I am often amazed at how my children can troubleshoot when they want something. When my daughter London was 1-year old, she astonished me with her ingenuity and problem-solving skills. Unable to talk in cohesive sentences, she started tugging at my pant leg in childlike desperation. As she was whining and making sounds I tried to figure out what London wanted, but my efforts were of no avail. Getting increasingly frustrated, her cheeks started to turn red and her cries of frustration grew stronger. Then my daughter did something remarkable. She walked over to her high chair, placed one foot on the wooden support dowel and proceeded to scale up the side of the high chair. She had never done this without help before. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. My 1-year old daughter started to climb up the side of her high chair, placing one foot ahead of the other, she found a stable hold and then hoisted her little body up over the tray and into the seat. Looking at me she smiled and hit her tray, that’s when I realized what she was trying to tell me. She was hungry.
My daughter is wired to problem solve. It’s in her nature to fight for what she wants. She has been this way since before she could speak and barter for it. What is it about human beings that drive us from an early stage of life to either problem-solve or sit in the compliance of our dilemmas? I don’t understand all the realms that this question entails. I do understand that for some of us, somewhere in the recesses of our brains is an innate predisposition or desire to find solutions to our problems. Others tend to stay in the misery of their own perceived insufficiencies, never reaching their desired goal.
In 2015, CNN put out an article that revolved around some of the data that was published by the Pew Research Center which stated,
“Looking at the long view, the generational spans are striking. Whereas 85% of the silent generation (born 1928-1945) call themselves Christians, just 56% of today’s younger millennials (born 1990-1996) do the same, even though the vast majority — about eight in 10 — were raised in religious homes. Each successive generation of Americans includes fewer Christians, Pew has found. To put it simply: Older generations of Americans are not passing along the Christian faith as effectively as their forebears. It’s not as if young people today are being raised in a way completely different from Christianity,” said Smith, the Pew researcher. “But as adults they are simply dropping that part of their identity.”
After reading these statistics I had to ask myself, “where does the blame fall?” Are millennials leaving the church in droves due to a poor picture of true Christianity by their parents? Maybe, or does the problem of empty pews stem from millennials’ inability to create their own solutions within the church?
Are millennials simply byproducts of parents who never grasped the proper spiritual language of their children and as a result failed to spiritually feed them? Or have we simply ghosted religion like we do our neighbors? This is a question that has me digging deeper into the psychology of our genetic makeup and our predisposition for spiritual desire.
At the core of a generation that is ghosting religion, I believe that another question is being dangled in front our eyes. Are we creatures of nature or creatures of nurture? Is it a person’s genes? Or is it a person’s environment that makes them who they are? This age-old question is one that has caught the attention of Maxson McDowell PhD psychoanalyst and molecular biologist along with hundreds of other brain scientists around the world.
There is no denying that our hair color, physical appearance, and predisposition to illnesses such as cancer, are all part of our genetic makeup. But with that said, we are now living in a world of psychology and brain science that has allowed a lot of concrete evidence to be gathered on this very topic. Every person has what is known as a unique genetic code. The genetic code provides a combination of the mother and father’s physical traits which are passed on to the child the second conception takes place.
The debate hinges on whether things such as a person’s predisposition to problem-solve or sit in self-wallowing misery is also a product of nature, or rather an issue of nurture. Let me take this a little further. Are some people more likely to live a holy life versus a sinful life based on the genetics that were passed on to them from their parents as well? If this is true, then is it also fair to say that some people have a genetic road map that is filled with fewer obstacles (predisposition to sin)? When it comes to making good choices and a desire to go to church, read the bible, and pray, are these things predisposition for us, and inherited by our parents?
During graduate school, I took a Marriage and Family Relationships class. In this course I was given the task of creating a genogram. This is a family systems diagram filled with symbols, shapes, and corresponding explanations to each of them. Each one has a very significant meaning behind it. Genograms are most commonly used by family and addiction therapists to help people understand what genetic trends they are predisposed to, whether good or bad. For example, in the genogram I made on my dad’s side, alcoholism was evident from one generation to another, starting with my great grandfather, to my grandfather, and all the way down to my biological father. Every one of these men in my family history possessed the same symbol that is represented by a drug and alcohol addiction.
This helps me understand that I am at a very high risk for developing these addictions as well. The guy next to me may not have the same genetic disposition to alcohol as me. He may be able to have one drink and quit. My genes naturally incline me to need more than one. Perhaps this is why the Bible tells us in Numbers 14:18 that a father’s sin will be visited until the third and fourth generation.
So, my question is “are we creatures of nature or nurture?” Has the evolution of sin manifested itself so strongly in millennials’ genetic makeup that we are simply the byproducts of poor choices? Have the sins of our mothers and fathers, which have been ingrained in us from past generations hindered our spiritual development? Or are we the least likely generation to attend church, simply because we choose to be? I think the world is grayer than it is black and white. I think it could be a lot of both. And if so, God have mercy.