How do you assess the spiritual lives and Bible views of young adults when surveys find they...
View Paris Hilton more favorably than Billy Graham?
Think Wicca is patio furniture?
Say the main reason they never watch evangelist Robert Schuller's Hour of Power is because, they "don't like violence"?
Their spirituality is "extremely wide, often shallow and always compelling,"
says David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif., research group that presents itself as "the Gallup of the faith world."
Kinnaman, who has been studying the under-25 year olds for a decade, was the opening speaker at a day devoted to addresses on the challenges in translating, teaching and marketing Scripture in modern times and ever-changing technology at the Religion Newswriters Conference, now underway in Denver.
Kinnaman noted wryly that for believers it is "disheartening to see the Bible turned into a market share question but it is what it is," and so the research firm has done more than 350,000 interviews in surveys that often look at who uses the Bible, how they think about it and how they use it.
For this talk, he focused on the age group some call Millennials but he calls Mosaics, compared to Baby Busters ages 26 to 44, Boomers ages 45-63 and Elders ages 64+.
Mosaics' look at cultural figures and bizarre answers to open ended questions recalled Barna Group's findings years ago that 12% of Americans overall think Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Perhaps the cultural questions, first asked before Hilton's legal woes and shortly after Graham retired, would be different today. But the current findings on young adults' views of the Bible were equally intriguing.
Asked if there were any sacred books, 67% of Mosaics named the Bible but 17% said there were none and 11% were unsure -- well below the certainty of the Bible held by their older siblings, parents or grandparents generations.
This uncertainty continues when asked about the content of the Bible. Asked if the original manuscripts are "true and accurate," 51% of Mosaics said yes, 54% of Busters, 61% of Boomers and 68% of Elders.
But they are also more universalist with 56% of Mosaics saying the "Bible, Quran and Book of Mormon are the same expression of truth" compared to 43% of Busters, 45% of Boomers and just 33% of Elders.
And when it comes to whether the Bible is "accurate in the principles it teaches," the falloff is significant. Only 30% of Mosaics say so, compared to 39% of Busters, 46% of Boomers and 58% of Elders.
While some surveys indicate people some people become more spiritual as they age, says Kinnaman, "this generation is starting out more skeptical and more eclectic" than earlier generations.
Reaching them for the Bible, he tells church leaders, is not just a matter of marketing to a generation that has seen everything marketing can throw at them, neither are they excited by "cliche cool." (Christianity Today took a look recently at the limitations of "'hipster Christians" in "skinny jeans and unnecessary scarves.")
And, woe to all the next speakers who talked about the nuances of translations. Kinnaman says young adults pay no attention to translations and word by word battles of deep theological resonance to scholars and preachers.
"They see the spirituality as connected to all of their life, not a compartment within their life. We need bridges between Monday-to-Friday and Sunday," Kinnaman says.
Yet there were signs of hope in the research, he said, with indications that young adults do want engage scripture as one of many things that interest them.
This is the experiential generation, he says, where Mosaics tell Barna surveys they don't want to sit around hearing people talk about sin, they want to help people struggling with sin. Young adults, he says, see doing good in the world through many different lenses. They see the world "not as fundamentally broken but as fundamentally full of hope."
Is the Bible or any other sacred text the cornerstone of your spirituality or just one of many "spiritual lenses"? Have you changed your views as you grew older or had wider experiences in life?
[copied from the USA Today "Faith and Reason" section of religious news, Sept 24,2010]