Friday, November 03, 2006

Of Boomers, Busters and the Church

Father Jonathan has been putting up links to stories that he has read that have caught his attention. In today's entry he pointed to the results of a study on morality and sexuality by the Barna Group. The study was designed to compare and contrast the views on a variety of moral issues between those in their twenties and thirties (the "Busters" - a term I hadn't come across until now) and those over fourty (obviously, the "Boomers").

The results of the study shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has crawled out from under a rock in the last week or so. The Buster generation views almost anything as morally acceptable, where the Boomer generation is more "conservative". There is a certain irony in calling the children of the sixties "conservative", but that is beside the point. You can go and read all the gory details, and it probably wouldn't hurt you to do so since it's something we'll be dealing with for the rest of our lives, but I found a couple of very important quotes.

“It is rare to see such large gaps between population segments and it confirms a major shift in the way Busters think and behave sexually. Sexual experimentation is not new. But it is striking to see sexual behaviors and attitudes that were uncommon now becoming part of the accepted, mainstream experience of young people.” The Vice President of the Barna Group added, “We expect to see this mindset of sexual entitlement translate into increased appetites for pornography, unfiltered acceptance of sexual themes and content in media, and continued dissolution of marriages due to infidelity. It seems entirely possible that current events such as the Mark Foley scandal, instances of abuse by clergy, and the sexually oriented school shootings of recent months are not mere aberrations, but symptoms of a sexually unrestrained society.”

That's a very threatening statement, but on its face certainly one anyone who is paying attention to the culture on a broad scale would find accurate at least on the surface. Perhaps more interesting is this explanation of why things are changing.

[Director of research David] Kinnaman explained that “...Boomers took moral experimentation to new heights, but Busters now live in a world where such experimentation is the norm, not the exception. Busters have a more disconnected, individualized, less trusting spin on morality. ... Boomers experimented to overthrow the morals of their parents, while Busters live with a mindset of trying to survive."

When one is in the mindset of just trying to survive, a stringent morality tends to be viewed as a luxurious frill rather than a necessary part of living a life worth of the One who put you here. Now...we all also know the currently accepted wisdom that the younger generations (the "Busters" and those younger than that) feel that churches in general have failed to answer their questions, that they do not feel any of the organizations that have supported the fabric of our society have relevance to them any more. But this, mis amigos, is where I firmly believe the Church, as in the Catholic Church has the answers they are seeking, if only we are willing to offer them in the stead of the syrupy drivel they have been fed thus far by others.
“It is important for churches to understand the natural skepticism of Busters as well as their desire for spiritual and conversational depth,” he continued. “Young adults do not want to hear on-the-stage monologues about moral regulations. To earn access to their hearts and minds, you have to understand each person’s unique background, identity, and doubts, and must tangibly model a biblical lifestyle for them beyond the walls of the church.” [my emphasis]
Now you tell me, what other entity in this world has the depth of existence that is at the core of the Church established by Christ himself almost two thousand years ago? The richness of the history, the depth of the theology, the varied natures of the celebration, the underlying unity - these are things which the Church can offer in depths unreachable by any other entity. The question is, are we willing to pull the covers off of this depth, to show those who are questioning and seeking the answers they have longed to find even though it makes us different than those around us? I believe, obviously, we can; the question then becomes, will we, which then is up to each and every one of us. Outreach - evangelization - it is the call of every Christian.