–Daniel S. Ferguson
Millennials–the most maligned and misunderstood generation in the history of commentary on generations. Even though no generation has been more talked about, no generation has remained more of a mystery. We’ve befuddled, even angered, almost every one of the generations before us, and I imagine we’ll do the same to the ones after us.
What’s so dang hard to get about Millennials? It is, as our Facebook accounts would say, complicated.
Just the other day, I was asked about this by a pastor. (I didn’t ask his permission to share this story, so I’ll keep him as anonymous as possible.) He was trying, as so many pastors do, to relate the power of the Resurrection of Christ to Millennials, that because of the historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead, we can have hope eternally and grace presently.
I told him that was fantastic except for one problem: Millennials don’t trust facts.
We might be the first generation in history to have been exposed to the wealth of the world’s knowledge at our fingertips. If having that access has taught us anything, it’s that facts are just as doubtable as truths and ideas.
Think about it. What’s the first thing a Millennial does when exposed to a new fact? Check its source. A new poll shows that 70% of Americans want to repeal Obamacare? We don’t believe that poll if the source is Fox News. A new study shows that soda and diabetes aren’t linked? We don’t trust that if it’s funded by the sugar lobby.
Only very rarely do today’s facts come from dispassionate, objective observation. Even the laws of physics have changed in our lifetime; we can’t even trust gravity anymore.
Therefore, when you tell us to base our faith on the fact of the resurrection as told by obviously biased supporters over 2000 years ago in a questionably translated and copied text with virtually no external authentication…we’re out.
At that point, we have absolutely no reason to believe that fact or to base anything in our lives on that fact. We can’t verify it, and we can’t reproduce it.
Because of our general lack of trust for facts, we Millennials often aim more at truth statements. We ask ourselves what we believe, and we seek out facts to support that belief. While we may claim a basis in fact, we rarely start with fact, but rather end up verifying what we already think.
To be fair, I don’t think this is a flaw, though many others seem to. I personally find it comforting that I believe in Christianity because I want to, not because the facts leave me no other option. 2 + 2 does not equal Christianity, and I like it better that there’s both reason to and room for doubt within my faith
So how do you talk to Millennials about the facts of faith when we don’t trust facts? It’s simple: talk benefits.
There is an extent to which we Millennials base our beliefs on feelings. We want what’s best for us, and that means we’re pliable when it comes to things that feel good, look good, and are good. This doesn’t always serve us well, but it’s a good starting point when you want to talk to us about anything.
That’s the only evidence we can at least authenticate the source of. If we trust you, we might trust the fact that your life has changed because of Jesus. We don’t know the writers of the Bible, so we don’t naturally trust them. But we do know you.
So stop telling us that the Bible is proven factual because of [x] archaeological discovery or that the resurrection is factual because of the witnesses to it. We don’t trust that. When we hear you say that, we think of the forwarded emails we keep getting from our crazy uncle.
Instead, tell us about your own story. Tell us why you changed your life. Tell us how you find hope and truth in a world seemingly devoid of both. Instead of proving that Jesus was resurrected back to life, show us how your life has been resurrected.
We Millennials will eat that up with a spoon.