The 2001 Princeton Lectures on
Youth, Church, and Culture

Proclaiming the Gospel in a Wired World


Cell phones, email, MTV, the Web, Palm pilots, and pagers fill our lives and the lives of young people. Teens live in a world where “religious chat rooms and web sites act like spiritual supermarkets, offering an assortment of belief systems all within one click” (Newsweek, May 8, 2000). Whether you laud the changes technology has brought or long for yesteryear, there is no denying that today’s wired world affects how we share the good news of Jesus Christ. Those who are engaged in ministry with youth are translators—charged with the daunting task of making connections for young people who are more familiar with gigabytes than with grace.

Rather than offering instructions on how to use e-­‐mail, set up chat rooms, and design multimedia presentations, the 2001 Princeton Lectures on Youth, Church, and Culture examine the theological implications of modern technology and globalization. They help us to reflect on our modes of proclamation—not just preaching and worship but also storytelling, relationships, justice-­‐seeking, service, teaching, and the daily practice of Christian life. They provide inspiration that will refuel us for bearing witness to Jesus Christ with youth in the wired world.

Thomas Beaudoin engages us in a provocative discussion of the relationship of the church to consumer media capitalism. He argues that consumer media capitalism functions strategically as an anonymous spiritual discipline, thus creating “theocapitalism.” Beaudoin then proposes a tactical plan for Christian theology and pastoral ministry to contest the strategic discipline of theocapitalism. His lectures offer challenging insights on ministry in today’s wired world as well as practical directives for discipling young people in this context.

Marva Dawn raises concerns about blind acceptance of contemporary fads and asks how we can teach youth to question their use of technology. The gospel, says Dawn, calls us to be hopeful realists about the wired world and enables us to de-­‐idolize those elements of culture that begin to take primary place in our lives. She gives ten Christian practices that can help us to clear a space for the focal commitments of our faith in today’s culture. Dawn then urges readers to take greater care in how they use words, and she provides insights from Luke’s account of the walk to Emmaus (Luke 24) on how we might proclaim the gospel to young people.

Richard Osmer takes us on a rafting trip through the white water of globalization, exploring this cultural shift’s influence on adolescents through the global media, the globalization of risk, and the new pluralism of globalization. Drawing on the research of the Princeton Project on Youth, Globalization, and the Church, he explains why we experience globalization as catching us up in currents of change that are beyond our control and discusses the practical implications for ministry with young people. Osmer calls the church to provide young people with three indispensable gifts for their white water journey: a creed to believe, a code for the road, and a dream to esteem. These gifts for the journey are developed out of the practices of catechesis, exhortation, and discernment found in Paul’s ministry and are illustrated for today through case studies of two very different congregations.

Finally, Katherine Paterson blesses us with the gift of story. We are important, she persuades, not because we can teach our young people about the wired world or because we must warn them away from it, but because we are the church and we have a story to tell. Paterson explores how we might tell our story to the young who think they have nothing to learn from us. She challenges us to see the “invisible youth” by looking at young people as they really are and loving them as such. Perhaps, she notes, youth would welcome from us a vision of who, in God’s sight, they really are, in a sharing of stories that illumine and heal.

May these lectures inspire you and equip you to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the young.

Faithfully Yours,
Amy Scott Vaughn
Director of Leadership Development
Institute for Youth Ministry

2001 Lectures

Thomas M. Beaudoin
  • Celebrity Deathmatch: The Church Versus Capitalism?
  • After Purity: Contesting Theocapitalism
Marva J. Dawn
  • Technological Devices or Engagement in Practices?
  • The “Humiliation” of the Word or Its Restoration?
Richard R. Osmer
  • Riding the Raft: Ministry with Youth in an Age of Permanent White Water
  • A Checklist for the Journey: Biblical Foundations of Ministry with Youth
Katherine Paterson
  • I Love to Tell the Story
  • The Invisible Youth
page 81

Riding the Raft: Ministry with Youth in an Age of Permanent White Water

Richard R. Osmer is the Thomas W. Synnott Professor of Christian Education at Princeton Theological Seminary. He has written several books, including Teaching for Faith and Confirmation: Presbyterian Practices in Ecumenical Perspective. Osmer is codirector of the Princeton Project on Youth, Globalization, and the Church.

