The Crossroads: Finding One’s Path as a Second Generation Member

crossroads1

By Jenny Cox

Jenny CoxI think many members of the second generation are standing at a spiritual crossroads. One course leads the way we’ve been going our entire lives: the way of our parents, the way of the Blessing, the way of inheriting the faith tradition we were born into. The other course lies outside, through what we fondly call the fallen world.

Kind of a scary ultimatum, isn’t it?

In a time of many transitions and new starts — life goals, career ambitions, even marriage prospects knocking at one’s door — it’s almost too much for a young person to handle at one time. All of the most critical decisions of one’s life seem to be clustered in this tender three-to-four year gap between teenagehood and college graduation. On top of that, add the fact that most young people, in their late teens and early twenties, are still desperately trying to find themselves.

Young people are especially vulnerable to the whims of the world, as they are also expected, and sometimes herded, to go to college during this pivotal, impressionable stage of their lives. I regret to say that, while colleges do provide a wealth of knowledge and opportunity, college campuses are also rife with harmful influences. In such an environment, confusion on many levels is likely to trouble a young person’s mind; some would even say this is calculated.

At college, students are presented with a smorgasbord of various ideas and intellectual concepts. While a few of these may be true, it is difficult for a young person to discern between truth and mere conjecture, between fact and theory. When a theory is well-supported and popularly acknowledged as gospel, it is easy to be compelled to go along with the common opinion that it is fact. Uneducated young people are in this position to judge a vast array of conflicting ideologies without a point of reference. If they are already uncertain about their own identity and beliefs, by what standards will they be able to judge the rest of the world, especially when that world is speaking from a position of authority and experience?

Simply put: If you don’t have your feet firmly grounded, you are going to be swept away by the tide.

The minds and hearts of young people are often amorphous, yet to be formed and shaped by experience and belief. When such people are called to inherit the responsibility of a faith tradition as new and different as ours, it presents itself a daunting task, to say the least. This is why having one’s feet firmly grounded in conviction is key. Without conviction, it is a bitter struggle, if not an impossible task, to stave off the tidal waves of confusion and relativity that the world is rife with. If you believe in nothing, you can be influenced to do anything. And when uncertainty is all you have where your faith is concerned, it is tempting to want to jump ship.

How then will second generation members find their conviction and take ownership of their faith?

At this time in particular, it is easy to be swept away by doubts, and many second generation are. College is merely the catalyst for these doubts. Will the movement succeed? Is my participation in the movement really needed? Is the purpose of this movement really in line with God’s vision? Such crippling questions are especially common now, in the wake of Father’s transition to the spirit world. But if the upcoming years without True Father’s guidance are the long dark tunnel for Unificationists, faith is the torch, for both old and young members.

It is not always easy to find this torch of faith, especially when we are left groping in the darkness, as we are now. In the handful of testimonies I have heard about why second generation are leaving, there’s far more to it than a lack of faith. These young men and women have found few to no convincing reasons to stay, and plenty of viable reasons to leave instead. Their faith has been shaken, perhaps even destroyed, and cannot easily be reclaimed. Perhaps disturbing truths were revealed to them that the track record of the church is not, in fact, impeccable. Perhaps there were bitter relationships with other members which soured the whole movement for them. Perhaps nothing about Unificationism made sense to them anymore, and they couldn’t bring themselves to confront that. Perhaps they found that life as a Unificationist was too challenging for them, too lonely, too ridden with rejection and disappointment to be anything resembling an appealing life course.

walkingabeach

In some ways they are correct. It can be difficult to thrive within the church, while it remains so small in comparison with the great world religions. It is difficult for a Unificationist to thrive outside of it as well, to try, with one’s limited experience, to associate with other people and not be written off as some out-of-touch, narrow-minded cult follower. I know it — sometimes the faith community seems as small and insignificant as an island. But we have to remember in all this that our reputation is not what we are; and, in truth, our small company of believers is as vibrant and valiant as God could have hoped for — in this, our numbers matter little. Our small community means a great deal to God, as perhaps the only faith movement that is actively fighting the suffocating darkness of the fallen world with such ambitious ideals.

A faith community with such a vision should not be taken lightly, or written off as “just another church,” and thus should not be left with a light reason. Our movement possesses something of unique and undeniable beauty. In our decision of which road to take at the Crossroads, the second generation must consider carefully. Above all, the second generation need to explore their faith to take ownership of it, and find their own conviction as members of a growing movement; and if we should end up leaving the faith, let it be done with great care and not frivolously.

