I don’t “follow” these kinds of studies closely like may pastors and culture watchers do, but when I run across them some of their findings fascinate me. I find that there are a lot of pastoral and missiological implications contained in their findings.
The primary point of this study is that Gen Y likes choice in religion. Like their iPods, they want to be able to control their intake of religion. But I want to focus on one of the last lines in the Washington Times article:
However, although many of these young Americans worry about getting good grades and finding work after school, their biggest concern is the solidly "moral" issue of nonmarital sex -- 35 percent of Generation Y members are "very worried" about "getting a sexually transmitted disease," the study noted.
Don’t ask me why “moral” is in quotes in the article-sexuality is a pretty standard moral issue.
Anyway, some might read this and think it is a good thing. “Whatever their motivation, they are avoiding sinful behavior,” is probably what most think. And I don’t necessarily disagree.
What I am worried about is why they are seemingly avoiding extra-marital sex. The motivation reflected in the article is not moral, theological, relational, marital, societal, philosophical, familial, etc….it is raw and unashamedly pragmatic. According to the study, young people are not thinking about God or other humans when they have the thought, “extra-marital sex should be avoided.” They are thinking of themselves only.
Sure-maybe they are avoiding destructive and sinful behavior, but the reason they have for behaving that way is corrosive. This kind of pragmatism leaves no room for truth, moral rectitude, societal consequences, or other goods we hold in high esteem. It knows only the base drives of the self.
Why is this so corrosive a view? What sort of effect do you think this kind of view of the world has on religion? You might as well throw out any attempt to be unique or exclusive, and you had better not trod on an individual’s “right” to self-determination. So much for Christ and His Cross. Here is a thought experiment: does the typical youth group appeal to theology or pragmatism when trying to get kids to avoid drugs or extra-marital sex?
I have said before on this blog-pragmatism is a philosophy that corrupts people’s souls and will divide them from the grace and bliss of repentance and forgiveness. If we try to play down to the narcissistic drives of individuals, we will end up corrupting our own faith.