Virtual Voices

Generation vulnerable

Religion

Based on interviews with 16- to 25-year-olds conducted on behalf of The Prince's Trust, younger generations in the United Kingdom are becoming "increasingly vulnerable." Young people in the United Kingdom increasingly are describing life as meaningless and are struggling to understand why life matters. This type of confusion sets the stage for them to rely upon false systems-such as drug and alcohol abuse, gangs, and non-marital and risky sex behavior-to give life meaning.

Among the key finding from the survey that YouGuv conducted for The Prince's Trust were:

  • 12 percent of young people in Wales claim life is meaningless.
  • 26 percent say they are often, or always, down or depressed.
  • 39 percent say they are less happy now than they were as a child.
  • 21 percent feel like crying often or always.
  • 44 percent say they are regularly stressed.
  • Those not in work, training, or education are twice as likely to feel their life has little or no purpose.
  • Across the United Kingdom, young people feel relationships with family (56 percent) are key to overall happiness.
  • Friends (52 percent), emotional health (29 percent), money (16 percent), and work (14 percent) are also important.

According to the survey, 9 percent of Scots believe that life is not worth living at all. If you are a person who believes that life is not worth living it will likely lead to severe depression. In response to the report, a London 32-year-old nicknamed "Yoof" wrote this in response the study:

This is hardly surprising. . . . I'm 32 and have been clinically depressed for 7 years despite having a decent job and loving music. . . . [T]he problem I have and many like me is that we have no future. . . . [O]ur generation is the first one that has to deal with the proven knowledge that the world as we know it is coming to an end, and all that the generation above us (older) can do is attempt to nick as much money off us as possible before it all goes belly up.

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Yoof is correct that the findings are not surprising. But what seems obvious is that even family and work are not enough to give youngsters meaning in life. There must be something more-something more transcendent to give even family and work deeper meaning other than the functionality of connection and productivity. Of course, what else can we expect from a region that has deliberately expunged Christianity from its culture? Without locating one's existence within the reality of a transcendent Triune God, all aspects of life will ultimately seem meaningless. Hmm, isn't this a familiar theme in the Bible somewhere?

As the reporting continues in the United Kingdom, there are more and more calls for government to come up with ways to find solutions to save the region's young people. Sadly, we know this will fail too because government is incapable of providing direction in this area.

Is America next? Possibly. As more and more Christians seem mostly interested in throwing rocks at the big bad "culture," focusing more on needs inside their local church by creating an alternative reality that's "safe for the family," and increasingly removing themselves from the public square (especially in the areas of education and entertainment), the general public is less likely to be in loving relationships with people who have answers to questions about meaning and existence.

As Christianity in America continues to follow religious trends in the United Kingdom, the church should be even more committed to sending Christians with the good news into as many public spaces as possible so that we will not find ourselves reading about such a report concerning our young people. Because the sad reality for youth in the United Kingdom is that without the active work of the church fulfilling her mission there, youngsters in that region will continue to be lost.

Anthony Bradley
Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of theology and ethics at The King's College in New York and serves as a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. He is author of Liberating Black Theology. Follow Anthony on Twitter @drantbradley.

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