The Daunting Journey of Millennials
The Millennials have come of age — and they need our support. A new report about America’s youngest adult generation from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University reveals that tens of millions of Millennials are having a hard time making life work.
The nationwide study, “Millennials in America: New Insight into the Generation of Growing Influence,” describes a generation affected by world events that occurred during their formative years. Those include the Rodney King beatings and subsequent riots; the mass shootings at Columbine and other schools; the birth of the internet; the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; the spread of groundbreaking technology such as digital music devices, video game consoles, and smartphones; social media apps like Facebook and Twitter; devastating hurricanes such as Katrina; and the economic crisis of 2008.
But the most significant influence on their thoughts and behavior comes from the worldview they have been taught and have embraced. It is their worldview that has produced the generational mindset and consequent lifestyles we see today.
The combination of lackadaisical worldview development and global events has generated some devastating outcomes. Among the most serious challenges Millennials must confront is a crisis of meaning. Three-quarters of the young adult segment, currently 18 to 37 years of age, contend that they are searching for their purpose in life. One cannot help but wonder how much that absence of a clear and compelling direction in life has contributed to the generation’s record-breaking rates of suicide.
Another significant challenge Millennials allude to is their struggle with relationships. Although they are a generation that believes in the importance of friendships and other close ties, it is also a group struggling to experience lasting, meaningful relationships. It appears that much of this struggle is due to their reluctance to trust and respect other people. Another shocking outcome — that three out of every 10 identify as LGBTQ — reminds us that this is a group desperate to belong to a community that accepts them for “who they are.” While the vast majority of that 30 percent is not personally living a homosexual or bisexual lifestyle, they want to be seen as accepting, tolerant, understanding, and compassionate when it comes to the causes and issues championed by the LGBT movement. They would rather fit in with their peers than stand firm for God’s truth and endure conflict or rejection over their choices.
One of the most disturbing revelations from the research relates to the mental health of the nation’s young adults. A majority admits to having mental health issues in the form of frequently feeling anxious, depressed, or unsafe. This concern is echoed by data from the National Institute of Mental Health, which also reports large-scale issues among young adults with such troubles.
On top of these points of discomfort and adversity lies the dramatic reshaping of the faith foundations of the generation. Millions of them are consciously distancing themselves from God. Forty percent can be classified as “Don’ts” — individuals who either do not know, do not care, or do not believe that God exists. A historically-low proportion of the generation (16 percent) qualifies as born-again Christian based on their beliefs about sin and salvation. And a substantial majority does not believe that absolute or objective moral truth exists. Interestingly, they have favorable opinions of Jesus and the Bible, but not of pastors, Christian churches, and Christian individuals.
As the report concludes, the fundamental crisis facing Millennials is their worldview. Currently, only four percent of Millennials possess a biblical worldview. According to the American Worldview Inventory, nine out of 10 Millennials possess a syncretistic perspective — the personalized blend of many worldviews with no particular philosophy of life dominating the others. Think about how their worldview contributes to their life challenges:
- It’s no wonder they face fear, anxiety, and depression. Without belief in a loving, powerful God who wants to guide and protect us, the world is a scary and overwhelming place. Without the truth principles provided in the Bible and the continual empowerment and guidance provided by the Holy Spirit, making sense of the world and thriving in it are unlikely outcomes.
- The hardships they experience in making and maintaining deep and lasting relationships are a predictable outcome of their belief that life has no inherent value, that people cannot be trusted, that biblical marriage is outdated and unworkable, and that personal relationships should not be restrained by biblical moral principles regarding matters such as lying, stealing, and sexual conduct. Add their strong reliance on technology as their vehicle for developing or maintaining relationships, and the probability of relational breakdowns seems inevitable.
- It must be difficult, if not impossible, to identify purpose when you dismiss God, reject the Bible, believe success is the outgrowth of personal accomplishments rather than obedience to God, and consider life to be about you rather than your Creator. The world must seem out of control and hopeless. Suicide and substance abuse are logical reactions but are nevertheless heartbreaking — and avoidable.
- It is not surprising that Millennials are far more likely to be politically liberal than conservative and to be the generation most supportive of socialism. What else could be expected of a group that harbors a limited sense of responsibility and a knee-jerk reaction to the traditions of prior generations? Further, a group that dismisses biblical norms and values, such as the inherent dignity of individuals and the unassailable value of human life, would naturally support abortion as a reflection of the primacy of personal choice.
- The episodes of violent protest and property destruction that filled the news recently is a predictable outcome for people who possess a heightened degree of self-righteousness, a belief in human sovereignty, a rejection of the legitimacy of institutional authority, and antipathy toward law and order agencies and officers.
We can go so far as to say that all the current “crises” facing America — economic, moral, familial, political, and so forth — would be mitigated if we solved the real crisis facing America: the worldview crisis. Because worldview is the basis of all choices we make, a wrong worldview produces bad choices. The answer to our national dilemma will not be found in Washington, D.C. It will be found in God’s words to His people and their willingness to live in harmony with those principles.
To read or download the report, "Millennials in America," go to culturalresearchcenter.com. The report is available at no cost.
Through the Center for Biblical Worldview, FRC is working to educate and equip Americans with a biblical worldview. For more on the current state of worldview in America and the church, see our 2021 study "Perceptions about Biblical Worldview and Its Application: A National Survey from the Center for Biblical Worldview."
George Barna is a Senior Research Fellow at FRC's Center for Biblical Worldview.