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One of the most significant facts about the younger generation is that increasingly larger numbers of it are seeking their faith not in secular panaceas but in God.
They Want a Faith
Near the Mount Zion Methodist Church just outside Atlanta, on Highway 41, a onetime barbecue pit has been turned into a Bible classroom. One evening recently, eleven disciples watched Robert L. West go over and flip off the light switch. "It's kinda dark in here without the lights," apologized West, as he walked behind the crepe-wrapped white cross now lighted up by two candles, "but I would ask you to look upon this symbol-perhaps the greatest in the world."
West, an 18-year-old son of a paper-plant foreman, who quit Georgia Tech because he found nothing but "hard, cold facts of engineering," looked like a church -ly Frank Sinatra, in his Paisley bow tie and purple jacket, his big ears enlarged in shadows on the blackboard behind him. He read his long text (Luke 9: 20-27: ". . . And be rejected of the elders . . ."), and in a businesslike manner proceeded to expound it-the job of youth today. "Unless we, the young people of today, go to work, we're going to lose in the end. This symbol has stood for thousands of years. To us today it stands for sacrifice, the greatest sacrifice that He made for us ... And it stands for a call, a call to work
. . But we're afraid to take on something if we have to call on God to do it. We're ready to do anything if we can handle it with our own two hands. But we're afraid to try something too big, a job that takes God's help . . . This place should be filled ... As we stand in front of this cross, lift up our shamed hearts to the work that is ours . . ."
The younger generation is looking for a faith. The fact that it has not found one -that it isn't even sure where to look;is less significant than the fact that it feels the need to believe.
The generation of the '205 was devoutly iconoclastic. It put on (in the words of T. S. Eliot) "the black cap of jem'en joutisme"-of I-don't-give-a-damn-ism. It discovered with a mixture of horror and delight that it was living in a brand-new age, the 20th Century, and it decided to burn all the old cultural furniture. This huge fire, while it caused incalculable damage, cast a sharp, new light across U.S. civilization-and encouraged the younger generation of that day to do a whooping war dance around it. Gertrude Stein christened it the "lost generation," but she may have spoken too soon.
To some, it seems that today's youth is really the lost generation. It does not believe that the wrecking of the '205 made sense, and even if it did, the '205 did not leave many values to wreck. Present-day youth has no living heroes and few villains. Said a professor of sociology: "We spend all our time debunking. We have no heroes, so how can you expect the young people to have any? We destroy them all. We've even done it in the sports world. Kids today feel they have to go all the way back to Babe Ruth to find a hero. Today the only heroes are the ones whom they can't destroy. And who are those? The heroes of the comic strips."