Living in a Digital Babylon

I believe today we are living in a “digital Babylon”.  The culture has shifted and Christianity now takes a backseat to other influences.  Today the big influencer is the Internet.  The younger you are, the more screen time you spend.  All ages say they spend too much time online.  It can be very addicting.  Just as the Jews found themselves in a foreign culture when they were exiled to Babylon, so we are now exiles in a foreign culture influenced by the Internet. Christianity has become countercultural. We need to recognize that we are countercultural exiles and we should not succumb to today’s prevailing culture.

The Barna Group did a couple of studies that looked at 18-29 year olds, first in 2011 and then in 2019.  They found three trends shaping culture.  The first trend is “Access”. Via WiFi and other internet connections we can have access from just about anywhere at any time on about almost any topic.  It is a great resource.  Unfortunately the second trend is “Alienation”.  The Internet is supposed to be a great connector and in many ways it is, but I believe this technology also isolates and promotes Individualism. It is you and your phone, or some other screen device.  Have you looked in a restaurant to see how many people are on their phones and not talking to the person they are with.  I find it kind of scary.  The third trend is a distrust of “Authority”.  Because of the Internet, you don’t need to rely on anyone.  That independence alienates one from tradition and institutions, and in doing so it produces a distrust of institutions. Though Barna’s focus is on those 18-29 years old, I see these trends across all generations.

Barna says these trends have significantly impacted those 18-29 year olds who have grown up in the church.  In 2011, 59% of those 18-29 year olds who had grown up in the church dropped out of any church involvement.  By 2019 the number grew to 64%.  Note these were children and teenagers who were there at worship and took part in youth activities, and now as adults they are gone.  Many of them no longer identify themselves as Christian.

Only ten percent of those 18-29 year olds who went to church as kids are what Barna calls “Resilient Disciples”.  They have a strong faith and they understand that they are countercultural exiles living in a digital Babylon. They attend a local church regularly and engage in other faith activities outside of the worship services.They trust firmly in the authority of the Bible, and they are committed to Jesus personally and affirm his death and resurrection. And they express a desire to live out their faith so that God is honored.  Below is an infographic that gives more detail to what their resilience looks like.

What can we older church folk do?  Note the importance of meaningful relationships.  Be a friend to a teen or a young adult.  We need to support each other in this culture, and use the Bible to keep the countercultural truth front and center.  The Internet is a great resource but truth and falsehood are both easily found online, and there is nothing that tells one what is true.  We are tossed to and fro by different ideas and concepts unless we have been grounded in the truth of Scripture.  The Church provides that anchor of Jesus Christ to ground us, so we can find that needed support in a local church community.  Let us be there for each other, especially those young in the Faith.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s