As we enter the 1990s, a new generation is appearing on the horizon – and the whole world is taking notice.
- A Newsweek Special Edition declares: “The New Teens” and attempts to answer these questions: “What makes them different? Who are their heroes? What problems do they face?”
- An Ebony magazine cover heralds: “The New Generation of the ’90s” and describes a generation comprised of individuals with different ideas, who are “as equally bouyed by promising opportunities as they are weighted down with problems.”
- A Time magazine cover proclaims “Twenty-Something” and examines a generation with unique culture, with their own set of problems, possibilities, situations and circumstances.
What is it that makes this generation so distinct?
It is no coincidence that this generation has come on the scene at the present time. The whole world is in a state of transition. As we close out the millennium, entire nations are in a state of upheaval. The social, economic and political landscape of the world is fast changing. This is a generation that has come of age “for such a time as this.”
The most talked about, most written about generation of our time, which is described loosely as the “under 25 generation,” has been raised in a new and often bewildering world and has attitudes and ideas which are radically different from those who preceded them.
The “tribal” cultures of the late 60s and early 70s gave way to the self-gratifying “me-generation” of the late 70s and 80s, with the flower children trading in their youthful idealism of peace and love for a more materialistic “yuppie” lifestyle.
And now a new generation emerges. And everyone is asking, “What are they like?”
Author and youth specialist Winkie Pratney, a New Zealander who worked for a teen drug abuse program during the 1960s, now observes, “In my thirty years of ministry, I have never experienced a better time to work with young people.”
Rich Wilkerson, another veteran of the 60s era and founder of Mainstream, a youth ministry, comments on the coming of a new generation:
“What I see happening as I travel around this country is that the children of the so-called ‘yuppie generation’ are coming of age. The older generation, who were products of the hippie culture of the 1960s, championed themselves as the generation who were opposed to the Viet Nam war and materialism. Now they have become the most materialistic generation this nation has ever produced.
“This new generation,” according to Wilkerson, “struggles with trust and has a tendency to disbelieve authority. These offspring are being raised by the most bona fide group of hypocrites in American history. Because authority is so hypocritical, it is viewed by these young people as threatening.”
Yet, it is this generation, according to many youth experts, who have the greatest potential to attain greatness. One trend that contradicts all the trends of the past is that this generation has a deep desire to believe and hope and trust. In the midst of a spiritual vacuum that has been left by the selfishness and materialism of our society, young people have been asking questions in a search for meaning, love and purpose.
Historian Vincent Harding comments, “Parents are bankrupt spiritually. We have more technological advancement, more creature comforts, more opportunities than ever before, but no hope.”
Consequently, more young people than ever are turning to God in hope of making some sense out of a confusing and often threatening world. Dr. Frederick Price, a Los Angeles area pastor, estimates that that 70% of his Crenshaw Christian Center congregation are young people.
“I’ve seen this upsurge for several years,” claims Price. “As I travel around the country, I see young people coming forward, hungry to know about the things of God. They’re coming by the truck loads.”
One of the most obvious reasons for the spiritual hunger of this new generation of young people is the many new problems they face. These problems include the rapidly escalating threat of AIDS, the drug problem, and the pressure to succeed.
Threat of AIDS
Even with the threat of AIDS, the number of sexually active teens is significantly higher than ten years ago. According to Newsweek magazine, by March of 1990, the Centers for Disease Control had counted 1,429 cases of AIDS among teenagers, which is fewer than one percent of all AIDS cases.
Yet teenagers fear AIDS more than any other illness. There is, in fact, a need for concern. Although relatively few teens are diagnosed with AIDS, nearly a fifth of the people with AIDS are in their twenties. With a nearly ten year period between infection and the onset of symptoms, this would place many victims who contract the disease in their teenage years.
Drug Use Down
Although sexual activity is up, the use of illegal drugs is down among the “new teens.” Use of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine fell significantly in the last ten years. The greater dangers of the modern world are perceived by many of these young people. Drugs are scarier to them than the group who widely experimented with substance abuse in the 60s and 70s.
Part of the reason for this decline is that parents may be as likely, in some cases, to be substance abusers as their children. Among this new generation are many of the offspring of the 1960s psychedelic drug culture. With a dizzying array of frightening options, drug use is less appealing to them than the revolutionaries of 20 years ago. However, many of the new generation who use drugs, do so earlier, especially those who start because of a parent’s habit.
Pressure to Succeed
Life in the 1990s has become stressful to young people. As the percentage of the teenage population decreases relative to the adult world, the numbers of teenage pregnancies continue to rise; there are a growing number of minorities living at the poverty level; and there are a growing number of single parent households.
The most serious cause for concern, however, is the rise of suicide. The rate of 18 suicides per 100,000 teens in 1987, places this problem at an epidemic proportion. Social scientists, therefore, are studying teenagers more closely than ever in order to trace the problem to the source.
The pressure to succeed seems to be at the root of all of these problems. Pressure at a younger age to find a job, to choose a career, to do well at school, to have a good marriage and family life, to pay for college, and the fear of contracting AIDS are all concerns that plague the minds of young people.
A Quest for Purpose and Meaning
In their quest for finding a purpose and meaning in life, there is more of a thirst to tap into spiritual values than any of the previous generations. They hunger to fill spiritual voids and solve the problems of the world created by the apathy and self-centeredness of their parents.
It should not be surprising, therefore, when the current generation hits the college campuses and there is a social revolution that surpasses that of any generation of the modern times. The campuses will be the center of an outcry for peace of mind and stability that will ascend to the heavens. This will be a generation that calls on the name of God.
The campuses will become the subject of news reports. The growing consensus among the news media will be that a spiritual revival is occurring among university students. Daily reports of unprecedented numbers of students attending prayer rallies on campus will become commonplace.
For a period of time, it will be as if heaven had touched earth. It will become normal among students to talk about the experiences they have had in prayer. As they touch God, the answers to many of the problems that plague our world will be revealed to them. This is a generation of world changers. It is a generation that has come on the scene “for such a time as this.”