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The real battle is not in the amoral and immoral influences of our culture, but in the hearts of our young people, says author and speaker Josh McDowell inThe Disconnected Generation. And our young people are losing hope because they feel isolated and alienated from their parents. They are the disconnected generation. This book shows parents and youth workers how to understand and close the isolation gap to form nurturing, enduring relationships that can withstand cultural influences. As a companion toThe ...
The real battle is not in the amoral and immoral influences of our culture, but in the hearts of our young people, says author and speaker Josh McDowell inThe Disconnected Generation. And our young people are losing hope because they feel isolated and alienated from their parents. They are the disconnected generation. This book shows parents and youth workers how to understand and close the isolation gap to form nurturing, enduring relationships that can withstand cultural influences. As a companion toThe Disconnected Generation,the video curriculum resources provides five video sessions from Josh McDowell offering practical steps that every adult can take to close the emotional gap between themselves and their children.
The Disconnected Path of Self-Destruction
I cannot remember feeling more sad or heartsick than when I heard each of the following news stories for the first time. Perhaps they hit you the same way:
In the quiet town of West Paducah, Kentucky, fourteen-year-old Michael Carneal opens fire on a group of teenagers circled in prayer, leaving three of them dead.
In Pearl, Mississippi, sixteen-year-old Luke Woodham shoots his mother to death then goes to his high school and starts firing, killing three and wounding seven.
Mitchell Johnson, thirteen, and Andrew Golden, eleven, trip a fire alarm in their Jonesboro, Arkansas, junior high school. Once their classmates are outside, the boys start shooting at them, killing four students and a teacher.
Gunpowder, crude bombs, and computer disks with bomb-making information are found in the homes of three fourteen-year-old Wimberly, Texas, boys accused of plotting an assault at their junior high school.
After murdering his parents at home, fifteen-year-old Springfield, Oregon, student Kip Kinkel sprays his school cafeteria with gunfire. Twenty-four students are hit; two die.
Eric Harris, eighteen, and Dylan Klebold, seventeen, go on a killing rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. When twelve students and a teacher are dead and twenty-three students are wounded, the boys conclude the terror with their ownsuicides.
Since writing these chilling lines, I suspect that even more communities like West Paducah, Springfield, and Littleton have experienced similar carnage and tragedy. Youth rage and murder are escalating at a shocking rate, leading to more shootings, bombings, and killings by young people in school hallways and on quiet suburban streets.
Alarming surveys among teenagers show:
80 percent of students at a Midwestern middle school had bullied their peers to some degree in the past thirty days.
19 percent of students say they have been hit, slapped, or kicked while at school.
25 percent of students indicate they are afraid another student will harm them.
More than half of American teens believe a murderous rampage could erupt at their schools.
Romans 3:16-17 aptly describes these news stories and statistics: "Destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace have they not known" (NASB). It is only natural to ask why. What causes our teenagers to lash out at their parents, teachers, and peers with lethal violence? What has happened in our culture to allow mere children to become so callous and violent? An even more alarming question is, Will our own young people get caught up in this juvenile mayhem?
On the surface, the proliferation of violence in the media—particularly interactive media in the form of killing-based video games—appears to contribute to the violent acting out of some of our youth.
When the U.S. military realized that fewer than 20 percent of American soldiers fired their weapons during World War II, they concluded that soldiers needed to increase their firing rate to enhance the killing rate. The U.S. Army learned, according to Lt. Col. David Grossman, author of On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, that shooting at mere bull's-eyes in practice did not result in the soldiers' firing weapons in battle. But directing the soldiers' firing practice at man-shaped outlines numbed their consciences and made killing a reflex reaction.
According to Grossman, a psychologist who formerly taught the psychology of war at West Point, today's modern video games are even more effective in causing a person to overcome the aversion to shooting. He states:
The more realistic touches in video games help blur the boundary between fantasy and reality—i.e., guns carefully molded after real ones, accurate-looking wounds, screams, and other sound effects, even the recoil of a heavy rifle.
Grossman goes on to contend that the traits of killing games are evident in some of the recent shootings:
Michael Carneal, the schoolboy shooter in Paducah, Ky., showed the effects of video-game lessons in killing. Carneal coolly shot nine times, hitting eight people, five of them in the head or neck. Head shots pay a bonus in many video games.... We have to start worrying about what we are putting into the minds of our young. Pilots train on flight simulators, drivers on driving simulators, and now we have our children on murder simulators.
