PERSPECTIVE: Distraction, apathy characterize young people

By Courtney Searcy, Online Editor

“What gives your life meaning or purpose?”

Seated on a green lawn dotted with groups of university students enjoying the first spring days in Paris, I listened as my new friends responded to the survey folded in my hands.

Glazed-over expressions accompanied each improvised response, and more questions usually revealed a general lack of concern for anything spiritual. Regardless of growing up in Catholic school or with devout Muslim parents, matters of faith had been tucked away in the back of their minds.

Almost a year later, I see the same attitude more and more in my own culture. My generation is riddled with apathy, and an endless stream of distractions drowns out spiritual contemplation in our minds.

In December, USA TODAY ran a story titled, “For many, ‘losing my religion’ isn’t just a song, it’s a way of life.”

The story contained the results of two surveys and reported that 46 percent of those questioned responded they never wonder whether they will go to heaven and 44 percent responded they do not spend any time seeking “eternal wisdom.”

The article calls this growing group of spiritually apathetic people the “So What” set. They do not care if there is a God. They do not care if there is a heaven or hell, and they do not care about life’s purpose.

The statistics are new, but the heart of man has been harboring this kind of apathy forever. More than 50 years ago, poet T.S. Eliot penned lines describing a people “distracted from distraction by distraction, filled with fancies and empty of meaning.” Years before social media crept into our lives, he wrote disparagingly of a “twittering world.”

It is easy to look around a room filled with students constantly checking their phones and see a generation “distracted from distraction by distraction.” There is enough information in our newsfeed to numb our souls day after day, keeping the “So What” set immersed in faithless, stagnant waters.

People of faith, the real apathy problem is yours and mine. For claiming a smug pride in our faith in God while we remain indifferent to the woman scraping pennies to buy groceries in front of us in line at Kroger. For patting ourselves on the back for loving God so much when we have not even thought to love our neighbors enough to know their names.

The book of Romans contains words that should haunt us when we consider their plight: “In their paths are ruin and misery; and the way of peace they have not known.”

Indifference is just fine until the inevitable ruin and misery that come in life shake the once apathetic to their core. Maybe the article in USA TODAY got things wrong about the “So What” set. They are in our pews, our small groups and our Bible studies — closing their eyes and saying “so what” to the people searching for peace all around them.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.