Smells Like Teen Spirit

Barney Zwartz writes:

YOUNG Australians are more likely to chop and change faiths than ever before because of an increased uncertainty about their beliefs, a Christian Research Association survey shows.

"What surprised me was the high proportion of people who just don't know," the association's chief researcher, Philip Hughes, said yesterday. "Well over a third say 'We are just unsure'".

"Accompanying that is the sense that it doesn't matter much anyway, what I call 'whateverism'," Dr Hughes said. "Whether you believe or you don't believe is no big deal either way, and you can change your mind from one minute to the next, whatever."

Religious education needed to help young people develop a "spiritual literacy" so they could think through issues, he said.

The survey also found that more young people believe there may be
life after death (76 per cent) than believe that there may be a God.

The report says Australians are more likely than Americans to
accept other paranormal beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology,
psychics and communication with the dead.

It also counters the common assumption that young people are
interested in spirituality rather than traditional religion.
Spirituality ranks with riches at the bottom of what is important to
them, with deep friendships and an exciting life at the top.

See Try before you die: teens test religions.

Preliminary thoughts:

  • Aussies can’t rely on McDonaldised products out of America to
    tell us the way forward. The little brother syndrome of the Australian
    evangelical movement is a crippling weakness that we just must come to
    grips with.
  • More people believing in life after death than the possibility of
    God – may support my personal experience that much of this is operating
    at middle realm / folk religious level but may just as easily be an
    idiosyncracy in the data by surveyors defining god too
    monotheistically. Would have to see the questions to evaluate better.
  • Even though many kids are open to spirituality, this would indicate
    it’s at their shopping convenience and not a prime concern. They may be
    pantheists rather than atheists but they may not be as spiritually
    hungry as we’ve thought.
  • Home worship / family faith – potentially more important in the
    long run that church youth group participation. Not that it need be an
    either/or situation but just an observation that you can’t completely
    outsource you child’s spiritual nurture. Programs have limits.

3 thoughts on “Smells Like Teen Spirit

  1. I left this comment on Andii’s blog:
    “Hmmm. That’s a bit of a blow to a lot of contemporary western missiological ideas… or is it? What do the terms mean and what is the context?”
    Yes Andii, I am still thinking about that last one. Definately deserves further digging.
    In the context of consumerism, it possibly reflects that the accoutrements of spirituality are taken up and cast aside like any consumer fad. ‘Kabbalah is in this year? Get your red string here! Whoops. Indigo Children now in? Here’s the book!’ Spirituality becomes a commodity with a limited shelf life?
    This suggests deep challenges for mission. Even if Emerging or Charismatic Christianity takes off in UK or Australia, will it merely do so as an ephemeral fad? I think we need to go a lot deeper than Labyrith worship to connect with youth at the level of deep commitment


  2. I dispute that young people display this ‘whateverism’ – I don’t think they’re as apathetic as that suggests. I actually think that it’s not that they don’t *care* about spirituality, but that they’re very open-minded about it, and supportive of diversity. Or something.
    I guess I see it not so much as shrugging shoulders and muttering “whatever”, but saying “whatever” in a breezy, “I’m cool with that” kind of way…


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