But there is something more behind youth rage, murder, and mayhem than bloody video games and movies. I posed questions about our violent youth culture back in 1994 in my book Right from Wrong. A response from journalist Rowland Nethaway bears repeating:
Adults have always complained about their youth, but this is different. There have always been wild and rebellious kids who would go off the track and do something wrong. Many of today's youth don't seem to know right from wrong. Children are robbing, maiming and killing on whims, and with no pity and no remorse.
I agree with Nethaway. A significant part of the problem is the disappearance of moral absolutes from our culture. Youth violence thrives in a moral vacuum. When kids don't have a personal value system that distinguishes between right and wrong, there is nothing to prevent them from venting their anger and frustration through violence and cold disregard for human life. Restoring moral absolutes to the fabric of our families and society is key to curbing the destructive trends among our youth.
To that end, I have taken the Right from Wrong campaign across our country for the past several years. I accepted the challenge to equip churches and families to resist the erosion of biblical values and help our children determine right from wrong. My team and I have traveled to four continents and more than 160 cities, resulting in an estimated sixty thousand churches embracing the message of moral absolutes. We have developed thirty-two different resources and taught hundreds of thousands of parents and youth a biblical, practical blueprint for understanding and implementing moral absolutes in their lives and relationships.
If I felt the need, I would do it all over again. But as important as it is to instill in our young people a personal right-from-wrong values system, moral values are only one key dimension of the answer to today's youth crisis. Teaching our young people right from wrong is vital to the solution, but it is not the entire solution. We must also take steps to protect them from becoming immersed in a culture that glorifies violence and illicit sex. We must allow them to experience the love and nurture of a caring family. Our kids must learn what it means to honor and respect people and property.
Yet I believe there is a deeper crying need among our youth that must be addressed as we restore moral absolutes and stand against a sin-filled world. If I were asked to identify the core reason that our young people are succumbing to the lure of a godless culture and lashing out with rage, I would say it is that they feel alone, disconnected, and unsure of who they really are. Many young people, even those from good Christian homes, feel disconnected and alienated from their parents, from adults in general, and from society as a whole. Recent scientific studies, my personal research, and my interaction with thousands of young people confirm that our kids today are disconnected from most adults and lack a sense of personal identity and purpose. This alienation from adults and fuzzy sense of identity cause them to feel adrift in a hostile world. That's why I call them the disconnected generation.
The relational disconnection that young people feel today is both frightening and emotionally painful to them, and much of the antisocial behaviors they exhibit—including extremes like West Paducah, Jonesboro, and Columbine—are the result. In order to reach the disconnected generation, we must first understand their makeup and why they feel so painfully disconnected and alone.
On-Line but Disconnected
The disconnected generation is in a population group some have referred to as the "echo boomers," born between 1977 and 1994. Some call them the "millennials." Those born after 1983 are sometimes called the "mosaics." Today's adolescents are primarily the offspring of baby boomers. The teenage population is more than twenty-two million strong. They are perhaps the richest, most populous, best educated, and most physically fit generation in history. Our young people are growing up in a prosperous society with unprecedented career opportunities and access to a virtually limitless amount of information. More than one-third of today's teenagers are connected to the Internet, and it is projected that 70 percent will be cruising along the information superhighway by 2003.
Today's youth are logging on to the Internet for more than just information and entertainment. Increasing numbers of young people are using e-mail and chat rooms in an attempt to connect socially with others. Yet people who are seeking emotional and relational connections on-line are finding electronic relationships unfulfilling, a cheap substitute for in-person friendships and interaction. A study out of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh reveals that the more hours a person spends on the Internet, the more depressed, stressed, and lonely he or she feels. Hill Walker, codirector of the Institute on Violence and Destructive Behavior, calls the results of the new communication technologies "almost a virtual reality without adults."
The high-tech devices that allow our kids to connect electronically with people around the world may also be encouraging them to disconnect relationally with people at home. In a rapidly increasing number of homes, students have their own computers, modems, and phone lines. And since many homes are also equipped with PCs for Mom and Dad, kids and their parents spend more time staring at their monitors than they do interacting with one another. As wonderful as computers may be for many tasks, they can be insidious contributors to the disconnected generation. As kids spend hours surfing the Internet, chatting with people on-line, and playing computer games, they have less time to interact with others, specifically their parents and other significant adults. Adults who are similarly preoccupied with the Internet, careers, social activities, or church commitments are equally at risk of disconnecting from their kids.
