The Shocking New “Christian” Generation
Perhaps the title of this article needs some definition. By “generation” I am speaking of that group of people from the mid-teens, to those who are around thirty years of age.
The term “Christian” is used both relatively and specifically; by that I mean it is employed generically of some who are denominationalists, but who nominally identify with “Christianity.” Specifically, the term is used to designate those who are identified with the churches of Christ.
The term “shocking” refers to attitudes and actions that defy authority; it may be parental authority, societal authority, but especially, and ultimately, divine authority.
What I am about to say doubtless will be shocking to many. I can only declare that the level of vileness on the part of some youths who profess a connection with Christianity is so dreadful, that my investigation of this matter has been one of the most heart-breaking experiences I have known in many years. First, let us consider some general background.
The General Rebellion in “Christendom”
Recent articles in national publications have revealed that a very veneered “Christianity” is a widespread problem in “Christendom” (i.e., all groups that nominally identify with Christianity). A recent article dealing with the spiritual problems of teens, written by Ed Vitagliano, a journalist associated with AgapePress, told of “a growing scandal within American Christianity.” Note this statement:
“Many of our churchgoing teens are not Christians or, perhaps, are marginal believers who profess religious ideas that represent an astonishing departure from historic Christianity.”
One collection of evidence is a recent book by two research sociologists, Christian Smith and Melinda Denton. The title is, Soul-Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. This volume points out that a study of Roman Catholic teens, for example, revealed that 57% believe in reincarnation, 46% believe in astrology, 48% in communicating with the dead, and 21% in psychics and fortune-tellers.
The Barna Research Group (specializing in the study of religious trends) recently suggested that 63% of America’s teens professing Christianity “do not believe that Jesus is the Son of the one true God, and 58% believe all faiths teach equally-valid truths.” One of the troubling conclusions to clearly result from these studies is the fact that just “going to church” was not enough to prevent the drift into the doctrinal error and wanton lifestyles characteristic of thousands of “Christian” teens.
Many parents believe that peer-pressure is the greatest influence upon their youngsters, but studies dispute this. Though peer pressure is doubtless significant to a degree, actually, it is the parents’ influence that is most significant; in terms of what they do, and what they don’t do. The truth is, many parents have surrendered the nurturing of their children to the public school and the church, with the complaint regarding the latter, “Why isn’t the church doing more for our youth?” By this they mean, “Why aren’t we having more camping trips, sports activities, etc.?”. At the same time, they are ignoring and/or rationalizing the reasons for their children’s neglect of their Bible lessons, failure to attend worship services faithfully, and their worldly “socialization” with ungodly friends.
A Narrower Focus
While there is evidence in abundance for the “youth” apostasy in religion at large, it would not be fair to address this matter without calling attention to the disease that afflicts even the church of our Savior.
A professor of Bible at Harding University recently spoke with dismay about the quality of students matriculating through his classes. He told of a test he recently gave which included a requirement that students discuss John 4:24: “God is spirit: and they who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” He stated that in a class of 63 students, 54 of them did not even mention “truth.” Further, he noted that this sort of response was not unusual; he had observed similar results in previous classes. He lamented the fact that many of Harding’s students, upon leaving the university, elect to attend interdenominational “community” churches.
It is scarcely debatable that many students have absorbed the philosophy of “Postmodernism.” Postmodernism is a term that describes a fundamental change in thinking regarding basic truths. The movement had its origins in the early 20th century, and generally refers to the criticism of absolute truths or identities.
Postmodern thinking may be identified in the church in various ways. It has, in fact, wormed its way into our Christian schools. For example, Postmodernists do not believe that the New Testament is the absolute standard of truth. They subscribe to the idea that many of the New Testament narratives were flavored by the culture of Graeco-Roman society, and thus have little relevance for us today. One must, therefore, reject the “out-of-date” views of the Bible, and read the Scriptures through “modern glasses.”
There is a significant movement within churches of Christ pushing for a reunion with the “Christian Church” — especially since 2006 is the anniversary of the split that was recognized officially a century ago. Some who are fuelling this compromising “reunion” are snuggled within the bosoms of our leading “Christian” institutions.
