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CULTURE DIGEST: Life goals of youth are fortune
& fame; binge drinking common among teenagers; …

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Today’s youth have grown up with “omnipresent cameras,” reality television shows and websites that can make them instant stars, so they believe fame and fortune are well within reach, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.

In the survey released Jan. 9, 81 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds said getting rich is their generation’s most important or second-most-important life goal, and 51 percent said the same about being famous, USA Today reported.

The newspaper, which partnered with Pew to report the results, noted that today’s youth are largely influenced by MTV and reality television shows that can turn an ordinary person into a widely recognized, highly-paid celebrity in a matter of days.

“We’ve got a lot of people who, the entire time they were growing up, the only time anything important was happening, there was a camera present,” Robert Thompson, a professor of media and popular culture at Syracuse University, told USA Today. “When they were exiting the womb, they had a camera present. When they were blowing out that first candle or getting on the school bus for the first time, it was all being recorded.”

Youth accustomed to cameras can now become celebrities in their own worlds by posting videos on YouTube or posing like a model on MySpace, the newspaper said. Pew found that 54 percent of this generation has used sites like MySpace or Facebook, and 44 percent have created a profile featuring photos.

Fortune is important to this generation because, as Thompson said, modern American life “has a lot to do with acquisition.”

“The way to distinguish ourselves is by our stuff,” he said. “In some cultures, you’re born into a caste. You know who you are, and it doesn’t change. Here, you have to carve out your identity, and one of the most obvious ways to do that is to climb the ladder. It’s not about birth and class, but it is about financial status.”

Among other findings about the “millennial generation”:

— Youth are about twice as likely to admire an entertainer as a political leader, Pew found.

— 55 percent “dream about getting rich,” according to a Gallup Panel survey.

— The percentage who say it is “essential” or “very important” to be “very well off financially” grew from 41.9 percent in 1967 to 74.5 percent in 2005, according to an annual survey of college freshmen by the Higher Education Research Institute. “Developing a meaningful philosophy of life” dropped in importance from 85.5 percent in 1967 to 45 percent in 2005.

— 47 percent of youth favor “gay marriage” while 46 percent are opposed.

— 32 percent attend church at least once a week, and 20 percent have no religious affiliation.

— 48 percent identify with Democrats, and 35 percent side with Republicans.

BINGE DRINKING COMMON AMONG TEENS — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that 69 percent of students who reported binge drinking indulged in the activity on more than one occasion in the past 30 days.

The study, published in the January issue of the journal “Pediatrics,” found that 45 percent of more than 15,000 high school students who completed the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported past-month alcohol consumption and 64 percent of those students reported having five or more drinks of alcohol in a row.

Researchers also found that binge drinking is “strongly associated with sexual activity, violence and other risky behaviors,” and binge drinkers have a greater likelihood of engaging in such practices than nondrinkers and drinkers who do not binge.

“Our study clearly shows that it’s not just that students drink alcohol, but how much they drink that most strongly affects whether they experience other health and social problems,” Jacqueline Miller, a medical officer on the CDC’s alcohol team and lead author of the report, said in a CDC news release Jan. 2.

“It also underscores the importance of implementing effective strategies to prevent underage and binge drinking, such as enforcing the minimum legal drinking age and reducing alcohol marketing to youth, which can help us change social norms regarding the acceptability of underage and binge drinking,” Miller added.

Shepherd Smith, president of the Institute for Youth Development, advised parents to stop binge drinking before it starts by not having alcohol in the home.

“What studies have shown is that when kids have access to a substance, they’re more likely to use it,” Smith told Family News in Focus. “When they see adults using or participating in a behavior, they’re much more apt to participate themselves.”

HOUSE CHURCHES GROW IN POPULARITY — The Barna Group has identified a growth in the number of non-denominational house churches across the United States, noting that such churches are seemingly more satisfying to those who attend than conventional churches.

Overall, people attending a house church were significantly more satisfied with the leadership of the church, the faith commitment of the people involved in their gathering, the level of community and personal connections they experience and the spiritual depth they experience compared to traditional church institutions, Barna found.

The study, released Jan. 8, said 80 percent of house churches meet every week with the most common meeting days being Wednesday and Sunday. The typical house church gathering lasts for about two hours, Barna said, and the format often varies from meeting to meeting.

Some activities associated with house church gatherings include prayer, Bible readings, community service, sharing personal needs or experiences, and taking part in a meal.

Barna said most house churches are family-oriented, and the average size of a house church is 20 people. The types of people being drawn to the rapidly growing movement include older, devout Christians seeking a more intense spiritual experience and young adults who are interested in faith but want to escape outdated structures and institutions.

“Americans are emotionally open to belonging to a house church, and surprisingly few have any real objections to others joining such a community of faith,” George Barna said. “But the main deterrent to house church growth is that most people are spiritually complacent; they are not looking to upgrade their spiritual experience. Compared to conventional church attendees, house church adherents are much more likely to say that they have experienced faith-driven transformation, to prioritize their relationship with God, and to desire a more fulfilling community of faith.

“Those who attend a conventional church are generally content to show up and accept whatever their church has on the agenda; they place the responsibility for their spiritual growth on the shoulders of the church,” Barna added. “We found that most conventional church goers have no desire to help improve their congregation’s ministry, nor do they feel a need to increase their personal spiritual responsibility.”

FAMILYLIFE CELEBRATES 30 YEARS OF MINISTRY — FamilyLife, a marriage and parenting ministry developed by Campus Crusade for Christ, reached its 30-year milestone at the end of 2006.

The organization, which operates on a $44 million budget and employs a full-time staff of 480, was a strong ally of the Southern Baptist Convention when messengers adopted an amendment to the Baptist Faith and Message regarding the family.

“We’ve been so blessed in our ministry to be able to spend the past 30 years equipping husbands, wives, moms and dads to build relationships and families around God’s blueprints,” Dennis Rainey, president of FamilyLife, said. “I’m convinced that FamilyLife’s best years are yet to come.”

During the past three decades, 1.5 million people have attended FamilyLife conferences on marriage and parenting, and even more have used their print and audio resources. FamilyLife produces six radio programs including FamilyLife Today with Rainey.

    About the Author

  • Erin Roach