Hurt 2.0 by Chap Clark. I was drawn to this, because I like young people. I wanted to understand them. I no longer am young and they will be the avenue for the future, so it’s important for me and others to understand in order to disciple. I was hoping for more theology; this is definitely a sociological study. It’s still worth the read. While he doesn’t teach the theology of youth, he does present who the youth are today and suggests what should be done. A wise Christian will take his word and enter into the youth world in order to transmit the gospel for God to transform the youth culture. To avoid it is foolishness and an abandonment of godly principles.
When I first started reading, I was put off. It was far more detail than what I was interested in. However, I realized, Chap Clark is making observations and they seem true. He’s spent the time that I do not have to find transparent youth who mirror their generation. Chap Clark engaged the youth culture, done an incredible amount of research and then assembled that research into helpful portions that address landscape of the youth rising up to maturity. Who are they? What do they want? And what is their world like?
When I was a youth in the 60s, my world was totally different than today. We did not have cell phones, emails, DVDs or game boxes. The isolation, family abandonment and individualism of society of today wreaks havoc on the stability for youth. Divorce, drugs, immorality and perversion is far more rampant today than 40 years ago. Consequently, the youth have far more to deal with and need a more available ear. Chap writes about the changes in adolescence jargon (a term I really don’t like, but have to accept), the whole notion of abandonment and how it develops. The dark world the teen adolescent lives in is far more confusing than my relatively simple world.
There are many things that are the same, but Chap says they’re different. Peers, school, family, sports, sex and ethics are some of the things that have changed. For example, today students “believe that “teachers do not even deserve the benefit of the doubt and that, instead, teachers must earn the respect of students by showing them respect first.” (p. 83) Did the emphasis on self-esteem over the last thirty years produce this perverted thinking? Regarding family, “The academic and popular debates adults have wages over the definition, meaning and impact of the family have taken a toll on the young. What has happened with the notion of and attitude toward the family is perhaps the most significant form of cultural abandonment midadolescents have endured.” (p. 93) So much that “…those who had learned (or were learning) to use their bodies to find comfort and connection through sexual play were trying to prove to themselves and to the world that they were worthy of love.” Remove God from a person’s life and of course all they go by is their senses and especially their feelings. He goes on to cite an article from the American Psychological Association, “…there is no longer a standard definition of family. It simply means what one wants it to mean: ‘Families today can take many forms-single parent, shared custody, adoptive, blended, foster, traditional dual parent, to name a few.’” (p. 94) And in the downward spiral of America it will take on different degenerate meanings.
The attitude toward the sanctity of sex in marriage continues to evolve. One student commented, “’Sex is a game and a toy, nothing more.’ As I was to find out, it is actually more than that- it is a temporary salve for the pain and loneliness resulting from abandonment.” (p. 116) Additionally, Clark writes, “There is a genuine belief in the midadolescent world that sex with a relative stranger can be the route to happiness and fulfillment.” (p. 127) That is a quick way to build callousness on the soul and heart toward godly things.
The attitude toward ethics is spiraling down. Clark notes, “…researchers found that high school students were far more carefree and casual about cheating than were high school students were far more carefree and casual about cheating than were college students…[because they] do not seem to give much energy to ethical issues that do not provide immediate self-promotion or protection.” (p. 148) So what kinds of decisions will they make when they are confronted by real tough decisions regarding crises in their lives? I’m not sure they’ll be thinking of others as more important than themselves.
A key take away from the book is “…the three basic issues of the adolescent journey are identity, autonomy, and belonging.” (p. 168) The question is who is helping reach them so they can identify with Jesus Christ, see their interdependence in the body of Christ and belonging to the family of God. Clark does not teach the theology of helping adolescents, but he does emphasize youth need 1) refocused, nurturing organizations and programs, 2) stable and secure loving presence, and 3) to experience authentic, intimate relationships with adults. (p. 191-192).
I found the book valuable for what it observes regarding youth. It was helpful in broad sweeps of exhortation to spend time with youth, but it doesn’t direct youth or leaders to draw upon the resources of the Lord Jesus Christ from Scripture. It is a sociological book, not a philosophy of ministry based on Scripture. With that understanding, a good understanding of youth can be gained and hence make a leader much more wise in relating to youth. Who will stand in the gap and pick up the mantle to be available to them?