Is It Time To Give Up?

Is It Time To Give Up? February 19, 2024

I’ve been meaning to get a copy of that book, How To Lie With Statistics, but am so backed up, it would take me ages to read it even if I had it to hand. Every time I wander past anything with numbers anywhere online, though, I wonder how I can even know if anything is even true. Are the numbers for real? This was the question upwards in my mind last week when I came across the headline over at Newsweek that “Nearly 40 Percent of U.S. Gen Zs, 30 Percent of Young Christians Identify as LGBTQ, Poll Shows.” The article is dated October 2021, updated in February 2022, and here I am in the year of our Lord, 2024. How did I not see this before? Or maybe I did, and it just didn’t alarm and appall me.

From the piece:

The portion of the population that describes itself as gay has varied over the years, from 10 percent, based on research by Alfred Kinsey and widely promoted by the National Gay Task Force in 1977, to less than 6 percent in a recent Gallup poll. The pollster who worked on the new study, George Barna, attributes the unusually high number he found to social and news media coverage that makes it “safe and cool” for young Americans to identify as LGBTQ—whether or not it represents their actual sexual orientation. “It’s a subset of a larger issue, that this is a generation where three out of four are searching for meaning. This is a group that doesn’t have a reason to get out of bed in the morning,” Barna says. “Therefore, the LGBTQ identity gives them comfort. A lot of this generation claim to be moving in that direction, but there’s a big difference between claiming the identity and living the lifestyle.” The poll looked at so-called Millennials, defined as someone born from 1984-2002, which is about 78 million individuals representing a quarter of the U.S. population. Among Millennials, 30 percent identify as LGBTQ, more than three times that of the rest of the adult population, and when the researchers broke out the youngest of the group, ages 18-24 (which some call Gen Z), they found 39 percent called themselves LGBTQ.

I find this so utterly tragic. It is not only that a generation of people would lack an identity to inhabit that made them feel safe, but even more that a whole group of people doesn’t have a reason to get up in the morning. I feel like the word I’m groping for is “despair.” And it can’t just be accidental. It can’t be that suddenly civilization pitched over the edge of mental health into psychological ruin. Though, I’m sure no one, except for Satan, really thought “This is the best thing I can do today.” The road to despair, of course, is paved with fast food and good intentions. Generations before the Millenials and Zoomers came along, all the people imagined that there would always be a reason to get up in the morning. That was the one thing that could always be counted upon as being there. Indeed, finding a reason to get up in the morning is so basic it is something that you can do on your own, by dint of the sweat of your brow. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps–which you didn’t have, because no one never gave you any, and you don’t even know what they are, who even wears boots with straps?–and climb out of bed and figure out who you are.

The gaping, howling nightmare of having to find your own identity is so wretched, I feel sick that anyone has to do it, let alone “a group” as in, an entire generation of people.

But what about the Christians? Surely they had good parents who purposefully conferred the knowledge of who they were so that they didn’t have to figure it out for themselves? Surely knowing “your identity in Christ,” as so many Christians like to say, was something so deeply experienced that no one needed to question it? Didn’t they go to youth retreats? Didn’t they get told lots and lots about how they were made in the image of God? Surely those Christian children didn’t have to suffer the same existential dread that all their post-Christian peers did? Well, in fact, no, Christian parents didn’t give Christian identity to their children as the first and most important gift they could offer:

Also, a high percentage of Millennial Christians (27 percent) and born-again Millennial Christians (28 percent) describe themselves as LGBTQ, even though many faith groups endorse only heterosexual marriage and are sometimes dismissed as homophobic by gay rights advocates. While the large number of Millennials who identify as LGBTQ is attention-grabbing, Barna says what he found “really interesting is that 40 percent of them fall into the category of what we call the ‘don’ts;’ they don’t believe that God exists, they don’t care if God exists. That’s the highest we have seen for any generation, ever.” “Why is it when previous generations were able to figure out why life was worth living, this one isn’t figuring it out?” he asks. “It has to do with the spiritual changes in America. They don’t buy into the Bible, they don’t trust God, they don’t believe in Jesus, and politics have codified that into law, and the media is a major part of it.”

One way to think about culture–I’m sure there are many others that are better, but this is where I’ve been stuck for a few months–is that it is a set of unquestioned assumptions that you hold, that when you are asked to question them, you struggle to find the language and categories to do so. It’s the sort of experience of being in your own backwater village and then a stranger happens by and asks you why you’re cooking with those sticks like that, why don’t you use a fork? But you have never seen a fork, and so the question is nonsensical. Also, you and the stranger aren’t even having a conversation, because you can’t understand his language and he can’t understand yours. The stranger might ask you who you are, if he could speak to you, and you would give your name and a series of relationships, and maybe some kind of job you are known for doing. If he asked you what kind of religion you practiced, you wouldn’t be able to answer because your religion and your family and your way of life are so intertwined together that you can’t even begin to separate them into various categories.

We haven’t lived in that kind of world for a long time, of course, but there have been some vestiges of real culture that made life bearable, that gave one “a reason to get up in the morning.” You might know that you were a girl, for example, with some siblings and some parents and grandparents. Your parents did certain kinds of work. You expected to go to college one day for some reason. But nobody made you defend your biological realities, or the name given to you by your parents, nor even the God you might have occassionaled worshiped at least two Sundays a month when there was no soccer practice. You could just get on with life, however devoid of spiritual meaning, however driven by the latest fad.

Why wouldn’t you try out all the various “identities” of the age? Everyone needs a reason to live, however small. And, Sunday after Sunday, in church after church, Bibles are kicked around the stage like footballs, Fani Williams quotes Bible verses out of context, and Senior Global Pastor‘s Lawyer tries to do more damage control. Somewhere in the anti-culture chaos, God has been forgotten by the very people who should have known, who should been able to utter his name. But those people assumed, wrongly, that all the precious gifts given to them by the past would magically pass through time to the next generation, without their hard, meek labor of treasuring, protecting, and finally giving it away.

So anyway, have a nice day! And find me on Substack!

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