Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Thursday Thirteen: Teenagers and God

I’ve been very concerned about this:

In my last Thursday Thirteen, number 7 said that George Barna’s studies show that

“Although 2/3 of all teenagers say they know all the basic teachings... of the Christian faith, 2/3 reject the existence of Satan, 3/5 reject the existence of the Holy Spirit, and 1/2 believe that Jesus sinned....”

So this Thirteen is an examination of teenagers and God.

1. From “the Science of Religion,” a feature story from the University of Texas at Austin, comes information about studies by Dr. Mark Regnerus about the influence of religion on American teenagers, “including sexual behavior, school performance and family relations.” He found that teens are more rebellious when parents are more religious than they are.

2. But when the teenagers are more religious than the parents, “it tends to boost family relations in the eyes of the child—even more so than when the parent and child are at the same religious level, whether that is low or high.”

3. Lynn Schofield Clark wrote an article called “Popular Culture: Replacing Religion for Today’s Teens?” in which she speculates about the influence of movies and TV on kids’ religious beliefs. She says some teens told her that they were very drawn to films about the supernatural—things that are weird, the paranormal, aliens, and ghoulish critters.

4. Apparently, they don’t usually just say they believe in such things, but they believe “it is possible.”

5. They find appealing the idea that the universe might be controlled by a great force. Maybe it could be God. Or maybe not, they say. Anything's possible.

6. Clark says they “don’t seem to be very interested in learning about ultimate truths from authoritative sources like the Bible or religious traditions.”

7. Clark says they are cynical about these institutions, history, and cultural “truths,” “just as their parents, the children of the 1960s,” were. Let's see . . . this article was written in 1999.

8. Uh-oh, there’s where the knife twists. That means people like me and . . . you? I know that somehow my generation fell down as parents, as far as teaching the children to love God—I include myself here.

9. I wrote about that not-so-little problem in September—about the effects of growing up without religion.

10. Now that we know better, our churches don’t really know what to do about kids. The old ways of teaching children (obviously) didn’t work so well—if I’m an example. They want to know the fiery truth, if there is any. We can't teach it to them if we don't have it ourselves. They believe it if they see in us a consuming love for God and a passionate commitment to his ways.

11. I teach English in a community college, so I spend a lot of time around young adults. They are different from the way I was, and even from the way teens were ten or fifteen years ago. They are hungry for meaning and purpose, and they are on the prowl to find it.

12. The ones who haven’t found it don't know the hope that God offers, and they are scared about facing the world. That’s because they do know that evil is real, whether or not they know to call him Satan. He breathes right down their necks every day.

13. Most of the ones I know who have found God will talk about him openly; they want to write their essays about the works of great, dedicated Christians and about what God means in their lives. They wear Jesus T-shirts and jewelry. They have found that they can stand up with him in the hard choices that face them. They have fire in their eyes and in their hearts, and I am encouraged by them.

God is doing a new thing. Do you see it?


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