In this lecture, I want to explore with you the effects of globalization on adolescent faith. 1 I will be drawing on research that currently is being conducted by the Princeton Theological Seminary Institute for Youth Ministry. Over the past two years, the Institute has sponsored research teams in Japan, the United States, Germany, Ghana, South Africa, Russia, Argentina, and Paraguay. Although we are in the middle of this project, I will share with you some of the insights that emerged at our gathering last April. Prior to this meeting, each team had conducted interviews of adolescents between the ages of fifteen and seventeen in their particular country. The American team, headed by Kenda Dean and me, has interviewed close to 100 adolescents. The interviews conducted by all research teams explore topics such as young people's interaction with the media, their attitudes toward certain facets of globalization, how their religious community helps them understand and respond to globalization, and a variety of other topics. Each research team transcribed twenty-five interviews and identified common themes and issues. When the research teams gathered together last spring, we compared what we had come up with.

As I have thought back on this meeting, the one image that keeps coming to mind is that of people on a raft or in a canoe riding down a rapids-filled river. Some of you may have experienced this first-hand. You may even have taken your youth group rafting. Even those of you who have not probably can recall images from movies or literature that have dramatic scenes in which people jump from great heights into the rapids below. I remember the jump scenes in The Fugitive, The Last of the Mohicans, and Kiss the Girls. I also can recall dramatic scenes of canoes shooting thepage 82 rapids in Deliverance and The River Wild. Keep in mind an image of what it's like to be right in the midst of white water, drawing on your own experience or a movie. I'll be inviting you to come back to it several times over the course of the lecture. Your cue will be Run the Rapids!

Try it right now. Focus on what it feels like to move through a set of rapids with lots of white water. In your imagination, start on the near side, then enter the white water. Recall what it's like to be pulled through and out of the rapids. OK, Run the Rapids! My guess is that you experienced the feeling of being swept along in a current far stronger than you were. It didn't matter how hard you tried to back-paddle. Once the rapids had you in their grip, you were going down that river...unless you tipped over or crashed into some rocks. And even then you were still going to be swept along by forces more powerful than yourself.

This is how most of the world experiences globalization. They feel like they've suddenly been swept up in a current of change far more powerful than they are. They certainly can't control it. The best they can do is try and dodge the rocks and branches. And they're pretty sure that there is no way they can avoid being swept over the falls just up ahead. Even those of us who live in North American and western Europe and who are the beneficiaries of globalization often feel that we are caught up in currents of change that are way beyond our personal control.

Your young people know this feeling full well. Sometimes, it feels wonderful—the ultimate adrenaline rush. We're leaving the past behind—old racist stereotypes, old cultural chauvinisms, old religious conflicts. Sweep me away from all that, Sweet Jesus. Draw me irresistibly into this new global world where one of my best friends is from Russia, my teacher spends every summer in Africa, and I can get in a chat room with anyone from anywhere to talk about anything. But sometimes these powerful currents of global change feel threatening. This is especially true if you're from a country like Ghana, South Africa, or Russia, where globalization often feels like an invasion from the West, a flood sweeping over village life and destroying everything in its path—the way crops were grown and harvested, the cloth-weaving, the older moral codes. Even Japanese youth, living in a country with the second largest economy of the global marketplace, are painfully aware of what they are losing as they embrace globalization. The "island way" is slipping away. And as it departs, something very precious to Japanese culture and identity is being lost.

