Just finished reading an article by author Pico Iyer in the New York Times on the growing desire for silence and stillness among youth. Every church leader needs to read this article. Iyer, along with other top writers, fashion designers, graphic artists, and other creatives were flown to Singapore to speak at a conference for top corporate marketers and advertisers. The theme of the event (which should send a chill through your spine): “Marketing to the Child of Tomorrow.” The title of this conference almost fills me with hopelessness. How can children (and the people who care for them) resist the incredible amount of intellectual, spiritual, and financial resources that are brought together to manipulate and seduce children into conforming to the will of the corporate marketplace? Not only are business people working hard to figure out how to mis-direct the desires of children, but they employ the best writers, artists, psychologists, and even theologians to help them in their quest to “brand” young people!
The article goes on to talk about the recognition by creative entrepreneurs for stillness and silence as well as Iyer’s own intuition that in the future children “will crave silence and freedom” from technology. I’ve written on this topic recently, particularly the awareness that those who designed and market the smart phone and other fast-paced technologies are now craving silence, solitude, and other practices that keep their spirit (and creativity) from being overloaded. This awareness is nothing new, what’s disturbing for me in this article is Iyer’s suggestion that marketers should be aware of this growing desire in young people. So many churches and youth ministries are busy trying to catch up to the culture. I’ve encountered many youth ministers who brag about their ability to move at the speed of the culture (“We do all our announcements through twitter!” “We Skype all our talks”). When are we going to recognize as Marshal McLuhan once warned, “The medium is the message?”
Maybe we should go forward by going backward, back to our roots. Solitude, silence, prayer, meditation, retreat–these are practices that are well known within the Christian community. Why don’t we begin to trust them? Why don’t we meet the growing desire of young people for quiet, for stillness, for withdrawal from all the distracting data? Why don’t we meet this growing hunger with faith before the marketplace meets it with products and false promises?