If you tune in to one of my favorite blogs, Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish, you’ll find an ongoing conversation there about the occasional promise and (more commonly) perils of the generation that follows mine: the “Millennials.”
This demographic is of great interest- mainly because one in three Americans under the age of 30 now goes by the self-description of “None” (meaning “not religious” or “spiritual but not religious”), and this number is growing. The Millennials comprise at least one big pocket of readers I’m writing for (the other being those in the church who share a similar spiritual restlessness for “the More” they’ve not found in church). Together these restless souls may embody the stirrings of a new birth for the church, if the church is able to listen and respond.
If truth be told, I grow a little weary hearing complaints about Millennials- that they’re selfish and self-absorbed, materialistic, consumeristic, nihilistic, and so on. They may be all these things, but it is also true that they have come of age in a day when our religious, political, economic and familial institutions have failed or disappointed us, when joblessness among young people is at an all-time high, and when movements for change, such as the Occupy movement, still derive their strength from the participation of young people.
“Self actualization” is a word that often gets thrown around somewhat negatively in relation to this generation, too, and while it is possible that Millennials are more obsessed with self actualization than previous generations before them, there is also tremendous opportunity here in this quest to discover oneself and “be all that you can be” (to borrow the U.S. Army’s slogan). If Jesus’ Incarnation (God becoming a human being and walking in skin like mine) teaches me anything, it is this: that every person contains within his or her self a whole world of possibility and that every person is of inestimable worth. In Jesus we are becoming all that we can be, as uniquely and wonderfully made, even if paradoxically we must lose our lives to find them. If in our quest for “More” we seek to find the More for ourselves first, this “selfishness” or path towards “self-actualization” is to be commended rather than scorned.
But what do you think about any or all of the above? Have you been tuning in to the conversation about Millennials?