While most millennials view Jesus and the Bible as at least “a little positive,” nearly one-third of America’s largest, most educated and misunderstood generation also identify as LGBT, and 75% of them admit to “searching for a sense of purpose in life,” a new report from Arizona Christian University shows.
The report, New Insights into the Generation of Growing Influence: Millennials In America by George Barna, who leads research at Arizona Christian University’s Cultural Research Center, explains in an analysis of the findings that a number of the daunting challenges faced by the generation of 78 million — defined in this report as those born from 1984 through 2002 m are deeply connected to their spiritual perspectives.
“For understandable reasons, millions of millennials reject organized religion, or have qualms about religious leaders, and especially about religious people who may prove to be hypocritical. Their experiences, observations and assumptions regarding religion, spiritual beliefs, and faith practices have produced a turbulent spiritual experience,” wrote Barna, who's also an ACU professor focusing on worldview assessment, development and cultural transformation.
The report notes that some 59% of millennials see Jesus as at least “a little positive” with some 39% viewing Him as “very positive.” Another 51% view the Bible along this spectrum with 29% having a “very positive” impression. And when it comes to Christianity in general only half of millennials see it as at least “a little positive.”
A majority of the generation also reject atheism, with only 25% seeing it as “a little positive” and 8% viewing it as “very positive.”
While most millennials view Jesus and the Bible positively and 65% still identify as Christian, many do not embrace a biblical worldview on sexuality, the sanctity of life and other issues. Some 30% of millennials, including nearly 40% of adults 18-24, identify as “LGBTQ.”
“The proportion of young adults who identify as LGBTQ is roughly three times the proportion identified among the combined older adults of the nation. Given the moral and political implications of such an identity, that self-characterization alone raises a range of emotional challenges,” Barna said.
The 62-page report on millennials provides a detailed profile of a generation that is troubled and searching for answers to their problems, while “disengaged from spiritual teaching and practice, resulting in a paucity of knowledge, understanding, experience, and growth in this realm.”
“The resultant spiritual illiteracy virtually resigns them to a superficial worldview in which they grasp at ideas and practices that provide immediate comfort rather than lasting truth and peace. The moral chaos that characterizes the generation can likewise be traced to a dearth of coherent and pragmatic religious instruction abetted by the absence of mature moral reflection,” Barna said.
“The widespread confusion among young adults regarding aspects of their identity — spiritual, sexual, and also related to their sense of purpose in life — are a direct outgrowth of that spiritual wisdom vacuum,” he added. “It seems that often young adults fill the void by creating a self-image that is built upon self-centeredness, self-reliance, and independence. That may be perceived as arrogance, but as much as anything it may also be a defense mechanism covering up their personal deficits with which they wrestle.”
Barna suggested that a solution to the challenges being faced by millennials including their lack of purpose in life can be addressed by shifting worldview.
“Your worldview is the foundation of your decision-making. Every choice you make emerges from your worldview, which serves as the filter through which you experience, observe, imagine, interpret, and respond to reality. And every one of the thousands of choices you make every day have consequences. That means worldview is at the heart of everything we are considering in relation to the well-being and development of the young adult generation,” he wrote.
“Given the centrality of worldview to the human experience, there can be no improvements to the life millennials lead without addressing the fundamental role of worldview,” he explained. “And because worldview is developed and carried out in the competitive marketplace of beliefs and behaviors, think about the pervasive consequences for millennials of rejecting the biblical worldview in favor of other, more popular alternatives.”