Obviously, the topic of globalization is bigger than I can deal with in one lecture—or even two. I can't even begin to do justice to the various page 83 insights that have emerged out of the Institute's research. What I can do, in a fairly focused way, is speak to the ways globalization is influencing adolescents in three areas:

  • 1. The global media
  • 2. The globalization of risk
  • 3. The new pluralism of globalization

Before taking up the first of these, we need to pause for a minute and take care of a few preliminary matters. What do we mean by globalization? Drawing on the thinking of Roland Robertson and others, globalization can be defined as the process by which the world is being knit together into a single place by interconnected systems of communication, transportation, political organization, and economic exchange. 2 I want to make three brief comments about this definition. First, the key phrase is "interconnected systems." Globalization has to do with the connections created by computers, satellite communication, trade, and new political communities like the European Union. It's driven by the emergence of new systems of connection.

Second, globalization is not being defined here exclusively in economic terms. This is important, for some of the biggest supporters and critics of globalization use this term solely to describe the global marketplace. I think this sort of economic reductionism is a real mistake, because it misses global connections and flows taking place at other levels. For example, one of the most important facets of globalization is a worldwide revolution taking place in the family. Even in a country like communist China, where the government still exerts great control over the economy, we see this revolution taking place. In the Chinese countryside, sixty percent of all marriages are still arranged by parents. 3 In the large cities, such arranged marriages have virtually disappeared. People marry by choice; cohabitation is becoming more frequent; the divorce rate is climbing. You can't explain what is going on here exclusively in terms of the influence of a global economy. You have to think of changing perceptions of the role of men and women, of shifting cultural definitions of happiness and fulfillment. These are related to global cultural flows through the media and through study and work abroad. Globalization, therefore, has to do with interconnected systems emerging at many levels of life. When I use the term globalization, don't think exclusively in terms of the global marketplace.

Third, globalization points to changes that are comprehensive and far reaching. We are in the early stages of this process, but it already is obvious that the entire world is being reshaped by the new systems of connection that page 84 are the hallmark of globalization. We need to think in terms of the kind of major shifts that take place in civilizations relatively infrequently. Think of the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the medieval world or the collapse of medieval feudalism and the rise of the modern nation-state. We are at the beginning of a shift this comprehensive. This is why all of us experience globalization as catching us up in currents of change that are far beyond our control. We are living in an age of permanent white water, and the rapids have us in their grasp.

The Global Media

Let's begin by exploring the effects of the global media on youth. A cross-cultural comparative perspective is particularly helpful. Remember, I asked you to keep in mind an image of what it is like to be in white water. Well, it's time to bring it up. Since this is our own imaginary trip, let's move out of real time and slow things way down—like in The Matrix. I want you to slow things down so you can notice the ways you are surrounded by the white water. When you move through rapids in real time, things are moving too fast to really see the way the water is dancing all around you. Are you ready? OK, Run the Rapids! Let me guide you a bit. Look around. Notice the water cascading all around you. Slow things way, way down and focus on a single spray of water. See it dance and glisten as sunlight, air, and water swirl around in a sparkling Russian dervish. Pull a single droplet of water out of the air if you like. Now, hold on tight. We're going to move back into real time. Experience the water-dance as you really would. Feel the water slap at you and laugh at you as you're pulled back and forth by the powerful crosscurrents.

This is the way youth around the world experience the media, especially music. One of the most striking findings of our research was the universal influence of music on young people all around the world. They listen to it when they wake up, as they travel to school, while they do their homework, when they're hanging out with their friends, and before they go to bed. American youth regularly spend a part of their disposable income on CDs, and when they watch TV, it often is to tune in musical videos. Music cascades around them, and its rhythms and lyrics have almost an irresistible attraction. Like a powerful current, music pulls them into the global cultural flows of the entertainment industry. Much of the music listened to in other parts of the world originates in the United States and Great Britain. It is creating a global youth culture. It may well be that a young person living in Johannesburg or Moscow is more apt to recognize Britney Spears walking down the street than page 85 a neighbor who lives only a few blocks away. She's recognized everywhere—a global celebrity created by the global media.

