A new openness emerges
Recent research (Singleton, Rasmussen, Halaloff and Bouma, 2018) has shown that emerging generations of young Australians are more open and willing to engage in spiritual conversation but the question is who with and how? Making sense of what it means to be a spiritual person and the relationship between higher values, meaning and purpose and the concrete realties of modern life is no easy or simple task. What resources of religion, mythology, faith practice, ritual and theology are available to young people, in an accessible and relational format that allows for space, conversation, experimentation and informed choice? Where might a young person go and whom might they talk to should they wish to explore the meaning of life from a spiritual perspective and its relationship to the material, intellectual and emotional dimensions?
What do our current educational structures and economic imperatives say to young people about the value and place of finding one’s soul and place of belonging and responsibility in the larger universe, ecology and human family? These are the questions we must pursue with passion and care. We already know from small experiments in this field that mystical experience, access to religious and philosophical metanarratives of meaning, when coupled with a relational environment that supports rational and critical reflection, are most conducive to youth spirituality and capacity (Daughtry, 2020). The days of seeking either to socially enforce prescribed religious beliefs, or alternatively, smothering spiritual instincts and needs with unrestrained secularism, are over.
The opportunity that presents itself in the Australian context is to invigorate a new conversation. This will be one in which the legacies and worldviews of religion are respectfully engaged with a view to uncovering their hidden treasures. Where every day young Australians are equipped with the kinds of discernment that enable them to articulate the traces of the sacred within their own narratives. Where guided experiential practice comes into dialogue with critical reason and conversation occurs between our small stories of the sacred and the larger stories of our cultural heritages. Where a spirituality of real life in the world as it actually is, and can become, is characteristic of our faith. Something more than a Sunday school lesson, nothing less than a reformation of the place and quality that we give to spiritual education in our time.
Daughtry, P. (2020). Portraits of the “Shy Hope” Engaging Youth Spiritualities in the Australian Context. The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, 10(1), 13-27. doi:https://doi.org/10.18848/2154-8633/CGP/v10i01/13-27
Singleton, A., Mary Lou Rasmussen, Anna Halaloff, and Gary D. Bouma. 2018. The AGZ Study:Press Kit. ANU, Deakin, and Monash Universities. http://sociology.cass.anu.edu.au/sites/default/files/docs/2018/12/AGZ_Press_Kit.pdf.