As I have been studying up and preparing for my three week class on Generation Z, I found this last section to be the most compelling and heartbreaking. It is easy to get lost in the stats regarding technology and the correlation between screen time and depression. Or to examine the LGBTQQIP2A+ sexuality alphabet soup and the implications of that. (Both incredible topics and worthy of discussion)
But this week we take a look at the spiritual foundation for Generation Z and what is the native tongue for this generation, is not even on the radar of church leaders or parents. The spiritual moment our kids find themselves in goes all the way back to the garden. It is the total antithesis to orthodox Christianity, and the more I have been studying, I have been alarmed at how much it has influenced the church and me.
What is this new spirituality, this new religion? Humanism.
Humanism has been around for almost 300 years. It is nothing new or novel. But what is new is how this worldview, this religion has become the dominant worldview of our culture and the foundation for our kids. Simply speaking, humanism is a worldview, religion, even a spirituality that places human experience at the center of authority. Authority and meaning no longer come from God, from above, from the experts, but from within an individual person.
You can see how this has impacted you and me. In politics, we have abandoned the experts and elite class, and it is the feelings of the voters. In economics, the customer always right. In art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And in morality, it comes down to how you feel about a decision and if it is right for you. Yes, there is conflict when my desires and needs bump into yours, but our culture is wrestling how to navigate that as well. (I think that is partially why there is a rise in intersectionality, so we have some sense of who’s feelings and experiences matter more if there is a tie)
With Humanism at its core, there are really three ways this gets worked out:
Hedonism: Pursuit of pleasure and self-indulgence. In our context, that has lots of resources, this is the religion of the day. Leveraging wealth, fitness, yoga, travel, sex, and experiences to feel great about themselves, or to feel anything.
Nihilism: the rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless. At the end of the pleasure pursuit, comes the awful realization that there is nothing left. It is all meaningless, and self-medication takes over and the long slow decline into anxiety, depression, and suicide. Between hedonism and nihilism, I vote that nihilism is taking over our kids' world.
Moral Therapeutic Deism: (Kenda Creasy Dean wrote a prophetic book regarding this almost 10 years ago, Almost Christian) This is the religion of the church. It is a feel-good Christianity where God made us and is for us when we need it. We should try to live good lives and be happy. At the core of this religious expression of Humanism, the person and their feelings and experiences are still the centers, it just has the flavor of Christianity. (To tell you the truth, this is the expressed religion of the adults in church, and our kids are just fully embracing it. Most orthodox adults can articulate orthodox Christianity but that isn’t what is lived out, and it is what is lived out, that kids internalize and come to believe.)
So with the new religious foundation firmly being Humanism, the big question is how the church is supposed to respond? How do we teach orthodox Christianity when it is an anathema to our current culture? I am glad you asked. You will have to tune in next week for the final week of my class.
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven, and you are on earth, so let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2