I sent a passionate letter to my constituency during the month of August, which I'm told has been read by millions of people. One of the responders was a man who lives in Paris, and he read a French translation of my letter. Now I am writing again this month to convey another deeply felt message, as follows.
Some months ago, my guest on Family Talk was George Barna, author and national researcher. He has been hailed as the most quoted person in the Christian church today,1 and I believe that to be true. If you heard our interview, you may remember it was an eye opener. Barna had recently conducted extensive polling with millennials who were born between 1984 and 2002.2 The results were stunning.
Here are some of Barna's findings:
Only four percent of millennials hold to a biblical worldview!3 That means 96 percent of this generation doesn't believe in absolute truth. By definition, if nothing is invariably true, then neither is the authenticity of the Bible, the divinity of Christ, the existence of God, the reality of sin, the promise of eternal life for believers, the prospect of hell, or the other fundamentals of the Christian faith. Those who reject absolute truth have nothing more substantial to cling to than post-modern, secular humanistic, or existentialist worldviews that are devoid of meaning and purpose. Does this characterization of today's young adults disturb you? It is alarming to me!
Four out of five of these young adults are unsure of their eternal destiny.4 The overwhelming majority have no biblical answers to the ontological questions posed by life, such as whether or not there is a God. Or whether Jesus is His Son? Or whether there is life after death? Or how a person can achieve it. Or whether we all will someday be held accountable for the way we have lived on earth. Many millennials have decided there is no moral certitude to use as a guide. God help them. And God help us all.
Sadly, marriage for millennials is often held in low regard, and premarital sex is simply for fun and games. Infidelity is frequently seen as no big deal. Monogamy is considered old fashioned. Commitment comes and goes. Divorce is commonplace.
Time and space don't permit me to report the other findings from Barna's research, but it is just as disturbing. I recommend you read his book, America at the Crossroads: Explosive Trends Shaping America's Future and What You Can Do About It.5
It will make you think about this: Millennials will soon ascend to power and influence as today's leaders grow older and begin to move out. That makes the beliefs and values of today's younger generation of great importance to the future of Western Civilization. In short, a wagonload of humanity is bouncing along behind them.
Here is a provocative question: How did the American culture change so rapidly and dramatically within the past 30 years? What brought about this shift in values and beliefs that only yesterday were deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian system of beliefs? It happened on our watch as parents in the context of an increasingly godless culture.
As it pertains to the relative impact on American lives, the Christian church is at the bottom echelon of influence. Four dozen other entities outrank it in significance.6 The number one priority for most Americans is money. What they care about most are economics, jobs, taxes, and unemployment.7
When I was a university professor in the 1970s and early 1980s, I saw this changing system of values taking place. It led me to begin thinking seriously about what was happening to the nation and its children. I decided to leave academia and devote my life to the preservation of the family, which was clearly unraveling year by year. As the culture continued to erode, Gary Bauer and I coauthored a book in 1990 to warn Christian parents about what was happening to their precious kids. It was entitled Children at Risk.
Let me take you back 28 years to tell you about that generation's growing-up years. This is what I wrote in one of the early chapters of our book. Go back with me now to 1990 and what I said to the parents of that day.
I want to tell you about a three-year-old boy named Josh. He's the kind of kid you want to hug, with his cute blonde hair, infectious smile, and winsome personality. His father brings Josh to the gymnasium three mornings each week where he plays on the sidelines while his dad and I and a few other aging jocks sweat it out together on a basketball court. That's where I met Josh.
One day during a break in the action, I walked over to the bleachers and sat down beside Josh. I tried a couple of times to engage him in conversation, but got nowhere. He didn't really know me and he was perfectly willing to leave it that way. After getting no more than a nod in response to several questions, I resorted to a "can't miss, never fail" method of making friends with a small boy.
I said, "Josh, have you ever been stung by a bee?"
He lit up like a Christmas tree.
"Yeah," he said excitedly. "He got me right there," pointing to the side of his big toe.
"Did you step on him?" I asked.
"Nope. He dived on me," said Josh.
From that point on, Josh and I were fast friends. We kicked a volleyball back and forth and talked about things that turned him on. Nothing, however, interested him quite like the bee that "dived" from the sky and grabbed his big toe.
I smiled as I watched little Josh running around the gymnasium gleefully teasing his father and chasing loose basketballs. He reminded me of my own kids, now grown, and the joy they brought to our house during their preschool years.
Then a certain sadness came over me. I thought about the 25 million [now 60 million8] babies who have been killed by abortion since the Supreme Court legalized their murders in 1973.
