Albert Mohler (2010) said, “As the period of emerging adulthood grows longer, young people are becoming more alienated spiritually.” Mohler’s statement raises questions about what is occurring in 21st century within beliefs about spirituality. It is apparent that there is a significant departure from the views held by evangelical Christians who have had a predominate voice in shaping opinions in earlier generations. A good question to ask is who or what is influencing the views of this emergent generation and will evangelical Christian maintain their ability to influence this generation?
For social theorists this might be a developmental stage of an evolving culture. If they are correct what can be understood about the process and what is important to understand? Within the discipline of psychology, there is a principle taught in life–stage theory that every period of life has an identity crisis and skill development must occur that enables a successful transition to face the responsibilities of the next period of existence. The theory purports that there is a natural development process that contributes to being able to engage with life and have efficacious responses in the challenges that are a part of the experience of life. This an interesting analogy to make about how culture is developing, but what is the result of the process?
The results are portrayed in a fundamental gap between generations and that the distinctive beliefs of the past have not been articulated in a way that demonstrates a connection between what has been believed about matters of faith, morality, and God and what is believed now. One of the questions may be have we advanced as a culture in the view about spirituality? Consider the views of the past generation about spirituality. Is the earlier better informed than the present? If so, has the view of the past informed, equipped, the present generation with the essential skills to enter a new time, face different responsibilities-challenges?
Apparently there are perceptions about spirituality today suggests a noticeable departure from traditionally held views of spirituality to a changing perspective. Ed Stetzer (2011) says, “This generation is open to God and spirituality. When asked if they considered themselves to be spiritual, 73 percent of respondents age 20-29 answered affirmatively” (Stetzer). In response, a question that may not be addressed adequately in literature today is what impact does how the last period–generation approached spirituality have upon the present understanding of spirituality? What is apparent is that there is a clear disconnect from traditionally held views. Has a rebellious child of the 60’s 70’s or 80’s been raised and is misbehaving and we don’t like what is happening?
The statistics cited by Stetzer (2001) indicates that the respondents are indeed open to God and have a belief that they are spiritual, which essentially is not different than previous generations, but in retrospect, what does it really mean?
One assumption is that because there is openness and the basic belief about personal spirituality that there is motivation to understand life in spiritual terms and indeed someone—something is defining what spirituality means. Sometimes I hear people referring to culture as an evil force – a collective consciousness that is leading people away from or at odds with another point of view. However, culture is better understood as “The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought” (Free Dictionary) which describes culture as a defining force in a point of view. Therefore, there are culturally implicit beliefs, behaviors, and values characterizing the way differing generations, groups, races, and religions internalize information and externalize behaviors. As Stetzer (2011) describes this generation, it is not a generalization about all modern culture, but an indication of a group perspective.
A caution about generalizing statistics that needs to be understood is that popular surveys are not scientifically validated and some research that is offered–used to infer conclusions–may not be accurately applied. An example of this is how people often say that “we live in a Christian nation” which reflects the point of view that historically may be valid, but unfortunately is not a fair nor accurate collective representation of America. Therefore, a larger question that needs to be understood which moves beyond what popular beliefs are is where do the respondents, 20-29 year olds, get their point of view and what influences within this cultural group impact the perceptions reported, and what conclusions can be inferred about what spiritual communication will engage this emergent generation?
A fundamental question posited here is can this generation be engaged in a discussion about spirituality and motivated to respond without others understanding what prompts what millennial’s value and believe?
Understanding what the behavior means and what is shaping the values of 20-29 year olds is not interesting or appealing to many people. However, a challenge for traditional– modern Americans is to accept that multi-culturalism is shaping the view of people. If there is going to be meaningful engagement of the emerging peoples, groups, and cultures, it means that understanding what is driving the point of view, what are the assumptions, and how competence can be developed that enables an understanding outside of self which is motivated by an interest in connecting generations that are disconnected and can benefit from what the other brings to the process.
It is an easy thing to generalize and for adults to look at small children and expect them to understand and behave as an adult. It is also easy for children to look at their parents and think they are really not very informed and disregard what may be simply not understood. Unfortunately, in the milieu of cafeteria-style spirituality, the absence of a distinctive clarifying voice that is having a significant impact upon culture, there is a danger present of morally and spiritually bankrupting the core values in modern culture.
Keywords: Spirituality, Culture, Sociology, Multi-culturalism, Generations, Millennial, Perspective, Perception, Beliefs, Consciousness, Behaviors, Generalizing, Statistics, Research, Communication, an Cultural- Identity.
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