Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. Genesis 2:25
In light of my posts about our post-Christian culture, I thought it important to unpack an attribute of most millennials as well as Gen Z. It will provide insights into the millennial mind and how they come to their opinions and values.
I have had the good fortune of meeting with two men for close to 25 years. One of them, Ralph Ennis, is what I have described to others as a Christian rocket scientist. Among other things, he studies cultures and cultural trends. Having listened to him for years, many of the things that he has observed of the next generation are starting to make sense.
One of Ralph’s observations of the next generation is that they are “Asian” in their outlook and world view. What does that mean? Well, understanding this concept may aid mentors and parents in how their mind thinks. It also has important implications to the Church and our culture in how we guide them through our Romans 1 cultural universe.
As background and for context, that portion of the Western world that went through the Reformation developed a value system that held truth and the rule of law as top values. The rest of the world – including the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and Asian cultures – do not share these values.
Instead, when Ralph describes someone having an Asian outlook, he means that the highest cultural values is shame. In Japan and Asia, it is called loss of face. Truth will take a back seat if a decision has to be made which will cause someone to be shamed. I saw this firsthand in representing many Japanese clients in my legal career.
I observed decisions by Japanese clients that did not make sense. Instead of correcting a mistake, they deferred doing anything to correct it. To confront the truth that a bad decision had been made would have caused the person who made the decision to lose face. Shame can be a strong deterrent, but it is a weak substitute for the guard rails of right and wrong.
Joseph Stalin said: “Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.” For decades, the soviet people were controlled by their education in a Godless culture. The state was their god. By the middle 1980’s, the leaders realized that something was missing – their people had not learned morality and ethics.
Trying to correct this educational void, they seized upon teaching Christianity in their school system as a way of teaching morals and ethics. The Soviet Ministry of Education reached out to the United States, and Co-Mission was created. It was a 5-year project sponsored by 80 different Christian ministries, churches and parachurches. They trained over 1,500 volunteers who went into the former Soviet Union to teach Christianity in the schools.
Think about that for a second. We look like Russia in many ways today. We have taken Christianity out of the public-school systems over the past 50 years. No wonder our next generation doesn’t understand right from wrong. They are no better than Adam and Eve who didn’t think being naked was wrong, so they felt no shame.
The Soviets realized it was a mistake in their their education. We, in the United States, haven’t seen it that way…….yet.
In a post-Christian world, where right and wrong has been lost, the Asian outlook will explain the “how and why” of the next generation.
Since they don’t see things as black and white (i.e. right or wrong), they intuit their values by what appears to be good, and they will absorb what their peers are thinking, largely on social media. You can call that “group-think”. Unfortunately, their peers are equally as clueless as they are.
The implication of this on the Church is interesting. We have been brought up for the past 50 years on a guilt-based Gospel. We are told that Jesus will save us from our sins. But if your worldview is non-Christian, that model won’t work so well anymore. The next generation often does not see some deviant behavior as a sin.
Ergo, they don’t see the need to be saved from something they don’t view as wrong. As the passage says, they feel no shame just as Adam and Eve didn’t feel shame in the garden of Eden. The four spiritual laws may no longer be an effective tool in the Evangelical toolbox.
One result of this Asian outlook is the fairly rapid retreat from the Christian value of marriage as being between a man and a woman. The next generation, having no biblical moorings, used observable data points which involved seeing gay couples who appeared to not be all that bad.
Hence, we now have same-sex marriages made legal thanks to the Obergefell decision in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015. The millennials didn’t view the issue from biblical perspective and so their decision tree was largely based on the fact that homosexuality didn’t seem harmful and therefore was OK.
The Obergefell case was a shock to much of the Evangelical community because, just 10 years before, public opinion was strongly in favor of the traditional marriage between a man and a woman. A cultural convention that has existed for over 2,000 years was erased in just 10 years. I can only imagine what will changes we may see going forward.
Why is this important? Well it aids one in understanding how the next generation views the world. The lines between right and wrong have gotten blurred, and instead, their attitudes toward culture is often determined by observation and their peers (who, by the way, are equally clueless). That’s a very slippery slope.
The implications of this are still being played out. Generation Z (those under 20), for example, are turned off by Christian attitudes towards the LGBT world. They see it as judgmental. This attitude will shape how the church embraces this generation in the future.
This Asian outlook is troubling particularly in the #MeToo environment. The next generation has absorbed a belief that sex outside of marriage is fine since no one seems to be harmed, and that it is OK to be a predator as a male because that is expected male behavior.
Neuroscientists tell us that the brain of an adolescent is not fully formed until they are in their early 20’s. Combining the Asian value outlook with the constant intake of violent and often graphically sexual media is a very troubling recipe.
It also helps explain how you have young people who have a proclivity to violent behavior. They are watching videos and media that is so graphic and violent that their sense of the value of human life and dignity is lost. They haven no filter in this arena.
Ralph Ennis told me something several years ago that stuck. He said that what you see in the media and on TV today will become the norm in our culture within 10 years. One only has to look at what movies are like and TV shows to see how this has worked. In the recent Oscars, 22 films that celebrated LGBT causes received awards. I rest my case.
Over the past several decades, parents have abandoned their role in teaching their children values and morality. They have abdicated that responsibility and instead relied on the schools to do the job. It’s a bad choice for many reasons.
It’s no surprise that home-schooled children continue to have more bedrock Christian values instilled in them. Their parents are not taking the chance for a school to do the job for them. Good for them, but unfortunately, they are a small population compared to all in the next generation.
Our challenge is to meet and interact with the next generation who are not moored to Biblical values. It’s our job as mentors to help their world view. To the extent that they lack biblical knowledge, it’s important to encourage them to at least get in the habit of doing a daily devotional.
For other mentees, it may necessitate reading a book and digesting it together. That means “homework”. In the context of mentoring, it may be necessary to overcome their Asian outlook. A mentor’s role is to take the mentee to the next level in all aspects of their life.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Do not shy away from challenging your mentee in the area of biblical discipleship. That may mean taking the initiative to make a bible study part of your sessions. It may be the best thing you can do for them.
FURTHER STUDY: A book has been written by Joseph M. Stowell about the amazing Co-Mission experience entitled “The CoMission: The Amazing Story of 80 Mission Groups Working Together to Take the Message of Christ’s Love to the Russian People.” It is available from Amazon.
WORSHIP: Listen to the “Come to the Table” which reminds us that God’s grace extends to all even if you are on the outside. https://955thefish.com/content/music/sidewalk-prophets-come-to-the-table-official-lyric-video
COMMENT: I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. SUBSCRIBE: You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com) and entering your email address.