The Contemplative Pastor
Another characteristic of the adolescent that has spread into the larger population is the absence of historical sense. The adolescent, of course, has no history. He or she has a childhood, but no accumulation of experience that transcends personal details and produces a sense of history. His world is highly personal and extremely empirical.
As a consequence, the teenager is incredibly gullible. We suppose that a person educated in fine schools by well-trained teachers would not be in any danger of superstition. We further suppose that the fact-demanding, scientific-oriented education that prevails in our schools would have sharpened the mind of the young to be perceptive in matters of evidence and logic. It doesn’t happen. The reason it doesn’t happen is that they have no feeling for the past, for precedents and traditions, and so have no perspective in making judgments or discerning values. They may know the facts of history and read historical novels by the dozen, but they don’t feel history in their bones. It is not their history. The result is that they begin every problem from scratch. There is no feeling of being part of a living tradition that already has some answers worked out and some procedures worth repeating.
Such people are subject to consistent trivialization. They find it impossible to tell what may be important. They buy things, both material and spiritual, that they will never use. They hear the same lies over and over again without ever becoming angry. They are led to entertain, and for brief times practice, all kinds of religious commitment from magazine moralisms to occultic séances. In none of it do they show any particular perseverance. But neither do they show much sign of wising up – of developing a historical sense, of becoming conscious that they are part of a continuing people of God and growing beyond the adolescent susceptibilities to novelty and fantasy.