For myself, before I choose my path, I want to have clear motivation and conviction in my faith. But despite the unsettling truths I may discover along the way, despite the discouraging experiences I might have, I sincerely want to stay with this movement, to stick it out despite whatever rough patches come my way.

Why do I want to choose such a path? Because my heart is most inclined to stay united with the culture of heart that I was born into, in the community that I love and learned so much from. Thus far, my experiences with the faith community have given me every emotional reason to stay. I have friends, I have family, I have more supportive and wholesome relationships here than I’ve experienced anywhere else. To build on that, as a second generation member, I want to work to take true ownership of my faith.

The journey has begun.♦

Jenny Cox is a student at Barrytown College of UTS and participates in its singing club, CARP chapter, and ballroom dancing club. She aspires to become a published author and possibly illustrator, and currently lives in New Hampshire.

11 thoughts on “The Crossroads: Finding One’s Path as a Second Generation Member

  1. Jenny, thank you very much for your article. I appreciate it very much.

    For several years, as a European elder in Germany, this has been one of my key concerns, “What is our legacy for our 2nd generation.” Moreover, as we could do it now and on this blog, I would hope we can share an honest open-minded discussion. This would be a very urgent need among all of our families in our worldwide movement.

    • Hannes, thank you for your reply! I’m glad to see that my message was helpful. I hope I was able to shed some light on why some of the younger generation are questioning their faith and/or leaving.

      I definitely think it’s a tough thing for parents to “let their kids go,” to let them find their own faith. Since second generation have had such a different experience from their parents, their faith is definitely going to have a different flavor. I truly appreciate and respect first generation who nurture the second generation in their faith journey, though it may be difficult. I would also love to see more second generation posting articles here and really engaging in an open discussion with elder members. 🙂

  2. Jenny,

    Thank you for your well-written and balanced essay. You have touched on a number of essential points that pose challenges to our movement and must be dealt with. It’s not difficult for me to understand why many of our young adults find it difficult to identify with our movement, especially when one considers the current struggles at the very top of the spiritual hierarchy. I believe you are right when you suggest to other young adults (second generation members) that they should think and reflect carefully before departing from the movement — and if someone does decide to depart, he/she should do so “with great care and not frivolously” — these are truly mature words of wisdom.

    For me, one key point is that as a global faith community we need to rediscover a common passion and love for God and humankind, we should try to expel politics from the church, replace self-assertion with genuine service to others, and more. In other words, the culture we create within our movement is essential, whether both God and people will be attracted to join us.

    • Johann,

      Thank you for your kind response. I really appreciate the feedback.

      You made a good point about the tone we should have as a movement. I believe at this time we’re not so much “grappling with Satan” anymore as trying to establish the kingdom of heaven. For this reason, I think you’re definitely right that we should shift our mindset to one of “genuine service.” That kind of heart is one that, I think, is universally honored and appealing to people, and one that will help our movement to grow.

  3. Jenny,

    Thank you for letting us see into a second gen mind and heart.

    We are much better at talking about family than creating them. Father taught us to sacrifice ourselves and our families for the higher purpose. Children will feel rootless or perhaps dislike the church if their parents sacrificed them for public activities and made the prospering of church related organizations the center of the practice of their family’s faith. This can be seen as following in Father’s footsteps and so justified theologically.

    For whatever conditional reason Father did this, it is pretty sure to make for struggling children. If children who feel less than loved by their parents go to public school, they can easily become secularized and accustomed to the culture of socialism and dating. True love and family values will then mostly just be slogans in their hearts and minds.

    Perhaps we should risk the apostate label and make creating a true love lineage the focus of the practice of our faith. We can find ways to serve others as a family rather than as individuals. We should seek to indelibly imprint our children’s memories with many happy experiences when they are young. This will make them naturally seek happiness through creating true love families themselves and be much less likely to feel adrift as teens and young adults. There are so many church leaders who have children who have voted with their feet to leave the church. We cannot be a Family Federation until those preaching family can show exemplary families.

    The public school system is not a friendly place for religious family values. Our families would be stronger and closer if they home schooled. More families probably would do so if they realized how easy it is.

    Best of luck with your studies.

