By Monte Sahlin
It is not the primary purpose of a recent article in the Whitman College campus newspaper to report on the religious experience of young adults, but it provides some interesting insights. The article is a profile of Walla Walla University, another Christian college in the same small city in eastern Washington state.
It describes how service experiences, both overseas and in the local community, are an important part of the values and education at WWU. It quotes a student, Rachael Coon: "I took this last year off and I worked in an orphanage in Belize. That was an incredible life experience. Life is raw there. It is what it is. There's no fluff. There's no mask to put on."
A faculty member describes the "reverse culture shock" that students experience coming back from a time of living with and serving the poor: "Some of them go down to Walmart and just cry because there's so much stuff and for the last year they were in a place where there just wasn't anything."
The reporter also expressed some mild surprise that WWU students, unlike the typical American college student, generally stay away from alcohol and tobacco, etc. Coon was quoted putting this in the same context as the life experience among the poor: it opens up a kind of access to authenticity, personal and spiritual authenticity, which is very important to young adults.
At the same time, new generations are cleary changing the religions they are part of. Another student, Jesse Churchill, explains that a number of his classmates have tattoos, but "it's just not really flaunted [because] there's a potential for it not being accepted. People my age are usually OK with it, but if you walk into church, there will be older people judging you."
And there is clearly an extended impact of new generations that cannot be fully measured from this point in their history. "Adventist beliefs could definitely change in the future," the reporter stated, quoting Churchill further: "Church in general is dying. I want to have a church that can actually reach people where they are, here in this culture, rather than try to revert back to the 1960s. The religion of our parents and grandparents tended to accept the beliefs a little more, whereas our generation questions everything."
Divine truth should stand up any questioning, of course. What is washed away is likey not really divine truth, but the cultural accretions of previous generations. It is difficult to know until we can look back from a historical perspective; a reality denied us in the current situation.
Source: Whitman Pioneer, October 23, 2013