Global cultural water down a river. Music isn't the only thing that flows through the global media. Movies and television programs also are a part of this cultural flow. The British sociologist Anthony Giddens shares the story of an anthropologist friend who studies village life in Africa. 4 On her first visit to a particularly remote area, she was invited into a local home for a meal and evening's entertainment. She was excited because she expected to see firsthand some of the traditional past-times of the isolated village. After the meal, the head of the household ceremoniously invited her to join the family in the living room for the evening's entertainment. He then proudly pulled out a video of Basic Instinct, which they proceeded to watch on the family's VCR. The movie had not yet even been released in video form in the United Kingdom.

Without question, one of the most powerful forces of globalization influencing young people all around the world is the global media. Those of you who work with youth will not be surprised by this. Let's listen to the words of some of the more articulate American youth whom we interviewed.

Interviewer: Why do you like this particular group?
O-5-R1-R4: I like Cory because I like his music. His music tells stories. I have been to his concerts, and I think he puts on a good show.
Interviewer: What are his stories about?
O-5-R1-R4: About growing up and high school and the high school scene and what life is about.
Interviewer: Are his stories accurate?
O-5-R1-R4: Some of them.
Interviewer: Do you see your life in those stories?
O-5-R1-R4: Yes.
Interviewer: What would some of these messages be?
O-13-R5-R6: Their songs talk about love and relationships, and families and different issues that all teens feel.
Interviewer: Do you think this is a good thing?
O-13-R5-R6: It's a good thing in the sense that it gives the teenagers something to think about, so they know how to react to certain situations.
O-13-R36: The Sixth Sense was basically just for entertainment purposes but with The Hurricane I can relate to him struggling to do something and it not necessarily working the way that he hoped.
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As these excerpts indicate, young people are attracted to music and movies for two reasons: entertainment and models of life and love. Their comments were echoed by youth in other parts of the world. Entertainment we can probably live with. But models of life and love? What do you think?

The most sophisticated youth workers in other parts of the world are very critical of the influence of the global media on their young people. Some argue with great passion that the media communicates a view of life that is antithetical to the most cherished values of their country and their understanding of Christianity. They view the messages it sends about sex, individual freedom, the importance of money, and the use of violence to settle conflicts as having a negative influence. One of the most articulate of these youth workers, a leader of a para-church organization in Russia called Hosanna, argued that music is the single most powerful force seducing Russian youth into the materialism and hedonism of the global consumer marketplace. And she feels powerless to stem the tide. What do you think? The entertainment industry cascades around us and our young people all the time. Is she being too negative? Or, with the eyes of an outsider does she see something that we're too immersed in to notice? What happens when young people form their models of life and love—their moral code—through the global media? I will return to these questions in my second lecture.

Globalization and Risk

It's time to run the rapids again. This time you're not in the white water. It's out there, just in front of you. You can hear the water crashing. You can see the rocks and branches jutting up. What do you feel just before you run the rapids? If you've never been rafting, it's something like the feeling you have when you're climbing up the first incline of the largest roller coaster in a theme park. Try imagining that. Pause for a moment and Run the Rapids. What do you feel right before you enter the white water? For me, depending on how big the rapids are, it is a combination of fear mingled with excitement. There is an element of risk in shooting the rapids or riding a roller coaster. That is part of page 87 what makes them a perennial favorite of young people.

People who work closely with youth know that risk-taking and adolescence seem to go hand in hand. Many teens seem to thrive on taking risks. That's why you take them rafting or rapelling. But you also know that this risking-taking has both a good side and a bad side. Its bad side has to do with the foolish and self-destructive risks adolescents sometimes take—drinking and driving, jumping off a cliff into water of unknown depth, ingesting a synthetic drug produced in who knows what kind of lab. Its good side has to do with adolescents' willingness to take risks born of idealism: camping out in Tienniman Square, sitting in at a lunch counter in Greensboro, traveling to a country they know virtually nothing about to repair houses. Some say young people love risks because they're too young to know better. Others say it's because they haven't lost their ability to dream. Probably, they are both right. Unless this risk-taking drive of adolescence is met by a dream that taps into their idealism, then it all-too-often will turn negative or shallow. It is almost like the idea of a critical period in Erik Erikson's theory of development. 5 If adolescent risk-taking isn't nurtured by a dream during this critical period of their life, then the potential for growth and development is lost and is difficult to recapture later in life.

