Much has been said about this generation. They are said to be narcissistic, impatient and sometimes flaky.
The most recent Pew Research survey has found that this generation---the "Y Generation," or millennial's, 14-34 years old, reflects more contradictions than trends in behavior.
Example: These young people are the most doomed economically by our country's debt than any generation in the history of America, yet they are the most financially optimistic of any generation in the past quarter century.
Many have characterized this generation as lazy, self serving, disloyal, spoiled and a number of other not-so-kind characteristics.
Recent studies are finding, however, that this generation does not lack character so much as they are experiencing confusion and conflict in the culture.
And these studies reveal what this generation is "really" looking for.
Heather Ginsburg observes that this generation is full of contradictions.
She writes, "It appears from all of the results, the millennial's are very confused about where they fall."
The most recent Pew Research Survey affirms that to a large degree.
It shows this generation apparently sees the problem in having one parent families, because a record number of them are coming from single parent homes and they openly express a negative attitude towards them.
Yet this generation is marrying at a lower rate than previous generations.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics says the unemployment among this group is 13.5%. Very high. Yet those same people are optimistic about their financial future with 53% saying the believe their financial circumstances will improve.
As you can imagine, this generation is more technologically savvy than any before, but they are also the least trusting.
It's interesting that this group spends a great amount of time on social media continually posting and updating their activities, thoughts and opinions, but have trouble trusting people in real life.
The Pew Survey reveals a smart, but confused generation.
Many of them support Obama, but hate Obamacare.
Many of them identify as political Independents, but vote Democrat.
This generation is the most religiously unaffiliated of recent generations. Nearly one-third claim no religious affiliation---at or above the highest number in the past quarter century.
It would be easy to extrapolate that this generation is rejecting the idea of God. Atheists and secular progressives try repeatedly to make that case from these kinds of studies. They use these statistics to show great gains in atheism in the culture and secular progressivism among the young.
No doubt public education is taking a toll on our young with their daily indoctrination, but these studies do not support the success they claim.
Rejecting God? Maybe not so much.
A number of studies show a confused but not necessarily self centered generation.
For example, a Princeton One employment study, which has nothing to do to with God or morality, but finds that this generation is not the way they are often characterized. The study shows they are not lazy, as often described--nor are they spoiled, demand instant gratification, disloyal or as selfish as often described.
So what's with this younger generation?
An op-ed piece a few months ago in the New York Times comes to mind.
The writers begin with this:
Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor who wrote the best-selling book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” the call to answer life’s ultimate question came early. When he was a high school student, one of his science teachers declared to the class, “Life is nothing more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation.” But Frankl would have none of it. “Sir, if this is so,” he cried, jumping out of his chair, “then what can be the meaning of life?”
The teenage Frankl made this statement nearly a hundred years ago — but he had more in common with today’s young people than we might assume.
I have quoted Viktor Frankl often, including in my book "Building Your Life". The op-ed writers ask the question, "Do we have a lost generation on our hands?"
They answer their own question, "No, they are not lost, they are merely searching for meaning."
Meaning is different from happiness.
It relates to values and beliefs.
"Meaning" oriented people are "others" oriented people--not so much self centered as one might think.
These people are looking for a greater purpose, something bigger than themselves to embrace. This generation has become a bit cynical for good reason. They've been sold a bill of goods that they are now discovering is bogus.
This generation is discovering that there actually are absolutes in life. Everything is not relative---and there are consequences. They have begun to discover moral decisions have consequences as well.
They have seen the hypocrisy in politics and too many of them want nothing to do with it. They have seen the hypocrisy in religion and too many churches and have moved away from it.
They see the poverty and injustice in our world and have been told that if we can only expand government we will meet these needs.
They are now discovering a government with the largest debt in the history of our nation has not even made a dent on crime and poverty and injustice.
Many of these young people had some basic Christian influence in their early lives, but are conflicted and confused as to how religion can make a difference.
In our rush to be relevant, the church has too often related so well to the culture that the two are indistinguishable. And the message has no distinction. It's merely another self help exercise.
This generation is looking for more than that. They are looking for meaning. They are looking for Truth that will transform.
Without a defining message, how can this generation find "meaning" in life?
Christianity is not merely integrating parts of the teachings of Jesus into our lives, it is a complete transformation.
It is not a religion, it is a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It's a lifestyle.
This generation makes almost zero correlation between belief and behavior.
What if the church suddenly shook itself lose from the chains of political correctness and timidity and silence and spoke Truth to the culture? What could happen?
What if a political party that claims to hold one set of beliefs in its platform, while practicing another in real political life came clean? And put qualified candidates forward who actually believe in those values?
What if we started telling the Truth about the ailments of the culture and the solutions?
What if we called this generation to an honest cause that is truly bigger than they are? What would happen?
They would respond. I've seen them respond.
The church would have no more need for seminars on how to reach the "Y Generation" and the political pundits could take the day off from parsing words on immigration so they can reach Hispanics, while trying to disguise the "social" issues to reach "moderates" and progressives.
And some would say, Gary, you are over simplifying a complex problem.
I would say lets give it a try.
Be Vigilant. Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Prayerful. Be Bold. Be Pro-Active.