Friday, October 06, 2006

Teens and Religion

This morning's NY Times has a long article, complete with color picture, about how teens seem to be leaving Evangelical churches in droves...some say for a non-institutional Christian faith, others say, out of Evangelical belief altogether. The hype is that if trends continue, only 4% of the next generation will be "bible believing", which would be a big change from the Boomer 35% and the WWII Generation's 65%.

The statistics are, according to Evangelical experts, misunderstood or cooked up to make the situation seem "Apocolypitc" , which they regret. However, the article cites youth and youth leaders who say that it's just too hard to embrace Christian values against the culture of sex, materialism, and alcohol which is pervasive in our nation. The youth say that they feel pressured and dissed at school by non-Christian youth, although all of the examples actually given were not of conflict with non-Christian youth but of the disinterest of non-Christian youth.

Just a few thoughts about this.

The kids in my church, mostly non-Christians, feel that they are dissed and pressured at
school by the Evangelical Youth. It is certainly possible that both groups are correct but it's instructive to know that both feel the same from each other. It does seem that in a lot of middle and high schools, virtually all of the kids feel dissed and pressured by those who are different from them and this may be, in part, simply the nature of adolescence. (Although one of the things we love about our son's private school is the lengths they go to to minimize that kind of behavior. But they have access to tools public schools don't have. They select kids who will get along well in a diverse environment and they have things like lunch seating plans which require them to mix it up.)

I detected an understandable but in the end dangerous longing in the kids interviewed in this article, not to be simply respected and allowed to practice their Evangelical faith, but to be in a comfy cultural majority where lots of kids would naturally come to their Bible Studies. Although this could be simply a matter of what the writer selected for his article, it is reminiscent of the resistance their parents and grandparents have put up to change in this nation.

Finally, I would point out that teens are especially effected by hypocrisy. It is teens who are most likely to turn against leaders who preach abstinence until marriage but who themselves try to lure teenagers into sexual relationships, who tout cooked statistics, and who notice the many many things that Jesus said about (against!) wealth, materialism, and hypocrisy.

1 comment:

Turtle Mountain said...

Teens, and Yeshua of Nazareth, and Siddartha Gautama, and Lao-tze, are innocents. They expect words and actions to agree. They see right through hierarchies, institutional politics, lies, robes, stoles and serapes, "harmony", careful "speech." I always loved them, watched them carefully, and hoped to learn from them. I came before them in jeans, but always knew they would make me prove it.

My central priority now is global warming. Without action on that, concern with their Biblical sensitivites will be meaningless. I am trying to preach and write about nothing else. It is difficult.