I can barely count how many times I have muttered to myself about the generations of kids and early twenty-somethings, “These kids don’t care about anything. They’re zombies, zoned-out, beyond apathetic.” But why is this? What has happened to this generation of kids, and why have they demonstrated the apathy and idleness that they are so often accused of?
Certainly, every generation is annoyed by the one preceding it. Each new trend or zeitgeist amongst the next generation is viewed as inexplicable or as somehow more self-indulgent and sinful than the ones we ourselves fell into.
Those born in the 60’s (like my parents) seemed to me to be beaten down by external legalisms, an emphasis was put on “hard work” and they were dragged to church on Sundays when they hated it and all the rest. Those same parents passed on all the trauma, guilt, values, and standards to the generation following it. Post-World War culture’s excesses translated into the collective burn-out of the Gen Xers, which passed on into the widespread depression and despair of my own Generation Y. The foundation for the new generation of kids born in the 90s is a bleak one.
So I asked myself – who do these kids of today have to look to? What do they have to stand for? If they turn to the preceding generations, they are confronted with all the very sources of the pandemic apathy they now drown in – a laundry list of overdoses and suicides, aimless burnouts, rebels with vacuous causes who often turn out to be nothing more than sell outs. If they turn the other way, they are only confronted with the bleak prospect of the corporate world, the world of politicians who are laws unto themselves, the world of a slow suicide by white-picket fence and minivan culture that seems to be nothing more than just another dead-end.
The culture these kids of the 90s are born into is one of endless distraction. Yes, we are more “connected” now, but the point which is often raised remains correct: the more connected we are via our technological advances, the more alienated the individual person remains. Human beings have become nothing more than individuals alone in the crowd.
The culture of today that these kids find themselves in is foundationless. Family means little anymore to many; divorce, adultery, lack of child support, abuse, and the like are all rampant. Religion is irrelevant, or at the very best, neuteured by a relativism whose only creed is “Everything is ok, except for saying something is not ok.” Opinion is meaningless because everyone’s opinion matters only for them, and the isolation of the individual is perpetuated further. All is simply ok.
What’s worse is that religion itself is often not much more than a family heirloom passed down from one’s parents, something one does on Sundays or some other designated day of the week. The ingredients of a modern faith life often constitute anything but a living faith, and rather are comprised of little more than potluck dinners, polite greetings and casual conversation, and cultural “this is just what we do” motives. In a word, I think that many kids today feel there is not only nothing to believe in, but also nothing that offers a compelling reason why they should believe in it.
When we look at the world of mainstream Christianity today, so divorced from the faith once delivered to all the saints, can we blame so many young people for rejecting this “Christianity”? Who do the youth know as representatives of Christianity, other than an endless horde of prosperity Gospel peddlers and snake oil salesman, fakers and charlatans who cherry-pick the Gospel and form mutated versions of their own (as do all heretics). Today’s “faces” of Christianity are often barely-veiled New Age gurus and psychics, cunning businessmen, or charismatic madmen orchestrating yet another “revival”. If Joel Osteen and Kenneth Copeland were the authentic representatives of Christianity, I would have zero interest in Christianity either.
But the youth of today need to know that there is something, someone to believe in, beyond one’s own self, which only perishes with the rest of the world and all its material offerings. I am convinced within my heart that if the youth of today really were to encounter Christ and authentic, true Christianity, that their minds and hearts would be open to it. How can I say this? Because I have seen proof of it myself.
These youth do not know the Truth because they have only been exposed to false piety, legalistic externals, empty rituals, simply “just another religion amongst religions” that really bears no effect on one’s life. Can we blame them for their disinterest when they have only encountered these things, when all “religion” seems to offer them is just another set of meaningless do’s and don’ts?
Pontius Pilate’s question “What is truth?” to Jesus before He was sent to His death, rings through the centuries of history, through to our own days. And yet, if we read the account, he had Truth standing in front of him that very day. In this, we see that truth can be obvious, can be right at hand, and yet one can completely overlook it. In our days, the seed must be planted that there is something worth believing in, and more importantly, someone worth believing in, Who believes in us more than we ourselves ever could.2