How does globalization affect adolescent risk-taking? For several decades, some of the more thoughtful sociologists around the world have been telling us that our experience of risk is changing. The older, modern way of thinking about risk has been turned completely upside down. We used to think that science and technology would reduce the risks to human life—allow us to grow better crops, eliminate diseases, and warn us of tornadoes and hurricanes. We now know that science and technology create a whole new set of risks that are more threatening than anything the human community faced in its past. The German sociologist Ulrich Beck coined the phrase "risk society" to describe our experience of manufactured risk. 6

Some argue that the globalization of the past two decades has intensified this experience of risk. 7 As globalization has created new systems of interconnection, the most threatening problems facing the world have become global in nature. An economic recession in one region affects other countries halfway around the world. As the Wall Street Journal once put it, Asia catches a cold and Silicon Valley sneezes. When the Chernobyle nuclear plant had a meltdown in the former Soviet Union, it did not merely threaten those who lived nearby. It threatened to spew out a radioactive cloud that placed many parts of northern Europe at risk. As science makes breakthroughs in the area of genetic research, a whole new set of risks is beginning page 88 to face the human race. We don't know the possible hazards of genetically altered foods. But we're already eating them. We don't know if our new knowledge of the human genome will be used to combat disease or will become the basis of designer-babies, enhanced athletic performance, or geno-terrorism.

Recall what you felt a few minutes ago when I asked you to place yourself in your mind's eye immediately before a set of rapids. What if you suddenly realize that these rapids are a lot bigger than anything you've ever handled before? The current is too fast, the drop-off too deep, and the rocks too big. Some would argue that this is how the human community experiences the risks of globalization. The speed of change is too fast and the problems too vast. This is one of the issues we wanted to explore in our interviews. What do young people think about globalization? Do they view it positively or negatively? What kinds of risks do they see it as creating? Do young people worry about these kinds of risks? What kinds of models do they use to think about these issues? How do they respond?

In the interviews with Americans, we found that approximately fifty percent could articulate global issues they worried about and could speak to the issues in some depth. Let's listen to several excerpts from our interviews:

K-L-33: Let's see, I worry; I'm very concerned about the environment and what's been happening to it in Third World nations and in the United States and other developed nations just because business seems to be taking such a priority and people want to be getting ahead. The more money the better. Better products, higher salaries, and the economy will grow. I really value the mountain ranges, and the lush forests that are enormous, the great big trees, the clear oceans, the blue and white skies, and the stars, and I'm afraid that we're going to lose a lot of that. What I think about is that song "America the Beautiful." That's what I'm talking about. I'm afraid we're going to lose that not only here but in many other countries….
K-F-46: I think that the world is pretty much disintegrating in the way it is, although it is perceived that it is being even better, and we're finding out more about science and technology, coming up with really neat computers and everything else, although what's really happening is that we're using up all our resources doing all these things. Once we page 89 run out of the resources, what will we do then? We turn to this science and computers and stuff and we find an answer, because one of the statistics that I have found is that we will run out of all natural resources within the next twenty years approximately. When that happens, what do we really do?

These are pretty articulate statements by fifteen to seventeen year olds. It is also important to point out, however, that approximately half of the Americans interviewed had little to say about these kinds of issues. Their thinking is captured well in the following excerpt:

O-1-Y39-41: They (young people) don't really worry about world politics right now...they really aren't affected...or don't have a say...Yeah...they are worried about more immediate girlfriends...going out... school...sports...

