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Closing the gap: generation “why”

Photo courtesy by www.nelshael.com
FIFTEEN TO Twenty-five-year-olds seem to have a standard response to every question: “Yeah, whatever.”

Generation Y seems to have reinvented the ‘Generation Gap’, a term first used as a headline in Time Magazine in 1967.

“No western metropolis today lacks a discotheque or espresso joint, a Mod boutique or a Carnaby shop. No transistor is immune from rock’n’ roll, no highway spared the stutter of Hondas.” (Time Magazine 6 January 1967)

There were two generations in a world without iPhones and Facebook friends.

Today there are five identifiable generations and the Rolling Stones’ biggest fans are in retirement villages.

Our community includes post-war builders, boomers and generations X, Y and Z.

Baby Boomers took us from Kombi vans to Winnebago motor homes, Gen Y brought us blogging, texting, twittering and MySpace.

Wikipedia (another Gen Y concept) defines Generation Y as the cohort of individuals born between 1980 and 1994.

They are shaped by the events and developments of their time.

The Internet becoming a mainstream communications network, September 11 and the most recent Iraq War are among their defining moments.

Instant global personal communication is a hallmark.

What is the comparison with the generations that founded the Uniting Church and their response to events and developments of that time?

In the early 1970s environmental issues, military conflict, economic downturn, and political change featured at the end of a conservative era.

Hippies, surfers, Jesus Freaks and other tribes developed.

Education and travel were portrayed as being about personal discovery.

Land rights, the Vietnam war, apartheid and the Franklin River were issues worth marching and bleeding for.

Within the church the charismatic movement blossomed. New forms of music joined fresh styles of worship. House churches and new communities of faith began to grow.

At first glance there appears to be little equivalent passion from Generation Y in response to global migration, the war on terror, homelessness and the Murray River crisis.

Large numbers of young Christians are drawn to doctrines of prosperity and visible signs of wealth and ‘blessing’.

Many secular commentators portray a generation for whom tertiary education is about career, travel is about status, and play about prestige. The trappings of life appear to outweigh its meaning.

Rev Dr Philip Hughes does not see them that way.

The author of Putting Life Together: Findings from youth spirituality research, warns against taking an overly rosy view of the Baby Boomers’ era.

“I think the early 70s were an age of rebellion that arose as a generation realised that the traditions that had been handed on to them were not necessarily right.

“There was a huge amount of experimentation to identify what might work for life.

“Part of this rebellion was the anti-Vietnam protests and, for large numbers, the rejection of religion.

“There was a lot of experimentation with drugs – and with living in communes. Some of it had a spiritual dimension – and some of it was anti-spiritual.”

Dr Hughes identified an intensity that was not passed on from the Baby Boomers.

“When I compare Gen Y with their parents I find that Gen Y do not have the same intensity of feeling about a lot of these things.”

He said the militant anti-faith movements of the 60s and 70s have faded, but so too have the alternative spirituality ‘movements’ that excited many flower power children.

While spirituality isn’t a high priority, research indicates 80 per cent of current 15 to 25-year-olds are attracted to a spiritual dimension in life.

“Many young people do try meditation and yoga, but very few become Buddhists or Hindus,” reported Dr Hughes.

“There is a widespread feeling that being extremely religious is a bad thing. It is the passionately religious people who are causing the problems in the world.”

His findings indicate that almost all young people agree that the most central thing in life is enjoying it.

“About 10% are attracted to the certainty offered by one of the conservative religious groups, whether Pentecostal, Catholic, or whatever.

“Very few see the Uniting Church as offering much. It is too dominated by the elderly. It does not have the attraction of the certainty offered by some other groups.

“It is too cognitively oriented rather than oriented to the experiential aspects of faith.

“Very few young people (apart from young immigrants) go to church out a sense of duty or identifying with ‘their’ community.

“They will go if they see that it offers something to them that they consider helpful in life.”

Don’t worry about blogging, twittering, texting and Wikipedia.

Generation Z will have new gadgets! And a generation’s faith journey isn’t defined by technology.

Photo : Photo courtesy by www.nelshael.com