The Ivy Jungle Network Campus Ministry Update November 2006 has two articles on the moral attitudes of college age youth. The first outlines the disparity between how the youth view themselves morally and what they actually do.
The Josephson Institute has published its report card on ethics among American Youth. In it they show that young people strongly value ethics and character (ie. 98% agree that “it is important for me to be a person with good character”) with 83% saying “lying and cheating are not worth it because they hurt your character.” 92% report being satisfied with their own ethics and character and nearly 3 out of 4 believe that “when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.” However, this idealism is coupled with cynicism and incongruent behavior: 59% agree that “in the real world successful people do what they have to do to win, even if others consider it cheating.” 82% say they lied to a parent in the last 12 months about “something significant.” 60% cheated on a test in the last 12 months and 28% stole something from a store during that time.
JosephsonInstitute.org, October 15, 2006
The second compares young adult moral attitudes with the attitudes of the previous generation.
Young Adult Morality Differs from Boomers: A recent survey conducted by the Barn Group compares the morals of adults in their 20’s and 30’s with those of adults 40 and over. The results show a divergence between the “Boomers” and “Busters” with regard to 32 factors of morality – most notably 8 related to sex. Younger adults are far more likely to regard sex outside of marriage, cohabitation, fantasies, and viewing pornography as morally acceptable. Perhaps most disturbing is that those who fit into the “born again” Christian category were not very different from their peers with regard to most measures of morality – especially sex. The research shows that young people reflect the morals of their peer group much more significantly than that of their faith.
Barna.org October 31, 2006
While these data may be alarming to Boomers, it is vital information for Boomers to understand to be able to minister to Busters.
The old ways of holding up someone’s behavior against a standard just don’t work any more. We must be able to show how behavior affects relationships and that it has consequences. Busters just don’t accept that there are absolute moral standards of behavior. The challenge is to demonstrate the “absolute” relationship between action and consequence.
For example, many Busters belive that there is no intrinsic moral reprehensibility in “talking behind someone’s back.” But they can understand that there is a loss of trust when the person they’re gossiping to is thinking, “I wonder what he says about me behind my back?”
So, to evangelize Busters it’s much more effective to introduce the Busters to Jesus Christ through a relationship than it is to attempt to brow beat them with their sin. It is much more effective to show the effect of Christ through one’s life than it is to tell Busters they’re going to hell.
I like Mark Waltz’s approach much better than the traditional one. People matter to God.