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Column: Social media may just be the religion of the next generation

It took one auction and several people several long, grueling days to clear their farm of personal belongings after our parents had both passed on. Numerous times a day, we who were doing the clearing looked at one another and said: “Look at all this stuff!” or, “Good grief! What were they thinking?!” Mom had enough pie-making materials to last her a hundred years, almost as if she were going to live forever.

Now, at my age, it is slowly becoming apparent that, much to my surprise, I’m not going to live forever either. Huh! (I’m not totally convinced I’m not going to live forever, just so we’re clear on this.) But. All life has some limitations, distant as they are. Optimism–blatant, unjustified, I admit it.

Let’s face it, our kids are different than we are. They’re the first generation that is completely separated from both the Depression and World War II. My generation? We didn’t go through either of those, but we had parents who did, and that was enough. On the farm in Iowa, I remember Dad saying, and believing, right to the day he died, “We can move over to the 80 (the original homesteaded 80 acres, about three miles away) if things get bad again.”

There was a spring over there that would supply water for cattle and people.

My generation is going to their graves remembering the gravity of hearing from our elders about how dry it was, and how needful everyone was, and how every day, they did without. Without. A self-explanatory word. More detail is not required when someone says they did without.

 Very few of our children know, either through actual experience, or word of mouth, what “without” truly means. Therefore, they look at all the stuff we’ve accumulated, and they think about smaller houses, and less stuff. Not surprising. Very few next generations are like the last one.

Some time ago, I heard a sermon that described how the speaker, an older woman of my generation, possessed a nice, rare, deacon’s bench, which had been in her way ever since she acquired it many years ago. Her children, when approached about maybe taking that deacon’s bench away to one of their homes, weren’t too interested. “You hang onto it for us, mom,” they would say. Yeah. Right. They just honestly don’t want it in their way, either.

This sermon went on to make the connection between the deacon’s bench, and religion, and that, in much the same way that our children don’t want our “deacon’s benches,” neither do they want our religion. The reality is, both our stuff and our religion are viewed somewhat similarly by our children, and, although there are certainly exceptions, waning church enrollment is triggering a lot of attention. How to correct this has become a perplexing question.

The Internet and more social, Facebook-like sites than you would believe have, in some way, become this next generation’s religion. I believe there are upwards of 30 places on the Internet where people can communicate with one another, keeping in touch, solving problems, dumping emotional burdens, looking for like-minded people with whom to relate. In short – fellowship.

So much for religion. Now, what to do with our stuff, which they mostly don’t want, and don’t need? Stuff. Lots of stuff. And less time. Is it too difficult to see that this needs some attention from me? Is it too late?