    • Yes John, I think some of the words we read have been sometimes poorly translated or transcribed in an incomplete way. I read that “we have to love the children of Cain more than our own children,” this may emotionally be impossible to do, and, doing it continuously, also do harm as you wrote. It may be a Korean expression. Perhaps it means that we are not just to focus on loving or investing in our own children, but also try to take care of the children of others, even of children of people we do not like so much, take them out for trips, or even pay for (part of) their studies or medical bills. Obviously this can be very powerful for the receiver of such love. At the same time it must be explained to and made to be understood by the physical children as an aspect of a living life of faith.

      Home schooling is good for High School level students, as we have experience with it, but at the same time through sports, martial arts and ocean/cultural activities etc., the young people ought to have contact with other youth in society. This, I think was Father`s vision. Other religious groups retreat sometimes in nature or agricultural communities, but become isolated.

      • Frans,

        Do you have such religious groups in Europe, living in rural communes and communities? The Amish have an admirable commitment to creating family businesses and involving their children in them. If this could be done while embracing modern technology, society at large could more easily see their happiness and be influenced to do the same, especially if it could be done without forceful measures like shunning. Children should follow a tradition because they love it.

        Our children cannot go to hear a young and energetic Father speak. We need to make strong family traditions to help guide our descendants’ faith as our movement decentralizes and finds its way without a charismatic visionary leading us. Rural multiple generation homes are an option I find appealing. We need to give our grandchildren the best environment possible to grow up in, one with lots of family relationships and nature.

  4. Hi Jenny,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and well-written article. I believe you certainly have the talent to be a good journalist. The core of our faith is the Divine Principle. Members of any generation need to know the Principle and how to put it into practice. This gives us as blessed couples and families the motivation and drive to keep at it, to never give up pursuing the dream the Principle provides for us. As the motto of my blessing said: “World Peace Through Ideal Families.” We also need good schools to reinforce what our families are trying to do. Schools like Barrytown College all the way down to the pre-school level. We have several such schools here in the U.S. and I encourage members to take the challenge to establish more, or at least home school associations based on our teaching.

  5. Hi Jenny. First off, wow. You hit the nail right on the head with this article. I am a second generation in Uganda. Two worlds, one family. I agree with what Robert says. But before we concentrate on family, first we must concentrate on ourselves as individuals. In and out knowledge of the Principle only slightly helps to strengthen faith. Most of the 2nd generation members out there have the knowledge of the Principle and what it requires of them. But when you get down to it, when we are out there facing the world person-to-person, it all comes down to how willing you are to stand firm in what we believe. Knowing what we believe is only half of it.

    Let me also say that the world is changing in many ways. Satan is adapting. Sad to say, but our movement is not. In a generation like ours where freedom and technology are the norm, many leaders are still set on a path so rigid. In a generation like ours where heart-to-heart guidance and inter-personal relationships are key to a young adult’s mind, some members keep the church too (forgive the lack of vocabulary) “churchy.” I remember my dad once told me that the Unification movement is a family before a church, and I recently found out True Father wasn’t aiming to build a church at all, but a way of life. Saddens me that our efforts in imparting our way of life into second generation minds and actions are dwindling. Too many people forget that our movement is a family-based model, built on Love.

    I think we need to get back to the basics and build our perceptions, our families and hence our movement from the ground up. Once again Jenny, wow. Enlightening in more ways than one!

  6. Hello, Jenny. I enjoyed your thoughtful, self-reflective article. I have re-read it a few times actually because you offer some poignant points for a certain age group and for us their parents. It will be one of the handouts I will be giving out at a one-day meeting with second gen in Sydney where the discussion will be around Eric Erickson’s stages of development and that 3-4 year gap where questions of identity, roles and choices of paths are “clustered” and decided on. I look forward to hearing more from you and others on similar or related topics.

  7. Thanks so much, Jenny. Perhaps the real question for any youth (and older folks, too) is; “are we seeking first the kingdom” (Matthew 6:33), or do we have other priorities. Is serving God more important, or making money more important? Are we striving through our studies and interactions in college to make God and His ideal taught by True Parents the center of our lives, or do we have some other goals? The other huge point is the issue of keeping sexual purity. True Father has said that universities are a “lighthouse for Satan”. That also makes the argument of why Barrytown College is so valuable.

Please leave a comment or reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s