There is a lot packed into this statement—aren't affected, don't have a say, worried about more immediate things. One way of interpreting the difference between those who are reflective about global risks and those who are not is to see it developmentally. As young people grow older, their boundaries of social awareness expand and they become more aware of the problems facing the world. 8 No doubt, there is truth in this line of interpretation. But two important insights emerging in our research complement this sort of developmental perspective.

First, those young people who were most thoughtful about global risks were involved in some sort of community that raised these issues and helped them think about the issues. By far the most important of these in our research were religious communities whose youth groups consistently involved their young people in mission projects. It did not matter whether these mission projects were local or international. In addition to religious communities, schools also seem to play an important role in raising these issues and helping young people think about them. That's the first insight: the importance of communities in raising and addressing issues of global risk.

The second insight, however, is equally interesting. Everyday interaction with computers seems to provide many American youth with their primary model of globalization. A striking difference between the American youth and the youth interviewed by other research teams was the far greater interaction with computers found among the American youth. What was page 90 particularly surprising to me was the comparison with German and Japanese youth, who also live in relatively affluent, technologically advanced societies. Apparently, young people in these countries do not really use computers until they reach college or enter the business world. In contrast, virtually all of the American youth we interviewed interact with computers on a regular basis—for research, writing papers, e-mails, instant messages, shopping, and so forth. This intensive interaction with computers provides some American youth with their most important model of globalization. Here are a few representative excerpts:

O-2-R18: I think it means that like instead of being an entire world of people all spread apart, everyone no matter where you are, you're just like a button away, so you're always close.
O-7-R48: I think it is making everything more accessible. On the Internet you can get everything from it. Everything is so dependent on the computer if there was ever a problem I don't think people would be able to deal with it.

By and large, those young people who formed their image of globalization on the model of computer interaction were extremely positive toward globalization. Globalization is viewed as affording better communication, greater access to information, more opportunities to expand one's horizons, and less control by those in power.

When you placed these two findings side-by-side, I believe it underscores the important role of mission-oriented youth groups in helping young people understand and respond to globalization. At least in my reading of these interviews, youth participating in these groups seem to be far more reflective about global risks than those working with a model of globalization formed exclusively through their interaction with computers. They are aware of the issues; they are wrestling with them; they are beginning to imagine constructive responses. If adolescence is a time of risk-taking, on the one hand, and if globalization seems to present us with change that is too fast and problems too vast, on the other, it may well be that religious communities will play an all-important role in holding these together in the emerging global era. This is something I will return to in my second lecture.

Globalization and the Struggle with Pluralism

One of the findings of all the research teams—from Russia to Ghana, from the United States to Japan—was the struggle young people are having making sense of the new pluralism that globalization is creating. Make no page 91 mistake about it, the young people you are working with are experiencing pluralism in a wide variety of ways in their everyday lives. They are watching movies and TV, listening to music, eating food, and wearing styles of clothing that originate in other countries. They are friends or acquaintances with people who are from other parts of the world. They e-mail and enter chat rooms with people living outside the United States. Many have traveled abroad. At school, they are studying non-Western cultures and religions, and they are participating in international student exchanges and choir tours.

For many decades, social scientists have pointed to experience of pluralism as an important dimension of modern life. 9 Move to the city, and you almost inevitably are exposed to different races, cultures, and ideas. Globalization, however, has greatly expanded and intensified the experience of pluralism. In our interviews of American youth, there was a strong tendency to equate globalization with pluralism and to view this positively. Once again, let's listen to the actual voices of some of the youth we interviewed:

O-11-R45: Yes, I believe that globalization is a good thing. It limits ignorance. You are more exposed to different things, that can actually help because you know more about your surroundings.
O-12-R30: Yes, I think it is good.... It's like everybody in the world is interdependent upon one they should be open to learn...different things. Like the United States should be able to accept Holland's views as well as Holland should be able to accept the U.S. views. They should be open to the different among them and be able to accept the people across the country who are different.