A case in point is a recent article by a professor at David Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee. The teacher, with obvious approval, describes what he calls a “typical week” among Lipscomb students (70% of whom, he says, are from non-instrumental churches).
“It is not unusual in a typical week for our students to attend a Monday night instrumental (!) praise worship at a local Church of Christ, a Tuesday night ecumenical teaching session at First Baptist downtown, Wednesday night church at a fairly traditional Church of Christ, and Thursday night Taize worship [generally an ecumenical service with repetitious songs and prayers (somewhat like a mass), punctuated with brief periods of silence — WJ] at a Presbyterian church — all before going home on the weekend to their parents’ Church of Christ where many think we are the only Christians” (Gary Holloway, New Wineskins, January-April, 2006).
While many of our Christian youth might find the sentiments expressed by the teacher cited above to be a corruption of gospel truth in theological matters, one might be surprised just how willing some are to apply the ideology of postmodernism to moral issues. It is a sad situation when youngsters will argue for “immersion” and every-Sunday communion, but will booze it up on the weekends, smoke “pot,” and boast of their sexual conquests (or warmly fraternize with those who do), while accusing others of being “narrow-minded.”
It is becoming increasingly clear that a good number of Christian young people have a serious “disconnect” between the teaching of the New Testament on moral issues, and their beliefs and conduct. We will now direct our attention more specifically to some of these issues.
MySpace, Facebook, Twitter … Oh, My
It is called “Social Media.” Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube … the list is now endless. As with “MySpace,” each social media platform promises to give both adults and children their own “space” where they can be free to express themselves to the world.
“MySpace” was the fastest growing web site on the internet, with more than multiplied millions of subscribers. Facebook came along and displaced MySpace as the hottest social media property. Now Pininterest, Next … who knows?
Anyone 14 years of age or older (who checks IDs?) can obtain their own web page on these sites at no cost. The clients once were mostly teens, twenties, and early-thirties people, who apparently have a lot of free time on their hands. It is not uncommon for them to stay online for hours on end, chatting with one another, or playing games. Now social media involvement has expanded to nearly every demographic.
Whatever happened to the days when youths worked after school to help pay their expenses? And instead of staying up half-the-night chit-chatting, they went to bed at a reasonable hour to rest for the next day’s school and work.
Before I address some of the problems of this new fad, let me explain how it works. The patron signs on and obtains his own web page space. Then he “designs” it, using various “art” forms (available online) to enhance it according to his taste (which is lacking in many cases). This is called “pimping” his page. Christian young people throw this term around as if they did not know its meaning. Some likely don’t. Get a dictionary, young folks!
The youngsters generally adopt a nickname to place by their photograph. It could be “Bone Head,” “Happy Ho,” or some other such epithet. (If you don’t know what a “ho” is, ask them. They know; and it is not a tool for chopping weeds.)
These web pages are usually composed of several segments. They may contain one or more “blogs,” which could consist of poetry, a personal philosophy statement, or some meandering piece in which youth seems to be attempting to figure out his purpose in life. Sadly, many seem not to have a clue.
Some of these are innocent enough — products of kids that basically appear upright. Our investigation has shown, however, that such is not the case with most of them.
In addition to the “blogs,” there usually is a catalog of “Dead Head’s” friends, accompanied by their photographs. On this web page the public may read the comments that are sent to the page host. If one “clicks” on the photo of a “friend,” he may read the comments that various people have made to that friend, including the host, from whose site you began your exploration.
It is by a survey of these links that one gets a real picture of these “friends,” and the “friends” of those “friends” — in almost an endless chain of words and photos.
Some of the messages/visuals are merely “cute” and/or innocent. Other pages (communicated even by those who identify themselves as “Christians”) are evil beyond description — both in photographic content, filthy language, sexually-oriented videos, etc.
Parents, do you know what your youngster is doing on the internet? If he/she has a page on “MySpace,” why don’t you ask to view it? If your child resists, does that not tell you something? Go on it anyway, and start “clicking” down “friends” road and see where it leads you. I can guarantee you’re in for a real shock.
