The coming confrontation

Here is the problem: Within the youth of this nation there is developing two distinct groups fundamentally different than the way these groups have been construed in the past, primarily due to the influence of adults (parents, youth leaders, the media). I starting thinking about this a bit more while reading an article in Rolling Stone entitled “Teen Holy War” about BattleCry – a radicalized movement focused on Christian youth for the purpose of compelling them be at war (literally) with those forces opposed to their understanding of the Christian faith and American society.
The first group comprises those who are “secular” in the sense that they have not been raised in any faith tradition. I’ve known many parents who claim that they do not want to involved their children in any particular faith tradition when the kids are young because they want their kids to be able to choose for themselves what faith to adhere to when they are adults. (It sounds all altruistic and modern on the surface, but it is a cop-out, generally, for lazy parents. Sorry, but that is my experience.) Then, there are those parents who themselves are “secular” whether due to being atheists or being honest and admitting that they just have no real interest in faith development. I have to say, I have more respect for the second group than the first, but that’s just me and it doesn’t matter who I respect or not.
These “secular” kids grow up not knowing the conceptual frameworks of “faith” in general and religious faith in particular. What they know comes from the media and perhaps some few friends who are able to talk about their own faith experience/expression. (One downside of this way of raising children is that it gives the kids no foundation upon which to make judgments about what is or is not legitimate religious expression, opening them to exploitation and recruitment by cults, which are still quite active on college campuses). Enabling kids to make sound judgments as adults does not mean we do not expose them to something while they are children.
The second group are those who might be called “religionists” and who are the type of youth that are raised within the radicalized segments of American Christianity, BattleCry being the prime example. I went to BattleCry’s website right before the official launch. At the time, I thought this may be an interesting and productive effort, but I think I’m changing my mind. While I don’t think there are any like groups on the radical-left side of the Christian faith, the same way of thinking is certainly evident among many “liberal” groups and people.
I understand the primary instincts and emotions of the adults who propagate this way of thinking and being concerning the faith, culture, economics, politics, and other religious expressions outside of Christianity. At the base level, the reasons are good – giving the kids the tools they need to be open and honest about their faith, protecting them from exploitation by unscrupulous marketeers and the like, giving them a sense of self-esteem even when ridiculed within the general culture, exercising their Constitutional freedoms of speech and religion, and passing on the faith to the next generation. All good things, frankly.
The problem is that the adults of groups that include the politicized Religious Right, radicalized leftist groups, and youth ministries such as BattleCry, is that they demand a form of the faith that is confrontational in the extreme, very narrow in its thinking, fundamentalist in its view and practice of the faith, uncompromising with anyone who holds differing viewpoints and beliefs, and then taking the next step of demonizing the other and declaring them “enemies” that must be properly dealt with.
So, in the coming years we will be confronted with the battle between these two groups as they grow into young adults. Of course, numbers of them will moderate their way of thinking and being and some will even crossover to the “other side.” Yet, patterns of understanding, thinking, and behaving will have already been imprinted. If something doesn’t change, and soon, the current “Culture Wars” will seem like a garden party in comparison. Radicalized Secularists vs. Radicalized Religionists. (Or, in the case of BattleCry, radicalized Christian Religionists vs. Everyone else) What will be lost is civility, the ability to live peacefully in a democratic society, loving one’s neighbor as oneself, and a culture that is free and respectful of difference.
What is lost is the middle group of balance and thoughtfulness. What will be/is being lost is the ability of the two extremes – “secular” young people growing into adulthood and the “religionist” young people growing into adulthood – to understand each other, to work together, and the ability to compromise within the over all system so to build a respective and civil society where freedom of thought, speech, and action are still considered inalienable rights.
What must be done, frankly and regrettably, is that the “middle-way” must be asserted forcefully enough to be heard and recognized but not so much as to become a third group within the radicalization. What must be done, too, is support for those forms of the Christian faith that promote intentional maturity into adulthood, intentional faith development and maturation, intentional programs that encourage respect and understanding of differences (without political correctness or identity politics), and those programs that allow students to have a firm foundation build strongly and yet allows them to question and search for themselves. This is readily possible within Conservative Christianity and within Liberal Christianity, but rarely possible in Anti-Liberal Christianity or Anti-Conservative Christianity (and this is where we are in most of American faith-politics right now).
Here is a YouTube video produced by BattleCry, and I think the message itself is important and good – we need to do something to reach our young people.

Here is a Nightline piece on “Teen Mania” and “BattleCry”