Every major sociological study during the last fifteen years that cross-tabulates human relationships—or the lack of them—with human behavior reveals that the more disconnected a person is relationally, the more prone he or she is to engage in antisocial behavior. Two major studies I commissioned of churched youth, the first in 1987 and the second in 1994, reveal that the closer youth are to their parents relationally, the less at risk they are for unacceptable behavior. And yet the sobering statistics underscore the mounting disconnection and loneliness in this generation:
Almost half of today's young people have lived through their parents' divorce.
63 percent of youth live in households in which both parents work outside the home.
Only 25 percent of teenagers say their mothers are always home when they return from school.
98 percent of teenagers spend eleven hours per week watching TV.
Teenagers spend an average of three and one-half hours alone every day.
We should not be surprised that the generation which suffers through parental divorce, comes home to an empty house, spends an inordinate amount of time alone, and sits for hours in front of a TV or computer monitor is also the generation that feels disconnected from adults and exhibits at-risk behavior. When young people's painful sense of aloneness is not adequately dealt with, their anger and fear may escalate into violence and tragedy.
I receive thousands of cards and letters from young people every year. My eyes light up when I read one like this, which I received recently from a high-school girl. Here's au excerpt:
My parents are both Christians and have been for many years. I have been raised in church all my life. My parents have been together for twenty years this July. They are the most loving, understanding people God could have given me as parents. I don't know what I would do without my wonderful parents. They are the greatest!
But for every encouraging letter like this, I must get a dozen or more heartbreaking letters from young men and women who feel disconnected from one or both of their parents. Here are some of the sad words kids have written to me:
I am so lonely I can hardly stand it. I want to be special to someone, but there's no one who cares about me. I can't remember anyone touching me, smiling at me, or wanting to be with me. I feel so empty inside.
* * *
It's like I have a heavy heart and this burden upon my back, but I don't know what it is. There is something in me that makes me want to cry, and I don't even know what it is.
* * *
In my life, I haven't gone through much, but I have always had a strong feeling of loneliness. In fact, yesterday I saw a guy my age by the lake with his head in his hands. I went over to him, and we talked awhile. I found out that we both have been filled with loneliness and confusion over the years.
* * *
I'm going to be sixteen on July 1. I was eleven years old when my real dad molested me. Because of that I have tried to kill myself three times. I closed up. I hated people. I'm saved now, but I need to learn to love again. I'm tired of being alone, but I'm so afraid to love.
Your students may not be on the verge of violence, but you
may be shocked to learn how disconnected they possibly feel.
The Old Generation Gap
The infamous generation gap, the social and emotional distance separating adults from their children, has always existed to some degree. It is natural for each new generation to want to establish a unique identity apart from their parents. But when massive societal changes occur within a short period of time, the generation gap widens. And perhaps no generation in history has witnessed as rapid and expansive changes in such a short period of time as that of today's adolescents.
Think about this: The younger generation has all been born since Ronald Reagan became president of the United States. Most of them probably never bought a new vinyl record or watched a drive-in movie. Many can't remember a world without AIDS. Most are too young to remember the fall of communism. They can't imagine a world without computers, video games, or the Internet. The world has changed rapidly in their short lifetimes, and today's adolescents reflect those changes.
|Part One: The Generational Disconnection|
|1. The Disconnected Path of Self-Destruction||3|
|2. The Relational Factor||25|
|Part Two: Making the Connection|
|3. Connecting Point #1: Affirmation—Giving Youth a|
|Sense of Authenticity||47|
|4. Connecting Point #2: Acceptance—Giving Youth a|
|Sense of Security||63|
|5. Connecting Point #3: Appreciation—Giving Youth|
|a Sense of Significance||81|
|6. Connecting Point #4: Affection—Giving Youth a|
|Sense of Lovability||91|
|7. Connecting Point #5: Availability—Giving Youth|
|a Sense of Importance||109|
|8. Connecting Point #6: Accountability—Giving|
|Youth a Sense of Responsibility||121|
|Part Three: Connecting in Their World|
|9. Connecting in Their World of Disappointments||139|
|10. Connecting in Their World of Relational Losses||153|
|11. Connecting in Their World of Conflicts||165|
|12. Connecting in Their World of Love and Sex||175|
|13. Connecting in Their World of Sexual Pressure||193|
|Part Four: The Faith Connection|
|14. Connecting: Your Students' Faith and Future Depend|
|Appendix: More About Intimate Life Ministries||221|
Posted October 27, 2006
The book had great intent, but the authors overwhelming religious influence often distracts from common sense and practicle situations. His heart was in the right place, but I thought 'Save Generations Y and Z' had actual practicle resources and tools for use on raising a child that were better.
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