The Danger of “MySpace”
The MySpace web site has received tremendous publicity over the past several months in national media outlets. NBC Dateline did a feature, as did the celebrated “Dr. Phil.” Segments were done also on 20/20, and in People magazine. Recently, the Stockton, California Record carried two Associated Press columns, one of which was titled “Crimes give Web pages new meaning” (2/14/06). The reason for such a dramatic caption is that MySpace.com has become a favorite haunt of sexual predators who seek out young, potential victims and cultivate friendships with them. In several cases, after soliciting adequate personal information, the predators have stalked MySpace users and murdered them.
A young woman, Taylor Behl, who lived in Virginia, and was just out of high school, decided to explore the “world” via the MySpace web site. She sent out the message, “I love to meet new people.” She began a web dialog with a 38 year-old man who tracked her down and killed her.
Recently I saw a notice on a Christian young lady’s web page that advertised her purpose in being there was “to meet people and date.” Others solicit “relationships.” It could be a “relationship” with death! And what do you suppose male readers think when an attractive young woman describes herself as a “hot momma”?
It used to be the case (and still is) that some men patrol the streets looking for a prostitute with whom to satisfy their lusts; now, all one has to do is scan MySpace, where a host of girls are anxious to be contacted, while pouring forth a stream of seductive suggestions. And these can be found easily with minimal computer skill by tracking the links on “Christian” web pages. It is absolutely unbelievable.
But it is assumed to be harmless — because these are “friends” of our Christian youth. Do Christian parents have any idea as to the type of people their children are communicating with on the web, characterizing these as their “friends”? I am confident that many do not, for they trust their boys and girls, and never dream of the danger with which they are in such close contact.
Dishonoring the Christian Name
In our primary investigation of this matter, which consumed a relatively short period of time, we discovered the names of numerous young Christians within the sphere of our personal acquaintance. Some of these (perhaps most) are basically good people (teens and young adults), but a sizable number of these either have ventured across the line into the vulgar or “risqué,” or else they have exercised precious little discrimination relative to the “friends” invited onto their web page, or who have been permitted to come on, and remain there. And let no one claim they can’t be removed!
These are a combination of “hoodlums” and “sluts” with whom no respectable child of God would form a social bond. But there they are, frequently with much bare flesh exposed, paraded about for a host of people to ogle. The insensitivity that has taken hold on some of these people is bewildering. Are we so used to the “potty” talk of the world that we no longer care what people say to us, or in our presence? Would you invite “friends” into your home to talk the way these rebels write back and forth to one another on their web pages, to which you are attached?
Here are some of the things you can expect to find on the web pages of those whom Christian youths call their “friends” (or which they personally display).
The rawest language of the gutter is found on some “Christian” web pages. Can you picture a young man serving at the Lord’s table on Sunday, and the very next day he is communicating with degenerate friends, repetitiously using the precious word “mother” as a hyphenated form, in conjunction with the worse term you can image for sexual activity?
Look at the various “friends” that some Christian youth have connected to their pages. Some have nicknames that are unprintable. The links with girls that amply display their bosoms are profuse. Obviously there is little sense of modesty remaining with some. Is there any rational defense for this?
Movies, Books, Music
If you really want to get an insight into the way some of these youngsters think, look at what they proudly advertise as their entertainment outlets. Many of their favorite movies are trash that feature nudity and various other forms of obscenity. One post-teen brother claims there scarcely has been a movie on the “big screen” that he has not seen. The truth is, it is difficult to find a movie these days that a Christian should see.
The “music” that some enjoy, like rap and hip-hop, are cluttered with all the coarseness that blasts your ears while you’re waiting at the traffic light. Little wonder that some Christians now speak the new “code” language that’s difficult (sometimes impossible) to decipher, like, “ey der, lit bro, wassup? wat u duin?” It will be a unique experience one of these days to hear a youngster lead a prayer in one of these “unknown tongues.” When our youth want to look and talk like Snoop Dogg and Bob Marley, it is later than we ever dreamed.
