based on what she wrote in “Russian Roulette.” (In other words, if she was their friend, what would they say to her?) After the letters are done, ask if anyone is willing to share.
Close in Prayer
By Lane Palmer
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