Video: Why Are the Millennials Protesting?

There is is a common problem among millennials — but it might not be what you think.

Middlebury College students turn their backs to Charles Murray, unseen, who they call a white nationalist, during his lecture in Middlebury, Vt., Thursday, March 2, 2017.

By Michael Brown Published on March 10, 2017

The millennial generation has famously been described as Generation Me — or, to cite the title of a 2013 Time article, the Me, Me, Me Generation — and there is certainly some truth to that description. On the other hand, millennials have demonstrated many outstanding qualities, which is why the Time article contained these two subtitles: “Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents,” and “Why they’ll save us all.”

As for the self-evident self-centeredness of many millennials, this is partly the result of their upbringing and environment, as they have grown up in a culture of indulgence, a culture of narcissism, a culture of radical, leftist, campus ideology (which often revolves around “my feelings”), a culture of me-focused social media, which finds its ultimate expression in the selfie.

Do those of us who are older (I turn 62 next week) really think that we would have been much different had we been raised in this same environment?

As for the very clear strengths of many millennials, they do have a strong social conscience, they do want to change the world around them, they do want to get involved, and they have transcended some of the racial and ethnic boundaries that plagued us in the past.

I’m speaking, of course, in general terms, and there are endless exceptions to each of these two categories (weaknesses and strengths).

Still, the overall patterns seem clear, which leads me to the question posed in the title of this article: Why are the millennials protesting?

Millennial Depression: Epidemic? 

One obvious answer is that they’re upset with the way the world is going, and this is their way of expressing their anger and frustration. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that, and I’m sure that’s part of the answer. But is it the entire answer? Perhaps not.

An article by Ewan Morrison on carries the provocative heading: “Social Justice Syndrome: ‘Rising Tide of Personality Disorders Among Millennials’.”

He points to something called High Conflict Personality Disorder and notes that, “A 2016 UK survey found that, since 1990, rates of depression and anxiety among the young have increased by 70 percent, while the American Counseling Association has reported a ‘rising tide of personality disorders among millennials.’ That such disorders appear to be an acute problem with this generation may be an unintended outcome of the unprecedented experiment conducted in the 1990s and 2000s by progressive parents.”

This begs the question: Is something else going on in these millennial protests? Could there be more than a cry for social justice at stake? (Morrison says the answer is yes.)

Is there a gospel-based solution to the cry of their heart?

A 2012 article on noted that “depression is an epidemic among college students,” citing statistics that indicated that “1 out of every 4 college students suffers from some form of mental illness, including depression,” that “44 percent of American college students report having symptoms of depression,” that “75 percent of college students do not seek help for mental health problems,” and that “suicide is the third leading cause of death among college students.”

Is it that far-fetched, then, to ask if there are several factors driving today’s social justice, protest movement among millennials? And is there a gospel-based solution to the cry of their heart?

I answer those questions on this video, and I’d love to hear your response — especially if you’re a millennial yourself.


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  • Gary

    The Millennials are the most immoral, liberal, and theologically ignorant generation ever. Their parents are the in second place in those categories. The children of the Millennials will be even worse than their parents. If you think these generations offer any hope for the future, you are delusional. But, they may never have the chance to show what they are incapable of. I hope not.

    • Charles Burge

      If that’s true then why are Millenials the most pro-life generation alive today?

      • Gary

        Who says they are? Being against abortion for others contradicts the moral relativism they embrace.

        • Charles Burge

          John Stonestreet, for one. He and other commentators have pointed it out many times.

    • Triple T

      If you only go by the ones we see acting like nincompoops on college campuses, it’s easy to think that way. However, I see many millenials who regularly attend my church, do good things in my community and generally have their heads on right. I want to believe that there are more of those than the other kind.

      • imamazed

        I agree. I actually see more millennials who are willing to start a conversation about Jesus with their non-believing peers than I see from my own generation….

    • The Evangelical

      Actually, there is a trend of us turning to Reformed theology, thanks to God’s grace. We are happy to spread God’s freedom to save for his own eternal glory!

