In Googling God (my book) I attest that Columbine is a seminal moment in the life of the Millennial Generation, that their world has been marked by many tragedies all mounting on one another leading them to see the world as precarious. Religiously speaking, they look for security within religion’s ranks, especially because when you couple this precariousness with the rise in technology you get a world where many different sources compete for the attention of the younger generation and therefore trust also becomes a major issue.
“Who or what can I trust?” is a major question for this generation. Contrasting that with Generation X’s wonder of who will be there for them at all and we find a bunch of cynical people who wonder if religion seems to make any sense altogether. The younger millennials seem less willing to search for these truths, but also adhere strongly to something that makes sense to them that they are able to find quickly. Long term however, some initial commitments also make lack staying power. People who follow Catholicism strongly at this juncture are likely to eschew it for something that may fit their lifestyle better down the road when that life changes into family or marriage responsibilities or when deeper questions of faith go unanswered by their religious mentors or even their tradition as a whole. There seems to be little room for ambiguity amongst the young.
For the older Generation Xers, faith is more relational. How do I see myself and others in faith traditions? Where is our belief helping us form community, virtual or otherwise. As a member of Gen X I can say, we crave community so much that we settle for new ways of trying to produce its effects (See, facebook, social networks). We long for trusted sources too, but are more willing to listen to all-comers and then discern for ourselves what is is that God is trying to tell us within it all?
Columbine and 9-11 and the myriad of tragedies that followed revealed even more:
Millennials ran to churches and intellectual approaches to see where God exist. What have certain structures said about God because they’ve taken the time to look at it–time Millennials don’t have time for. More critically, Gen Xers don’t trust the institution but instead look for what the tradition itself forms–what cohorts come together to try to make sense of things and to explore questions of deeper meaning as well as provide support for one another in it all.
But as the world grows more precarious, I pray that we remember the lessons of Columbine. That the pressure that students are under is often immense and we need to continue to be active in their lives asking questions and staying informed about who they are developing into. They want your help, they need it and moreover they seek it.