I’m currently slogging through mounds of information regarding the spiritual warfare that Christians encounter in the world, since that’s the subject of our upcoming middle school confirmation retreat. I’ve spent the last two days listening to Mark Driscoll’s February 2008 lectures on the subject. Wow, it’s a doozy–an incredibly interesting, useful, much-needed doozy.
I read some research a few weeks ago by experts Dillon Burroughs and Marla Alupoaicei, co-authors of the newly released book, Generation Hex. They cited a Barna study, which showed that fewer than 20% of teenagers are ever exposed to any sort of teaching that deals with supernatural or paranormal subject matter. So, I’m glad that we’re diving into this topic with our youth–as challenging as it might be for us, their spiritual leaders, to decipher.
You only need to spend about ten minutes checking out what today’s youth are reading and watching to see that they’re completely fascinated with it. Almost all of the middle schoolers I know have read the Twilight series and Harry Potter. Many are fascinated by the supernatural thrillers of Ted Dekker. They’re clamoring about shows like “Vampire Diaries”, “Heroes”, “Flash Forward” and “V”–all programs revolving exclusively around the supernatural. And let’s not even mention the movies that fascinate them….I don’t have all day here.
What’s interesting about this is that I’m really only ten years older than this generation of middle schoolers–yet their experience is so different from mine already, and they have such vastly different personalities as a result of it. Get away from the fact that they cut their teeth on computers and DVD players, received cell phones as grade schoolers, and think that touch-screen technology is common-place–what’s more interesting to me is what they’re utterly fascinated by.
When I think of my childhood media influences, I remember Mighty Mouse, Woody Woodpecker, Tom and Jerry, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, the Goof Troop, the Space Jam characters, and a whole lot of other happy-go-lucky talking animals.
This next generation is growing up embracing a much darker, much more realistic and mature group of media darlings.
Despite the fact that this next generation grew up in a cutting-edge, technology-saturated world–a world where they are exposed to more information than ever before in the history of all the world, right at their very fingertips–they are keenly interested in mystery. Things that cannot be explained by facts and photos. Things that send a shiver down your spine instead of a concrete understanding. Things that demonstrate that we don’t have it all figured out, that we’re not the masters of the world.
The most frequently asked questions I have from middle schoolers and high schoolers alike are questions about the supernatural: “Are ghosts real? What’s the battle going on between God and Satan? Can a Christian become possessed by a demon? What authority do we have as Christians?”
I can’t help but think of the oft-quoted sentence from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel and excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
I’m not sure yet if we’ll grow up to see that this generation developed an unhealthy interest in the supernatural…but I am hopeful that we’ll see a departure from the egocentric follies of the generations before us–those who turned away from God and instead embraced facts and figures.
Maybe this generation will dramatically change the world–in a way that no one saw coming. No one would guess that our kids, growing up with more opportunities and knowledge available than anyone else in history, might return us to a simple, awe-inspired fear of God and a healthy fear of evil.