Their numbers would amount to ten percent of today's entire population of Americans.
Nearly eleven million would be in elementary school, carrying their crayons and Mickey Mouse lunch boxes to class each morning. Nearly a million of these nameless, faceless, aborted babies would be toddling around and giggling and hugging the necks of their parents today. I tried to imagine those little bundles of energy who had been savagely dismembered or poisoned before they could even plead for their lives. Something within me screamed, "No, it can't be!" But alas, the killing continues to this hour.
Not only do I mourn for those millions of babies who were taken from their places of safety, but I also worry about Josh and his contemporaries who were permitted to live. Theirs will not be an easy journey, either.
This point was emphasized for me recently when I happened to watch a television documentary on the subject of elephants. No, it did not address the needs of children, but it spoke to me about the younger generation and the tragic mistakes we are making in their upbringing.
The program was videotaped in India, where magnificent pachyderms are trained to serve their human masters. Of course, if elephants knew how strong they were they would never yield to the domination of anything, but they are subjected to stressful forms of "brainwashing," which takes the fight out of them.
The process begins with three days of total isolation from man or beast. Female elephants and their young are remarkably social animals, and they react to loneliness the same way humans do. They grieve and fret and long for their peers. At that precise moment of vulnerability, they are brought to a nighttime ceremony of fire. Then, for many hours in the flickering light, they are screamed at, intimidated, stroked, and ordered back and forth. By morning, half-crazed, the elephants have yielded. Their wills have been broken. Man is the master. Even though I understand the economic need for working elephants in India, there is still something sad about their plight. These wonderfully intelligent animals are transformed from freedom to slavery in a single evening. Their fragile emotions are manipulated to destroy their independence and curb their individuality. Somehow, I wish it weren't true.
Then as I watched the documentary, I was struck by the parallel between these elephants and us fragile human beings. We, too, are social creatures, born with irrepressible needs to be loved and accepted by our parents and peers. In fact, to deprive us of this emotional support during early childhood is to risk crippling us for life.
But if our needs for love are great during childhood, they can't compare with the soul hunger we feel with the arrival of adolescence. Like the elephants staked in a distant field, teenagers are subjected by their culture to a period of intense isolation and loneliness. Even those who are moderately successful during the middle-school years often feel rejected, ridiculed, and bullied.
Unfortunately, for the most tender and pliable among us, the pain of adolescence can be incalculable. These youngsters slink through the halls of their schools, looking at the floor and fearing the wrath of their peers. They are, at that moment, prime targets for brainwashing. Adolescent society will do the rest.
Anyone who has worked with teenagers has surely witnessed this mind-bending process at work. Television and movies hammer away at moral values and principles. Friends and acquaintances ridicule any form of self-discipline or restraint. But the analogy to the conditioning of elephants becomes even more striking.
Rock concerts subject masses of emotionally needy kids to deafening noises, eerie lights, wild behavior, and godless teaching. Like an elephant during the night of fire, an adolescent begins to lose his grip on reality. His fight to preserve individuality slowly ebbs away. A passion for conformity rises from deep within. His peer group becomes lord and master, until finally, the wonderful freedom of youth is traded for slavery and domination.
This conditioning process helps explain the irrationality of youth. Why else would healthy boys and girls inject mind numbing drugs into their veins, or give sexual favors to a virtual stranger, or dye their hair orange and green, or even commit suicide? Their behavior has been warped by enormous social pressures in an environment of unmet needs.
Obviously, teenagers possess a free will, and I would not excuse those who engage in irresponsible behavior. But they are also victims of a peer-dominated society that often leaves them lost and confused. And my heart goes out to them.
How passionately I feel about the plight of today's children. How sorry I am for the pressures we have allowed to engulf them. How regretful I am for the sexual enticements that reach their ears during elementary school, teaching them that virginity is a curse and sex an adolescent toy. How I grieve for the boys and girls who have been told, and now believe, that they are utter fools who will fail in each of life's endeavors.
How tenderly I feel toward the less than perfect children, the blind or deaf, or overweight, or mentally impaired or cerebral palsied, who believe themselves to be cursed by God and man. Somehow, we must make a new effort to reach this generation with a message of confidence and hope and love and respect. To build bridges of hope to the young, we must develop a better understanding of the world in which they live. Perhaps it will be helpful to think of today's teenager as being compelled symbolically to walk alone down a long, dark corridor leading toward adulthood. On either side of this gloomy hall are many large doors, each bearing identifying words at eye level. They are called Alcohol, Marijuana, Hard Drugs, Pornography, Gambling, Homosexual Experimentation, Premarital Sex, on and on.
