Welcome to Peter Hulen for my first “two cents” guest post! Thorough readers may have already encountered Peter’s thoughts by reading blog comments, but even if that’s the case, I heartily recommend a re-read. See what Peter has to say, and feel free to respond via comments!
Peter Hulen is a composer of computer-generated music, a college professor, and a sometime church musician who converted to the Episcopal Church in his late 30s because it fuses ancient rituals and narratives of his home culture with permission to continue an open-ended life of spiritual pilgrimage and development.
I guess I’m more of a lumper than a splitter. As someone who has worked directly with the 18-22 cohort for the past 20-odd years, I perceive the Millennial generation as developmentally on par with any group that age from any generation. New technology, new connectedness, new social/global consciousness, yes. New kinds of human beings, no.
For example, social media amount to a virtual container for social entities the size, scope and function of those that have been around as long as our species. What is different after having left our foraging/agricultural villages and then returned to them in digital form, is about the experience in between. Regardless of individuals’ relative cognitive development and social identification (whether there are ‘thems’ and ‘usses’ of various sizes and configurations, or a planet full of ‘usses’), everyone still has to deal with the effects of mutual global encounter on one or more levels as never before.
What does this mean for the Church? I do not have a single ‘what I think the church will look like’ vision, because I think we are headed in a couple of different directions. The Church in the global South looks to be adopting forms of Christianity and related attitudes that characterized the North over the past couple of centuries. This is in keeping, for better or worse, with the emerging material and mental macro-culture.
In the wealthy, industrialized part of the world, Christianity will either evolve or be more completely replaced with sundry non-/approaches. The vision I do have is what I hope the Church will become. That would include theologies of greater universalism, and of unity between the natural universe and the noosphere wherein dwells what is experienced as ‘the spiritual’ (no dualisms, Cartesian or otherwise—incarnation anyone?), less literal and more metaphorical understandings of scriptural narratives, and rituals stressing contemplative practices over propitiation, dominion, membership—dynamic processes over states and products. These issues cut to the very quick as regards authenticity in context of the rising watermark (however glacial its movement) of human consciousness.
Maybe my view is colored by present realities, but I see Millennials becoming this, opposing it tooth-and-nail, and checking out, in roughly equal numbers. But if the past year has illustrated anything, it is that critical masses and tipping points have a way of emerging, seemingly out of thin air. What is to come will hardly happen to or through a single generation, but I think Millennials are sure to move the marker just a bit farther along that long, long arc of the universe.