I have a lot of hope for the new generation. My students are wonderful, smart, committed, politically savvy. Much better than the two generations that preceded them, the dead period between the sixties and now (don’t take offense; I know a lot of you are, and were, smart, committed and politically savvy during that time, but, let’s face it, most of your colleagues were a bit, shall we say, self absorbed?).
An article in the New York Times gives me further cause for optimism. The evangelical movement is losing the youngsters:
Despite their packed megachurches, their political clout and their increasing visibility on the national stage, evangelical Christian leaders are warning one another that their teenagers are abandoning the faith in droves.
At an unusual series of leadership meetings in 44 cities this fall, more than 6,000 pastors are hearing dire forecasts from some of the biggest names in the conservative evangelical movement.
Their alarm has been stoked by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be “Bible-believing Christians” as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation.
While some critics say the statistics are greatly exaggerated (one evangelical magazine for youth ministers dubbed it “the 4 percent panic attack”), there is widespread consensus among evangelical leaders that they risk losing their teenagers. (NYT)
It probably is exaggerated. It’s hard to believe only 4% of future Americans will believe the earth was created in 7 days 6000 years ago by an all knowing, all powerful, all seeing, benevolent God, who loves us so much that if we don’t love Him back he will make us burn in Hell for Eternity. I give Americans a lot less credit than that. But I think the diagnosis and identification of the cause of youth disaffection is probably correct. Mass popular culture is a tide you can’t hold back. Even the religious-Right loving Fox channel carries the most tasteless and frankly secular entertainment shows around (also frequently pretty funny ones), for the simple reason they make money. Mammon.
Genuine alarm can be heard from Christian teenagers and youth pastors, who say they cannot compete against a pervasive culture of cynicism about religion, and the casual “hooking up” approach to sex so pervasive on MTV, on Web sites for teenagers and in hip-hop, rap and rock music. Divorced parents and dysfunctional families also lead some teenagers to avoid church entirely or to drift away.
Not to mention the obvious hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy of the Robertsons, Falwells, Dobsons and others of that ilk.
In any event, it is clear evangelicals are becoming collateral damage in the fight for the consumer’s dollar. It seems quite revealing they complain about that kind of collateral damage, but seem only vaguely troubled by the innocent loss of life the religious Right has sanctioned in its crusade to support the liberation of Iraq from the heretics.
Never mind. The kids are alright, even if, grammatically, they should really be all right. Grammar isn’t everything.