Every form of addictive behavior is represented by at least one door which the teenager must pass on his journey to maturity. As he approaches each portal, he can hear boisterous laughter and gaiety from within. His friends or people he wants as friends are already inside, and they are obviously having wonderful fun.
Every now and then he hears someone call his name and beckon him to the party. Who knows what unimaginable thrills and sensations and sense of belonging can be waiting behind one of the doors? And why shouldn't he experience what everyone else is doing? Who, tell me, has the right to keep that immature boy or girl locked out there in the dark, alone and afraid? His parents? That's a laugh.
They had their day, now it's his turn. Brilliant light shines from under each door, and the shadows of dancing bodies cast a sinister reflection on his adolescent face. Pounding music throbs in his ears. That does it! Forget the consequences! He reaches for the doorknob.
For a certain percentage of individuals who open one or more of these dangerous doors (the probability varies for each addictive behavior), a tragedy begins to unfold. The susceptible adolescent must simply crack the door an inch or two, and a monster will run out and grab the wide-eyed victim. Some, but not all, will be held in its power for the rest of their lives.9
Fast forward now to the 21st century . . .
There have been many other factors that have influenced young men and women born in the 1990s. If I were writing Children at Risk today, I would also have attributed the greatest influence to the public schools, and especially the university system. Higher education has destroyed the faith of untold numbers of vulnerable students. They arrived on campus as scared freshmen, not being sure what they believed, yet liberal professors and coaches systematically undermined the conservative views of these students. They emerged four years later as confirmed atheists or leftists. The nighttime ceremony of fire continues.
I hope you get the point of what I have written, but let me make it clear. The changing world we were witnessing and warning about in 1990 had a profound impact on the children around us in that day. They were engulfed in a godless ideology that permeated their schools, neighborhoods, and media. Even some of their churches failed to give them the Truth. These children grew up, as children do, and they are today's millennials.
There is an undeniable connection between the way they were raised and the spiritual vacuity we see in them now. Why does it surprise us that they have little appreciation for biblical truth, or that 96 percent of them don't believe in absolute truth? They were carried downstream by a river of culture that damaged their faith and confused their Christian beliefs. It wasn't all the fault of parents, but obviously, something was missing in the training they were given.
I am reminded of what my father wrote to me when our daughter was a preschool child. In his words, "Danae is growing up in a world much farther gone into moral decline than the world into which you were born. I have observed that parental prayers during these formative years will be essential to preserving faith and commitment to Christ. You must teach and guide your daughter diligently while she is young. You can't afford to be casual about it. When you sit where I am today, you will see that nothing you are trying to accomplish professionally will mean anything if you fail in this greatest of responsibilities."
What then should we do for today's millennials? Trying to tell them what to think or believe would be insulting. We must pray for them fervently. God can talk to their hearts and draw them to Himself. Never give up on this "bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh."
Here is the essence of everything I have written today. Please give it the utmost consideration. We may have lost this generation known as millennials, but they are the parents of the next. We can't afford to lose yet another generation. Those of you who are grandparents know those boys and girls desperately need spiritual guidance and training. Give them your time and love. Keep them on your prayer list. Grandparents are often in the best position to make a lasting impression on their grandkids. My mother and father were deeply committed to Christ, but it was my grandmother and great-grandmother who solidified my childish faith. Read Deuteronomy 6 where this passing on of our faith is commanded. My word of advice might be the most important concept I have offered to families in 48 years. Eternity hangs in the balance.
My goodness! Now I sound like I am preaching to you, and I'm not even a preacher.
I hope these words have been helpful. If you are a millennial, please don't be offended by what I have written. God loves you. Always has. Always will. I would like to meet you sometime. Perhaps in heaven.
In closing, dear friends, I urge you to register to vote and then go to the polls on November 6. How can we do less for our great country?
Blessings to you all,
1. George Barna
2. Americans redefine family morality
3. American Culture & Faith Institute
5. Barna, George. America at the Crossroads: Explosive Trends Shaping America’s Future and What You Can Do About It. Baker Books, 2016.
6. Barna, George. The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe, and Why They Matter. Barna Books/Tyndale House Pub., 2009.
7. Barna, George. "How Americans Rank the Top Issues Challenging the US Today"
8. Reported Annual Abortions
9. Dobson, James C. and Gary Lee Bauer. Children at Risk. Word Pub., 1990.
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