Churches throughout the country are in turmoil over the fact that the young people, those under 40, have forsaken church attendance as irrelevant to their lives. The older congregants in many of these churches are prone to suggest that somehow the young people are deficient because they don’t honor the traditions of the parents in many areas, including religion. In addition to their irreligiousness, the young generation is often castigated for a lack of respect for authority, for insufficient dedication to the “work ethic”, for a disinterest in good old American patriotism, and for the failure to embrace a host of other traditionally recognized virtues. The implication of all this harping is all too obvious: If kids would just emulate their parents, the world would be like it used to be and that would be much better. Whenever I hear such comments, it makes me cringe. I know for an absolute fact that the world as it used to be was not the place we need to be or where we should strive to return. My generation (the Boomers) and that of our parents was molded largely by the last great world war and its aftermath. Many long held hypotheses about ethical behavior and public policy were challenged and set aside during this same period by the majority of the population. Change and the rate of change in all areas of life became a dominant theme with all the attendant angst among those who were comfortable in the status quo.
The fact that the younger generation does not carry all the psychological baggage of WWII and the Cold War is actually a boon. This group does not have to unlearn much that hampered us as a nation over the past 40-50 years. A preoccupation with American supremacy, with striving excessively for economic gain to the detriment of relationships, with submitting blindly to all sorts of authorities, especially religious ones, and with an unyielding adherence to all sorts of political and economic dogmas has crippled our national thinking in many areas. Rather than criticize our youth for avoiding these same errors, we should rejoice in the fact that they are now free to explore new ideas and worldviews without having to overcome our own impediments to progress ethically, politically, and economically.
It seems we never learn as a people. Each generation tries to pull the next back into the mistakes of the past, never recognizing the folly of embracing the past as a model for the future. Let the youth do what the young do best- move forward optimistically, striving to achieve the brighter tomorrow that alluded pervious generations because their thinking held them back. In that respect the absence of our youth from our tradition bound churches is a blessing and not a curse. If our young people were as ensconced in the religion of the past as the rest of us are or have been, then we as a nation would continue on the same old road to no where.