The positive assessment of tolerance and openness to different points of view expressed in both of these excerpts appeared again and again. At one point in the interview, we asked the young person how open people should be to influences from other parts of the world. The following comment is representative of the sort of responses we received:

K-L-21: I think that really you should be wide open, but you shouldn't be open enough so that you lose your own identity, that you'll lose who you are, so that you won't lose your own culture, your own faith. You'll still have that group of people who you can identify with.
page 92

The struggle to be open, on the one hand, and to hold on to your identity, on the other, was a common theme in these interviews. It is one of the real challenges that the new pluralism of globalization poses to young people.

This is closely related to the difficulty all the young people had with what we might call "the truth question." Their experience of pluralism makes it very difficult to affirm one perspective or position as more true than others. We posed this issue by asking: How do you know which religion is true? Again, let's listen to some of their responses:

O-4-R84: Because, I think that each religion believes its own things and I don't think it is fair for me to say, "Your religion is bad, your religion is wrong because you don't believe in a certain something." It is up to the individual.
O-6-R35: Yes, if you are too relativistic you can have your own ideas. I have my own ideas and everyone's ideas are true to them. It is not well founded. I mean just from the logical point of view, if my ideas are true and your ideas are true and part of my ideas say that your ideas are false, there is no way you can come back to that. That's kind of becoming pretty popular because it is the easy way out. I think there are certainly some things that are objective truths. At the same time, I don't think that someone should close themselves off to other ideas. They should at least have exposure to them. Exposure to them doesn't mean accepting them. It means that they think about them. I think that it is very, very, very important.

The first of these excerpts is far more representative than the second. It is particularly nice because it holds together two responses that were very common in the interviews of all the research teams. "It's up to the individual"—the individual is the final arbiter of truth. It also describes fairness as the right of every religion to hold its own beliefs. In contrast, the second respondent is struggling with relativism. He portrays it as the easy way out and as avoiding the hard issue of affirming some perspectives as truer than others. Yet he still wants to affirm the importance of being open to perspectives that are different than your own.

Having read through nearly 100 interviews with Americans and having listened to my colleagues conducting research in other parts of the world, I am left with the strong impression that the new pluralism of globalization poses a major challenge to religious communities that still want to deal with page 93 the truth question. How do we affirm our young people's fundamental intuition about the importance of openness and tolerance without leaving them in a form of individualism or relativism that ultimately is inadequate? We need to do some fresh thinking about this issue.

Let me conclude this lecture by asking you to Run the Rapids one final time. You've just made it through the third set of rapids on the trip. Your arms ache; your back is sore; and you're soaked to the bone. You barely have time to catch your breath when you hear the sound of water crashing in a new set of rapids up ahead. Beyond that set of rapids is another and beyond that another still. On either side of the river, walls of sheer, smooth rock stretch upward. There's no place to land. There's not even a branch to hold on to. What are you thinking and feeling? Hold that thought, we will come back to it in our second lecture when we take up the importance of providing young people with a place to land in an age of permanent white water.


1. This essay originated as a lecture delivered orally. I have sought to preserve the oral character of the lecture, and its informality, in this essay.
2. Roland Robertson, Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture (London: Sage, 1992); Malcolm Waters, Globalization (New York: Routledge, 1995); Peter Beyer, Religion and Globalization (London: Sage, 1994).
3. Anthony Giddens, Runaway World: How Globalization Is Reshaping Our Lives (New York: Routledge, 1999), p. 71.
4. Ibid., p. 24.
5. Erik Erikson, Identity, Youth, and Crisis (New York: Norton, 1968).
6. Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity (London: Sage, 1992).
7. Giddens, Runaway World, Chap 2.
8. Boundaries of social awareness is a part of James Fowler's developmental schema in Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning (San Francisco: Harpers & Row, 1981).
9. See, for example, Peter Berger, The Heretical Imperative: Contemporary Possibilities of Religious Affirmation (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1979).