Clowns Yes, God No?

We had the privilege of hearing Dr. Diana Butler Bass speak at Bucknell University Tuesday evening. She talked about the apparent dislocation and even abandonment of the religious institutions by many members, young and old. An interesting fact that I had read about, and she reiterated, is an August 2016 survey that found that, for a majority of Millennials, todays' college-age young adults and slightly older, a near-majority of them state that the reason they are not active in their church or synagogue or mosque is not because they have become disenchanted with their religious institution itself, but, rather, because they do not believe the religious teachings espoused there. They do not believe in a supreme being or higher power, or God. I find that more than a little worrisome and challenging. What are the experiences of young adults that cause them to dismiss religious teachings that have been around for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years? Are they so cynical as that, or do they find it difficult to believe a message of hope based on teachings about ultimate truths? Research also shows that this young generation is optimistic, so it is not due to lack of a positive outlook. I can’t help but wonder if the "social media" generation is so used to instant responses to messages and inquiries via electronic transmission that they have not the patience to wait in the silences, where the Divine is so often encountered. Rather than throw up my hands in despair, I think it is my obligation to challenge young adults to be willing to enter into the silences and to not be afraid. A generation of students that has shown a recent propensity to be terrified by non-existent clowns, even on our campus, is a generation that can believe in something it cannot see, apparently. We just have to encourage them to believe in a benevolent power. We can help their unbelief by living out that goodness in visible, tangible ways.

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