Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The youth space and the church

Politics in India has come to the era of being youth-i-fied. Different parties are claiming that the youth are not only their future but present as well. With the youth being lured to join various political dispensations, youth lobbyists are asking for more seats and representation in the political decision making and the running of the country. But the seniors are not willing to let go. Understandably so, because they have themselves burnt out their youthful fire before being handed the reins of power! In the midst of this deadlock and power mongering, the debate should perhaps be about power sharing.

The church in India reflects the same predicament. The youth are demanding their share and the older generation refuses to let go of what they have themselves just received. One way of ending this impasse is to locate spaces within the political and spiritual landscape of India. Spaces where all can be included and all can participate in a worth while manner!

The youth in India are taking to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in a big way. The internet in its various forms is helping bring about a revolution which is creating a space for youngsters in this country. The church also through interactive web sites, chat rooms, online forums and blogs is being challenged to hear what the youth have to say. A clamp down on such forums and online activity would not fare well for the traditionalists as that would bring the battle on to the streets.

The time has come for the church to claim its youth and its online community. There will be cross overs from the older generation who are still young at heart and that should be welcomed as no one can lay claim to the term youth in an exclusive manner. It would bid well for the church to allow such alternative spaces which are in a way outside the physical church but in all aspects part and parcel of the church.

The concerns about social networking sites like facebook and orkut obviously remain, with prime concerns on whether the youth are being misled into a pseudo-spiritual life rather than one based on reality and real experiences. But one cannot write away such sites without discussing the pros and cons of it. The popularity of these sites seeks a discussion on them. The discussion could also go in the direction of how the church can be a part of these spaces which the youth have made their own and how the church can take them seriously and not just write them off as technological gizmos fit only for gamers and the laptop generation.

Churches in India need to go a step further. They have to discuss the possibility of having a spirituality which fits the demands of the online generation. Is online counselling possible, can video conferencing be held between the leadership and the youth to avoid red tapism and hierarchical high handedness, can the youth meet online and discuss everyday concerns, and can the priest be available online to the youth? The non-involvement of the church will make the youth space a churchless space!

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