The Don: A Weekly Publishing

Fr. Steve Ryan S.D.B.


Take Back the Night
By Fr. Steve Ryan, SDB and Tony Marincovich
 
Adults are challenged to see what’s going on in the lives of young people. Adults are challenged to listen to what young people struggle with today. Adults are challenged to accompany young people patiently through their challenges and growing pains. Adults can’t just react with gruff answers and standard warnings but rather must guide and mentor youth in a discernment process to help them in life’s journey.

This three-fold process of seeing, listening and accompanying can’t be ignored by parents, teachers, youth ministers, Salesians – or any adult who wants to help the young.

Yet it often is ignored. Why?

Listening to the contemporary situation of young people is sometimes uncomfortable. Opening our eyes to the reality of their lives today can be a culture shock to some of us who only 30 years ago faced a much different landscape as teens and young adults.

We adults are often too busy with our own stuff. Life is often “darn complicated” for us as it is – we are exhausted and don’t have time to delve into the “stuff” our kids are getting into in their free time and social life. It’s especially true for parents who at a certain point in the day – after giving all they had for 16 hours – just want to send our young people to their rooms and get some alone or down time.

Tony, a member of the parish here at Mary Help in Tampa, was reflecting on some concerns and challenges he has been having as a parent. He focuses on social media misuse and asks himself – what is a parent supposed to do about it? Here is his reflection entitled Take Back the Night:   
 
Parents cannot watch their children 24 hours a day and too many young people are finding it way too easy to slip away into the “temptation” that the cover of night provides a freedom to do whatever they want with social media. The Night has become an unsupervised playground where so many young people explore some very dark and dangerous avenues that slowly but surely lead them to begin to lose their way. They believe that the Night relieves them of the restrictions of everyday life and of their overprotective parents, when in reality it is just a big lie. They do not realize that it is just an illusion and that they quite possibly might be taking the first steps into a life of enslavement instead of the road to independence that they so prematurely desire.
 
Our innocent youth don’t know what they are getting into when they hide in their rooms past their bedtimes on their cell phones texting one another, or when they are searching the worldwide web and all of its darkest corners. They do not comprehend that the nighttime quickly can become the devil’s playground and that they are turning into victims of the Evil one. They do not recognize that they are unwillingly and unknowingly being exposed to the devil’s tricks. They merely think that this ‘alone time’ is an escape. What it really is, is a trap! The false security of a closed door and parents asleep down the hall does not provide safety from predators on the computer. Chat rooms, pornographic sites etc. provide an illusion of safety and privacy. Young people are not alone in the dark when they mess around with ‘dark’ things on the internet and social media – the devil is there happy to entrap them. 

Our youth of today are becoming lost in the Night. Can we help them TAKE BACK THE NIGHT? Can we help our Lord and His way, His truth and His light shine in the night? Can prayer and holy things be re-discovered as great ways to spend the night? Lord, as parents and adults, can we help our kids – take back the night?

Ten Reasons Millennials Are Backing Away from God and Christianity
By Dr. Alex McFarland
 
College-aged millennials today are far more likely than the general population to be religiously unaffiliated. This is true when they are compared to previous generations as well.

In fact, the Pew Research Center documents that millennials are the least outwardly religious American generation, where “one in four are unaffiliated with any religion, far more than the share of older adults when they were ages 18 to 29.” Just over 60 percent of millennials say that Christianity is “judgmental,” and 64 percent say that “anti-gay” best describes most churches today.

In ministry circles, it has long been reported that of youth raised in homes that were to some degree “Christian,” roughly three-quarters will jettison that faith after high school. Just under half of this number will return to some level of church involvement in their late 20s or early 30s.

Why is this? Our most recent research, which includes dozens of interviews with teens, twenty-somethings, professed ex-Christians, and religion and culture experts, points to factors like these:

1. Mindset of “digital natives” is very much separate from other generations. Millennials are eclectic on all fronts – economically, spiritually, artistically. There is little or no “brand loyalty” in most areas of life. 

2. Breakdown of the family. It has long been recognized that experience with an earthly father deeply informs the perspective about the heavenly father. In “How the West Really Lost God,” sociologist Mary Eberstadt correctly asserts, “The fortunes of religion rise or fall with the state of the family.”
 
3. Militant secularism: Embraced by media and enforced in schools, secular education approaches learning through the lens of “methodological naturalism.” It is presupposed that all faith claims are merely expressions of subjective preference. The only “true” truths are claims that are divorced from any supernatural context and impose no moral obligations on human behavior. People today are subjected to an enforced secularism.
 
4. Lack of spiritual authenticity among adults. Many youth have had no – or very limited – exposure to adult role models who know what they believe, why they believe it, and are committed to consistently living it out.
 
5. The church’s cultural influence has diminished. The little neighborhood church is often assumed to be irrelevant, and there is no cultural guilt anymore for those who abandon involvement.
 
6. Pervasive cultural abandonment of morality. The idea of objective moral truth – ethical norms that really are binding on all people – is unknown to most and is rejected by the rest.
 
7. Intellectual skepticism. College students are encouraged to accept platitudes like “life is about asking questions, not about dogmatic answers.” Is that the answer? That there are no answers? Claiming to have answers is viewed as “impolite.” On life’s ultimate questions, it is much more socially acceptable to “suspend judgment.”
 
8. The rise of a fad called “atheism.” Full of self-congratulatory swagger and blasphemous bravado, pop-level atheists such as the late Christopher Hitchens (whom I interviewed twice) made it cool to be a non-believer. Many millennials, though mostly 20-something Caucasian males, are enamored by books and blogs run by God-hating “thinkers.”
 
9.  Our new God: Tolerance be Thy name. “Tolerance” today essentially means, “Because my truth is, well, my truth, no one may ever question any behavior or belief I hold.” This “standard” has become so ingrained that it is now impossible to rationally critique any belief or behavior without a backlash of criticism.

10. The commonly defiant posture of young adulthood. As we leave adolescence and morph into adulthood, we all can be susceptible to an inflated sense of our own intelligence and giftedness. During the late teens and early 20s, many young people feel 10 feet tall and bulletproof. I did. The cultural trend toward rejection of God—and other loci of authority—resonates strongly with the desire for autonomy felt in young adulthood.
 
Finally, is it really any wonder that kids raised in the churches of 21st century America aren’t often stirred to lifelong commitment? Most churches are so occupied with “marketing” themselves to prospective attendees that they wouldn’t dream of risking their “brand” by speaking tough-as-nails truth.

For evangelical youth mentored by many a hip and zany “Minister to Students,” commitment to Jesus lasts about as long as the time it takes to wash the stains out of T-shirts worn at the senior-year paintball retreat.

It is true that our culture has grown visibly antithetical to God and Christian commitment. But in addressing the spiritual attrition rate of young America, it must be admitted that a prayerless, powerless church peddling versions of “Christianity Lite” share in the blame. God only knows the degree of our complicity, and also the time when we’ll be concerned enough to change direction.

Dr. Alex McFarland is Director for Christian Worldview and Apologetics at North Greenville University.

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