By Scott Keith –
Millenials have been called generation Y (because they come after generation X, and they always ask WHY), the Internet Generation, GenNext, Ipod Generation, and my two favorites Boomlets and Echo Boomers. But I have a new name for them: “Generation Yawn.” Why, you ask? When Millennials are asked questions concerning matters that don’t pertain directly to them, that may be of a higher nature or of infinite moral, existential, or metaphysical value, they more often than not produce a “doe-eyed” stare and literally yawn as though the question being asked is one of the most boring and meaningless nature possible. Thus, they would be aptly named Generation Yawn.
Let me clarify. I teach theology at a small Christian liberal arts college. I love teaching theology because I love the subject matter. Further, I love the fact that teaching theology allows me the opportunity to share the gospel and defend the faith on a regular, even scheduled, basis. Teaching theology is a subject and a vocation for which I have a great deal of passion. So, when I teach this subject I bring to it the fervor of a man who cares. I was trained to interact, even argue with those whose beliefs, or lack thereof, may contradict my own. I was trained in apologetics. I know how to defend the faith and present Christ and Him crucified and raised as a set of trustworthy historical facts that occurred in real time and real history. But I was not necessarily trained to defend against the yawn of indifference. It seems as though any time I ask of my class questions that have been asked by countless thinkers throughout human history, such as the ultimate questions of meaning and existence, the response is not contempt, disagreement, or disapproval; it is passivity and indifference.
Now if I were teaching philosophy, history, or literature this would be annoying. But I am teaching Jesus. If a person holds an untenable philosophical position, it may lead them down a worldview path that they will later regret. If they hold as truth incorrect historical propositions, they may seem like a dote some day at a cocktail party. If they utilize an inappropriate piece of literary knowledge, their witty reference may show them to be uneducated to those in the know. If they bet wrong on Jesus, the consequence in this life and the next are truly beyond measure.
So how does one communicate this to Generation Yawn? Well, I am, and many others are, still in development on that. But I can say why I think this is happening. The modern young adult has been taught from the minute that they drew their first breath that what happens to them in the here and now is of ultimate importance, and everything else is not even penultimate, but secondary or even tertiary. We, as a culture, have taught these young adults that anything that is not directed toward their immediate success or earthly security is a waste of their time. Thus, to think about the “Ultimate Questions,” has not yet hit their radar and I’m afraid it might not ever. In order to impact them with the importance of these issues, it becomes necessary over personalize scenarios that might get their attention. It is not enough to ask: is theft wrong and why? One must ask them if it would be wrong for someone to steal his or her laptop.
We, as a culture, have focused our children so completely on the concrete, that the abstract has become irrelevant, and quite frankly boring to them.
What I am arguing for here is what I am always arguing in favor of when it comes to rearing children to be adults that will one day be expected to contribute to society. Allow them to take risks. Allow them to face the fear that risk brings with it. Allow them to face the “other” that is part and parcel with risk taking. Allow children to try, and further to fail. Teach them that not everything has to do with immediate gratification and that some value added abstractions are worth betting-on. Teach them to care by discussing with them something other than their immediate well being. Teach them to care by teaching them that they are not the center of the universe. Love them with forgiveness so that they: (1) know they do wrong, (2) know that forgiveness is necessary, and (3) know it can be given freely. If we do not start doing this, the result will be another generation that not only yawns at the prospects of good and evil, but fails altogether to see the difference. This prospect frightens me already, and the future prospects frighten me even more. Do they frighten you? They ought to.
In the end, I take consolation in a couple of things. First, Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” And secondly, Romans 10:17: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” I know that it is not my arguments, creativity, apologetic know-how, teaching style, or classroom wizardry that will break through their indifference, but rather that the Gospel alone has to power to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I try every day to be the best, most passionate and well-informed teacher that I can be; as do those with whom I work. So I and many others go on doing what we can with what we have been taught, and further handing over the goods that is Christ as Redeemer and Savior daily. His is the power of God unto salvation for all that believe! In this Truth, I am not frightened. In this Truth, I gain my hope.