It is amazing to note the level of immaturity that is characteristic of some of our Christian youth who have majored in hip-hop culture and the “gangsta” mentality, rather than in the acquisition of healthy knowledge. Their maturation level appears somewhat retarded. Admittedly, when some of us were nine or ten, we played cowboys and Indians, and pretended to be Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, or Cochise. What really is a little pathetic, however, is when grown people, pushing towards middle age, think they are Wonder-Woman or Spider-man, adorning their web pages with the paraphernalia that accompanies such fantasy. Some of the gals apparently imagine they are Marilyn Monroe, with images of the “sex goddess” splayed on their web pages, with most of her torso revealed. And what business do Christians have in referring to any human being as a “god” or “goddess”?
There is little doubt that some of our Christian young people are addicted to MySpace. As mentioned earlier, they are online daily, almost every available waking hour — even into the wee hours of the morning. Frequently they drag into church services on the Lord’s day like zombies, totally unable to focus on spiritual matters and listen reverently to the word of God. Some even disdain it, speaking of the “wretched inadequacy of sermons.” One youngster conceded, “MySpace has taken over my life.” The statement was not a reflection of concern, but was exulting.
Dear parents, it may already be later than you think in terms of where your children are on the spiritual “scale.” Do what you can, while you still can. If your youths are still under your control, take back the territory!
From My Heart
In this final segment, I want to speak from my heart to some of my younger brothers and sisters in the Lord. I know that this essay has not been easy for some of you. Admittedly, it has been hard-hitting. Treatment for an illness can hurt.
But in reality, it is a compliment to you. I have tried to speak with you as young adults, and not as children who are prone to whining and pouting. I have no doubt that some will be angry with me. When you cool down, however, I want you to think about some things.
It has pained me deeply to discover what is transpiring with some of our Christian youth. As I personally told one young man recently (who has been heavily involved in internet filth), “You have broken my heart.” I have agonized over how to handle such matters. Methods are matters of judgment and can be misguided at times, but my heart should never be questioned. My concern is genuine. Let me conclude with this summary.
First, I want you to think about your soul — the value of it, and its eternal destiny somewhere. The Christian life is not a game; it is serious business, and it requires true dedication. There is nothing evil about “fun,” but we must be certain we are wholesome. If one is old enough to be a Christian, he is old enough to be lost.
How does one define a “friend”? Is a friend one who drags you down to lower levels of spirituality? Can we not recall the words of God’s apostle, “Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33)? Have you ever heard that old saying, “a person is known by the friends he keeps”? Jesus Christ was a “friend of sinners,” but he instructed them to abandon their sins; he was not an enabler.
Accountability has to do with how one’s life is judged, as compared with his responsibility. We are accountable to God foremost (Romans 14:12). Do we live, look, and listen so as to please Him? That is not always a matter of easy focus, but at times we cannot but know we’ve gone way over the line. When that is the case, we must turn back to the Lord before “hardness” sets in, and we cease to even care.
We have accountability with reference to our friends. What do you do when you know a “friend” is immoral in words and deeds? Do you simply let him go — with no word of concern for his soul, or with a kindly rebuke for his wretchedness (see Galatians 6:1)?
You have accountability to your parents. Can one continue to fraternize with egregiously worldly people, knowing very well that your godly parents would not approve? Would you encourage mom or dad to visit your web page, read your messages, along with those you have classified as your “friends”? If not, why? And why have some, whose web pages have been an “open book” to the entire on-line world, now suddenly have gone “private”? Clearly it is not the world from whose eyes they would escape; it is from Christians who love their souls and are concerned for their welfare. What is wrong with this “picture”?
There is accountability to your congregation’s elders. They must give account for the souls under their oversight. When one knows that members of the flock are deeply involved in sin, your elders must be apprised of such. They cannot address problems of which they have no knowledge. You must help them; such is not being a “snitch”; it is a matter of love.
Further, ministers of Christ are obligated to reprove, rebuke, and exhort their brothers and sisters in God’s family — young or old. The gospel preacher will not permit himself the luxury of being a “pal” to the sinful at the expense of his own soul. God will hold us accountable if we do not warn the erring of their error. The faithful servant of Christ does not want “blood” of others upon his hands (Ezekiel 33:7-9).
Finally, with deepest respect, may I suggest this to parents: you might wish to give consideration as to whether or not you want your child even to be on the MySpace site — as innocent as their communications may be. There are other, safer ways for youngsters to communicate with one another, rather than being only a “click” or two away from a highway of gross corruption.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.