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Just a Trend? MAG
What single event can draw 20,000 teens to Washington,D.C.? Some obvious guesses would be an *NSync concert or ESPN's"X-Games." In this case, though, the answer is a Christian youth rally.
Over four days, a "Super Conference" run by Youth for Christdrew more than 20,000 teens to Washington, D.C. and 10,000 to its Los Angelesconference. Our generation, known for school violence and endless hours on theInternet, has another side that is just beginning to be acknowledged by themedia: a religious movement so large that it is already widely known among teens.This movement that has so quickly swept the nation has given Christian teens theability to say freely, "I'm Christian and proud of it." As one youthpastor put it, "The newest generation is different. They have no fear aboutsharing their faith, no shame in identifying with Christ and a total willingnessto commit their time and finances."
It seems many have been doingjust that. All over the country teens are using their finances to show otherstheir commitment to faith by spending money on bracelets, key chains and booksthat bear the slogan "W.W.J.D.," which is instantly recognizable toteens as standing for "What Would Jesus Do?" These items supposedlyreaffirm a teen's beliefs and remind them to make the rightdecisions.
Teens also fuel the ever-growing Christian rock industry. Afairly new category, contemporary Christian music sold over 44.6 million albumsin 1998. Bands such as Jars of Clay, DC Talk and the Supertones have becomeincreasingly popular. Many teens listen to the music for inspirational messages.Concerts are not only attended for the music but to meet other teens who sharethe same religious values.
Even more than the financial commitment ofteens is the one of time. We have such busy schedules, but many willingly devotean evening each week to a youth group meeting. Others meet before school for aprayer circle or Bible study. Although there is division between church andstate, these groups have become more common at schools with the justificationthat as long as the school does not sponsor them, it is okay to use schoolfacilities.
Some teens take their religious devotion even further. Acrossthe country teens organize rallies. These rallies, which are heavily advertisedin high schools without mention that they're related to Christianity, are a wayof showing the world how serious teens are about their religion. At theserallies, Christian rock bands play while teens are taught how to apply faith toeveryday life. They also spread the message of Christianity to teens who are notpart of the movement. These rallies have been essential in making Christianity aspopular as it is today among teens.
It is obvious that there has been arevolution and, Christian or not, all teens are affected by it. Through theclothing Christian teens wear, the music they listen to and the places they spendtheir time, they have sent a message. But why now should teens choose to becomeso religious? There seem to be three main factors.
Everywhereteens look in the world of pop culture they see idols embracing Christianity. Onthe inside of many popular CD covers - from Britney Spears to the Backstreet Boys- there is a thank-you note to Jesus. In countless teen magazines, pop starJessica Simpson emphasizes that her faith has helped her in life and to remain avirgin. On the popular television show "7th Heaven," the father is apastor and religion is intertwined with the moral of each episode. Everywhere,teen idols can be found practically preaching Christianity, and because many areteens themselves, they not only influence this trend but are part of it. Teenssee other teens who are famous, and wish to be like them.
Secondly, thisnew wave of religion is a way to shed so many of the labels the media has givenus. The public knows us as slackers who spend countless hours on the Internet.They also know us as the generation dealing with school shootings and otherviolence. Why would we want to be known for this? Religious teens are using theirdevotion to change our generation's reputation. Because most adults considerreligion "right," usually associating it with good works, it seems likethe perfect way to clean up the mess we've made.
Furthermore, religiongives teens the opportunity to differentiate themselves from and rebel againstmainstream culture. In recent years, society has become less religious, if thefalling Sunday service attendance rates are any indication. Since the 1950s,teens have had their own culture. For us, becoming more religious as themainstream culture becomes less is a form of rebellion. Although many wouldn'tthink of rebellion and religion as related, they have become so as we find a wayto make our culture a unique one.
These three reasons that show whyChristianity is so popular can also show why this interest in Christianity andbeing religious may be just a fad. In many cases, teens have become religiousbecause teen celebrities influence them, they want to prove others wrong and theyfeel the need to rebel. Soon a new generation will take our place, the media willgive them new labels, they will have new celebrities to admire, and new causes torebel against. Just like outdated hair styles and fashions, being religious as ateen phenomenon is likely to become a thing of the past. The next generation ofteens may be like the one before us, who seemed to view religion as boring.Currently, 43 percent of teens believe they will be more religious than theirparents, but if their interest is the result of a fad, their feelings may diewith it.
Over the past 50 years, teen culture has seen some odd trends,from poodle skirts to crimped hair to disco. None, however, can compare with theone our generation is seeing today. Consuming both time and money, religion hasmade its mark on us. The real test for Christian teens will be time. Will theirreligious devotion become just another fad, or is it something much larger, awidespread revival in Christianity? We can guess what will happen, we canhypothesize about if it's here to stay, but, as they say, only time will tell.