I was having a discussion this morning with a peer in ministry, and we were discussing the attitudes of young persons today. I know that I could still be considered a young person myself, but we were specifically talking about college-aged persons who are now somewhere between six to ten years younger than myself, give or take.
He just kept using the term “apathy.” He said, “It is as if they just do not care about anything anymore.” He mentioned that when we were in college, “doubt” seemed to be the big issue that ministry was trying to overcome, but, now, it is lack of belief in anything, a sort of nihilistic malaise. However, I do not think it is apathy that defines this new generation, nor is it doubt, as it might have been years ago. It is distrust.
We are living in an age that has created and sustained things like infowars.com, a website that is intended to question every news story delivered and proffer an alternative story. This generation is addicted to reddit.com, and, while reddit is many things for many people, it serves the young generation as a place to stir the pot, to discuss all the ills of society and promote unrest in the hearts of the community as they accept any conspiracy theory that comes down the pike. This is the generation that hates both parties of the political system. This is the generation that is leaving home and their faith background, not because they feel doubtful, but because they feel pain, and I am not saying all this is unwarranted, mind you. This is what we have come to call the age of Postmodernism.
The tide has shifted, and modernity and all the tactics to influence modern thinkers no longer work on this generation. Give a modern thinker a dose of intellectual objectivity in a forceful debate style, and they might say, “Hey, you know what? I like you.” Yell your “objective” claims at a postmodern and they will walk away faster than you can say, “What’s your problem?”
This generation has seen a collapse of empire in many ways. America is not the shining star among the nations as it once was. The church of Christendom has been so domesticated that it is losing adherents daily, and on a global scale, with all the “United Nations” coming together, we still hate each other, and terrorism is a word heard daily. To these persons, truth claims are simply lies, power struggles for who gets to control the masses.
Distrust starts off so small. Let’s use the beloved platform of The Echo Life as an example: Christians promote life and health. We preach that the body is the temple of God and that it should be treated with respect. Moms and dads tell their children to respect themselves when they go off to college. Don’t put harmful “stuff” in your body. But, when they go to church, what do they see? A bunch of overfed temples. What are they to assume? They assume that the church does not take its claims seriously. So, if it is not about faith for the church, what is it about? Their assumption, “It’s all for control.” We are promoting our happy little world as we want it to be.
How do we show the postmodern college kid that Christianity is not just another ploy to control his or her life, that it is not about oppressing the way he or she thinks and lives, but about freedom? We have to live in submission to our own claims fist. We have to say, “Watch, I will practice what I preach before I ever ask you to join, and I will show you it is not fake.” We must demonstrate the freedom of walking in Christ offers from the real oppressions of life. We will talk more about this next week, but ask yourself, “Am I a good representative of the Kingdom for this young generation who needs our love and not just our arguments for what is right and what is wrong?”