Monday, October 29, 2007

Googling God

Busted Halo's Mike Hayes has written a new book. I just heard about it this weekend. [Must add Mike's blog to blogroll!] And it's been reviewed on Zenit by Fr. John Flynn LC.
"Googling God: The Religious Landscape of People in Their 20s and 30s," published by Paulist Press, is written by Mike Hayes, associate director of Paulist Young Adult Ministries. In the introduction, Hayes explains that while some had doubted if young people were religious at all, there is a religious awakening among at least some youth.

Hayes provides an interesting examination of young people in the United States, with many points worth reflecting on. His book is also useful for the tips it offers on how to use the Internet and other media to communicate.

A limitation that does need to be noted, however, is his superficial rejection of what he characterizes as overly orthodox Catholic groups. His cursory dismissal of these groups in a few of the book's passages offers an incomplete vision of the very real benefits, and considerable success, they are having among young people. [Insert editorial amen here.]

Young Catholics in the United States, Hayes notes, live in a time of revolutionary technological changes, uncertainty about the future, and a desire for instant gratification. Regarding communications, Hayes comments that many young adults are subject to an information overload. In the midst of the competing claims for attention, it is difficult for the Church to make its message heard, or to know how to adapt to changes in mentality.

He distinguishes between Generation X, born between the years 1964 to 1979, and the Millennials, born from 1980 onward. The former, he argues, tend to view the world in a more pluralistic and explorative manner. The latter are looking for something solid to base their lives on. Nevertheless, Hayes warns against reading too much into generalizations, as there are many differences within each generation.

Search for the sacred

One thing the two generations have in common is a desire for contemplation and a liturgy that provides a sense of mystery and sacredness. For example, Hayes notes the renewal of interest in Eucharistic adoration and some forms of contemplative prayer.

"In a world where life seems very fleeting, young adults search for things they can depend on, things that have stood the test of time, things they regard as true, and things that are greater than themselves," Hayes explains.

The creation of a spirit of community through liturgy is also a point of attraction particularly for Generation X, who in many cases have experienced a lack of family bonds, due either to divorce or to being in a household where both parents work.

There are, however, also many young people who are not active in their faith. Large numbers have received little formation in their faith, others are caught up in the demands of work and family life, and some prefer a private form of spirituality, outside of participation in formal Church-based activities.

Many of those who are not regulars at church will, however, come into some contact at critical moments such as marriage, the death of family members or friends, and times of personal crisis. Hayes recommends using these opportunities to reach out to young people.
The column goes on to talk about other efforts and documents about the brave new world of the internet and modern social communications.

More reviews of Googling God are at Mike's blog, of the same name. The Busted Halo review, with an excerpt.

[I suspect that Hayes' book deals mainly with the United States/North American context.]

[I wonder if I can convince Father Novice Master that one of the 15 books on our reading list should be replaced with this one?]


Dogwood Dell said...

I suspect Hayes’ references on the generational differences between Gen-Xers and Millennials derives from "Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069." Too many of the generational references provided on your blog post remind me what was discussed from this text.

Hayes likely takes the religious/spiritual differences to a deeper level of understanding and what it means for the church.

It should be an interesting read.

ProverbialMike said...

Thanks for the plug! Some comments from the author himself.

1) Much of my theory comes from the sociological work of Wade Clark Roof on generations. While I'm not a sociologist, I think much of my ministerial experience resonates with what Roof says about the demographic and about generational identity.

2) With regard to Fr. Flynn's lone criticism...I certainly don't think I superfically reject any of the overly orthodox groups. In fact I give Spirit and Truth in Atlanta and the Franciscan University at Stuebenville some major props in the book. What I do categorically reject is certain individuals in those groups tending to "outside" people from those groups instead of welcoming them and encouraging their spiritual search. I think that the good Father has misinterpreted my criticism...though not intentionally of course.

3) Gashwin is correct the book centers on young adults in North America.

Gashwin said...

Hey Mike -- thanks for dropping by. I'm a little unclear as to what the following means. "What I do categorically reject is certain individuals in those groups tending to "outside" people from those groups instead of welcoming them and encouraging their spiritual search." -- that these groups minister to those outside their own groups? That they don't minister to outsiders? I'm just not clear what the sentence means.

I've asked the librarian at SPC to order your book ... :)

ProverbialMike said...


What I'm saying is that many of the individuals (meaning not the organizers nor the clergy) involved in the more orthodox groups do in fact push others who are less orthodox or even those just spiritually seeking away intentionally to keep the integrity of a like-minded group.

Gashwin said...

Mike, thanks that makes it clearer. A kind of "we'll only minister to the 'pure'" approach then.

ProverbialMike said...

Correct...and to hell (literaly) to everyone else. I don't think I can in good conscience recommend that approach and feel sad that not more is done to combat this in the more orthodox groups. But these groups aren't terrible by any means--this is the one fallacy in my opinion. But it's a HUGE one.

Gashwin said...

I totally see what you're saying. I've never actually experienced this myself -- but then, I've not really been around too many orthodox groups, to tell you the truth, or groups who define themselves using that qualifier.

The librarian tells me there's a good likelihood your book will end up at SPC.

ProverbialMike said...

Thanks for that. If Fr. Benke wants me to come down for an in-service kind of thing--I am available,