In the Fourth Nocturn

Responsorium: Evangelizing to millennials

‘Evangelizing to millennials’ provoked some interesting, albeit mostly critical responses on Reddit. I knew myself when I posted it that it was a lot rougher than I’d hoped it would be when I started writing it. I found the topic difficult to write about, and that shows in the finished article. Nonetheless I think it was a good start for me at beginning exploring a tricky topic, and the responses I’ve got were helpful. In this article I’ll answer some of them.

My definition of ‘millennial’

One point of confusion seemed to be my definition of ‘millennials’. My personal definition as I was writing the article roughly included anyone currently between the ages of 18 and 35. I now realize this is not really the accepted definition and I’m including a good chunk of ‘Generation Z’ in that too.1

Implicitly this also somewhat addresses another point that was raised: why I was focussing so much on the millennial generation, and not those younger who are now themselves in university. The answer is that I did intend to address those young people too, but I just failed to realize they don’t qualify as ‘millennials’ under that definition.

Millennials disinterested in philosophy and religion?

Several people questioned my claim that millennials have a ‘general disinterest in engaging with religious and philosophical ideas’.

To some extent I think this is a cultural divide between the US and Europe: in Europe, where the secularization of society is much further underway, this is far more reflected in the attitude of young people to religion.

On the whole, though, I think I was wrong to lump philosophy and religion together in this point. Millennials may be interested in philosophy, and even philosophy that hints at religion (see, for instance, the inexplicable superstardom of would-be philosopher Jordan Peterson, who constantly hints at Christianity without actually endorsing it) — but I don’t see it extending to religious doctrine in the traditional sense, especially to arguments for theism and the nature of God. Compare how I noted the popularity of Buddhism among some millennials, for instance.

One idea I’ve been playing with for a while is appealing to my fellow millennials through YouTube with philosophical content approached from a Christian perspective — for instance, using the early chapters of Genesis to explain how Christians approach the task of extracting spiritual truths from a text which is obviously a literal fiction: what our responsibility is to the world we live in; what makes humans different from other animals; what the nature of consciousness is, and whether we have free will; and so on. This idea struck me precisely because of the popularity of YouTubers such as ContraPoints, Hbomberguy, PhilosophyTube, and so on.

I probably shan’t do this myself — at least not for a while, until my gender presentation is slightly less embarassingly awful — so I’m happy to just put this idea for a YouTube channel out there for anyone else to take and run with.

  1. Arguably, I am Generation Z by the ‘accepted definition’, but for a variety of reasons I definitely feel more affinity with the millennial generation.