On May 18, I began a 7-part series, offering some thougts about how to teach the Catholic faith to “Generation Me” (those born in the 70s through the 90s; Generation Me, Jean Twenge, M.D.).Click on the following to read:
Part One: The Decline of Social Rules
Part Two: Excessive Individualism
Part Three: You Can Be Anything You Want
Part Four: The Age of Anxiety
Part Six: Sex – “Generation Crude”
Today, we address another unique characteristic of Generation Me: the “equality revolution.”
The Equality Revolution – In terms of minorities, women, and gays, Gen Me is very tolerant and inclusive. That’s how they’ve been taught since their infancy. The whole idea of these groups struggling for acceptance is foreign to Gen Me. Gay relationships are no big deal. Women are considered equals and men and women Gen Me-ers more easily share roles when it comes to housework, etc. Girls have been just as involved in sports as boys throughout their lifetime. They don’t understand what all the fuss is about when it comes to Gays.
How Catechists Should Respond: This sense of equality is a good thing and is a strength of Gen Me that needs to be affirmed. At the same time, because Gen Me is growing up in a significantly more pluralistic society than previous generations, the danger of relativism is very real. In other words, Gen Me-ers are very quick to assume that we are all equal and that there are no differences between various groups of people. While this is good in terms of showing respect for all people, it can also cloud one’s approach to the practice of a particular faith tradition. Assuming that we are all the same can lead one to abandon one’s unique faith tradition. Gen Me is quick to assume that “we all pray to the same God” so “why bother with all of these external differences?”
The truth is that the key to unity is a recognition of diversity. In terms of ecumenical dialogue, progress is not made by ignoring our differences but by better understanding our own unique tradition so as to more intelligently dialogue with those of other traditions. In terms of morality, Pope Benedict XVI has warned against the dangers of moral relativism or the idea that moral principles have no objective standards.
Gen Me often considers adherence to a creed of essential truths as fundamentalism and therefore intolerant. They are prone to see belief as the cause of differences and conflict. As a result, unbelief is becoming popular. It is no surprise then that Gen Me is being lured by a “new atheism” (hence, the popularity of books such as God: The Failed Hypothesis – How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist by Victor J. Stenger; The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins; God is Not Great: The Case Against Religion by Christopher Hitchens; and Letter to a Christian Nation and The End of Faith by Sam Harris)
Bottom Line: Pope Benedict XVI has said very clearly that the antidote for relativism is faith which is belief in revealed truth. We can help Gen Me to overcome the temptation of relativism by helping them to recognize that, not only is there truth, but that we can understand this truth. To believe in truth, as revealed by God, is not to be equated with intolerance. Jesus tells us that he is truth (“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6). Truth, therefore, is found in relationship with Jesus, who reveals to us the face of God. To combat relativism and the “new atheism,” we need to embrace the call to engage in a “new evangelization,” inviting those we teach to a relationship with a loving and merciful God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ.