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A generation shaped by glowing rectangles

Reflecting on the culture of college students today

Each week, The World and Everything in It features a “Culture Friday” segment, in which Executive Producer Nick Eicher discusses the latest cultural news with John Stonestreet, president of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Here is a summary of this week’s conversation.

After spending concentrated time this summer teaching Christian worldview to college students at Summit Ministries in Manitou Springs, Colo., John Stonestreet reflected on the strengths and weaknesses of this generation of young people.

College students’ obsession with technology—what Stonestreet called “staring at a glowing rectangle”—has led to poor communication skills and self-centeredness.

“When you are used to having entertainment on demand and communicating always on your own terms—where you can choose to answer a text or not, you can choose to pick up the phone when you see who’s calling or not, you can choose to communicate when and with whom and in what way—it really does feed a sense of narcissism in this particular generation,” Stonestreet said. Young peoples’ infatuation with the cellphone game Pokémon Go exemplifies that problem.

“The good news is, it’s getting people outside,” Stonestreet said. “The bad news is, it’s getting them outside to national landmarks and beautiful scenery only to stare aimlessly on their phones for creatures that don’t exist in real life.”

Relativism has also infected this generation, and conservative Christian students are not immune.

“They’re much more concerned about being nice than being true. They’re much more hesitant to be mean than they are to be wrong,” Stonestreet said.

But the news isn’t all bad, and Stonestreet found plenty of encouragement in his dealings with young people this summer: “I think one of the biggest differences between this emerging generation and mine is just these two words: They care.”

When confronted with biblical truths, particularly about issues like abortion, the students Stonestreet worked with showed an eagerness to put their knowledge into action.

“I believe that when you can actually sit them down and talk to them and get them in a place where you can actually challenge them with ideas, that this generation cares enough to want to do better,” Stonestreet said. “They want to make a difference in the world. And, to me, that’s very encouraging.”

Listen to “Culture Friday” on the July 29, 2016, episode of The World and Everything in It.

Nick Eicher

Nick is chief content officer of WORLD and co-host for WORLD Radio. He has served WORLD Magazine as a writer and reporter, managing editor, editor, and publisher. Nick resides with his family in St. Louis, Mo.


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Paul B. Taylor

The problem with iphones is that they represent a dramatic infatuation with advanced technology.  This infatuation drives students, both in high school and colleges, away from the Bible and the gospel.  It represents a turn toward un-Christian behavior such as looking at internet pornography, watching violence in the media and being hypnotized by television shows that glorify quality of life and pre-marital sex.  This technology is turning us toward the golden calf, where the Israelites celebrated around an idol and rejected Moses.  The Israelites had experienced a great move forward as we have with technology that made them forget the God who brought them out of the bondage of Egypt and subsequently made and idolized a golden calf. This is the problem.  Too often for Christians, when we attain great measures of independence and prosperity such that we idolize them and fall away from Christ, and, as we have as a nation started to idolize information technology, we are owning our success and rejecting the God who has given us material  or technological graces.  So, as America moves toward a socialist economy because of our idolatry, we are forgetting to rely on God and to thank God for all He has done for this great nation.  This means that anti-Christian sentiment at this point in our culture might be irreversible, even if we elect Donald Trump, and, so, if we elect Hillary, there will be a dire fate for Christ's bride,His church, for many generations. Once again, our greatest recourse is prayer.  If we ask not for turning back socialist progress, then socialist progress will not be restrained.

Nat Manzanita

Yet our ability to invent amazing technologies shows our immense creativity as humans, which is one manifestation of the image of God. Smartphones are a tiny step, compared to innovations such as vaccines, the automobile, the airplane, space exploration, radio, television, and the internet. In God's eyes I think they are mostly neutral. Also, they set us up for a fall (in a healthy sense), in that many of them are fragile in the face of natural disasters. This means that more and more often we have the opportunity to be humbled, recognizing our frailty and need for God when dramatic events that are a normal part of His creation make the devices we rely on so heavily stop working.