The text said only, “You won’t believe this,” and included a link to a video that my 14-year-old freshman, Amy, wanted me to see.
The premise of the “React” videos is to show young viewers a clip of news or entertainment while videotaping their reactions to what they see. Then, producers conduct short interviews to dig deeper about the viewers’ opinions.
Amy promised that there was a column in this particular episode, and she knows we columnists take help where we can find it, so I clicked to see what caused her such a visceral response.
The video was “Teens React to Rick Perry’s Strong,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s December Internet advertisement in which he decried the waning faith of our nation, warned about an encroaching gay agenda and said he wants to be president, in part, to end Barack Obama’s “war on religion.”
For those who follow politics, the content of Mr. Perry’s video was unsurprising. He is a conservative Christian, and the views he articulated were consistent with those of roughly half the nation who identify as conservatives, as well.
Yet to the teens reacting to his ad, Mr. Perry was positively villainous.
That the youths in the “Teens React” video were overwhelmingly liberal probably should go without saying. (In the end, they unanimously opposed Mr. Perry and said his advertisement should have been taken off YouTube because it was likely to be perceived as offensive.)
What’s more troubling was the teens’ reaction to the very idea of religion itself and its place in society. The notion that people of faith might feel our nation’s religious heritage is under attack struck the teens as absurd, at best.
Yet this is likely a reflection of the “religionless” theology of our youngest generation. Youths think it’s cool to have faith – even to be strongly Christian – but somehow “religion” now defines for them what is wrong.
Last week, a video epitomizing this view took YouTube by storm. Titled, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus,” the spoken-word poem by Jefferson Bethke has been viewed more than 13 million times since it was posted on Jan. 10. Here is a sample:
What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?
What if I told you voting Republican really wasn’t His mission?
What if I told you Republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian?
And just because you call some people blind doesn’t automatically give you vision.
I mean if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?
Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?
Tells single moms God doesn’t love them if they’ve ever had a divorce?
But in the Old Testament, God actually calls religious people whores. …
See the problem with religion, is it never gets to the core.
It’s just behavior modification, like a long list of chores.
Like let’s dress up the outside, make look nice and neat,
But it’s funny that’s what they used to do to mummies while the corpse rots underneath.
Mr. Bethke’s simplistic theology resonates with America’s young people, themselves largely uneducated in biblical scholarship or history, so that the links provided on the artist’s website to so-called supporting evidence for his claims probably strike them as credible.
It should concern all Americans – faithful or not – that our nation’s young people are growing dismissive of religion as a framework for both morality and faithful expression.
Like Amy, I shudder to think what comes next.