      • llew jones

        Good to hear. It does seem that there has been a revival of the biblical emphasis on the sovereignty of God both in his providential rule and in salvation. This revival is not only in the USA but in many places around
        the world including in churches in some African nations. There are a number of church planters in places like Egypt, who were students at seminaries such as Trinity Evangelical Divinity School lllinois, who are seeing Muslims coming to saving faith in Christ. Here in Australia local churches in the Evangelical wing of the Anglican Church are prospering and flourishing, numerically, under Reformed preaching. Many of their converts who are now active church members were Muslims.

      • Gary

        God has his people in every generation. I am talking about the group as a whole. I see a lot of moral relativism from them, though I see that in older generations too. The sad truth is that only a minority in every generation will get right with God.

  • LeRoy Whitman

    “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” I am not advocating witchhunts or killing people! But Scripture does say that; and in revelation since the advent of Jesus, we see the battle is spiritual (witness Jesus casing our demons; stating, “If I cast out demons by the finger of God, the Kingdom of God [Rom. 14:17] is upon you”; and Paul’s statement in Ephesians 6:10ff. What this Scripture shows us is that it is Not Okay to tolerate witchcraft. Our society has done so, and is reaping results.

    Thankfully, a clear sword of Truth is cutting a pathway for those who will follow. This Kingdom will never end. It is greater than the “kingdoms of this world” and is in fact the kind of spiritual authenticity manifested in actual social (relations) structures that so-called Millennials are looking for.

  • Liberty McArtor

    Thank you for talking about this, Dr. Brown! As a millennial I’ve seen first hand the epidemic of mental illness among many of my peers, especially during college. I’ve also seen it denied or made fun of by some, but it is a real and painful issue for many of today’s young adults, including in the church.

    I would add that I believe most of my generation is sincere about their heart for certain social justice issues, and part of that may be because, being more in tune with their own feelings, they are really good at empathizing and imagining what it feels like to walk in others’ shoes.

    Regarding the issue of guilt, one reason (I don’t have studies to back this up, just personal experience) many millennials may feel guilty is that we were constantly told growing up that we *could* change the world and that we *could* be anything we wanted to be. Therefore many millennials were motivated and excited about their futures. But when the real world hit (and many are having difficulty finding jobs, paying off exorbitant loans, etc. in the wake of the recession), they aren’t becoming what they always thought they would become, at least not right away. They put in their part of the hard work, they feel, by finishing school and going to college. Now they feel as if they have failed or done something wrong because *they* weren’t able to make their own dreams come true. So they’re upset, crying (protesting) to the older generations for that fulfillment of the promise they repeatedly received growing up. The protests and activism also help them feel they have purpose, even if they might be stuck in job they didn’t go to college for. Again, just my personal speculation on part of what contributes to the “me” perception.

    Also, I completely agree that the gospel is the answer, in fact the only answer to all the injustices in the world that many millennials are concerned about. Millennials desperately need that message.

    • Michael L Brown

      Liberty — thanks for weighing in with such wisdom and clarity!

  • The Evangelical

    Millennial reporting in! Almost all of my classmates growing up suffered from some degree of depression, confusion, and a desire for something “more”. There is also a huge difference with how God’s mercy affects us. Many of my friends who follow the lordship of Christ and are born again take our faith very seriously. We are generally reformed and have a strong desire for God’s Word and systematic theology. On the other hand, those who are not born again, tend to be agnostic. I don’t think I know a single cultural or lukewarm so-called Christian from my generation. It’s all or nothing for us.

    • Triple T

      What’s your opinion of the all or nothing mentality you see in your age group? Personally, I think it’s a good thing. Sometimes I think we could do without the “lukewarm” Christians, be they from your age group or any other.

      • The Evangelical

        I agree. I can have strong fellowship with believers and a clear mission field for the rest.

        • Triple T

          I like the way you think. Those who think the worst of your age group based on what they see and read would do well to listen to people like you.

    • Michael L Brown

      Your observation about your peers and Christianity is extremely interesting. It would comport with one of my colleague’s beliefs that millennials have been under-challenged and are looking for real challenges. Thanks!

  • Charles Burge

    I wanna thank Liberty and the other Millenials for commenting here. I admit it’s easy to grow cynical about the younger generation, especially when reading about the worst of them. But you folks give me hope that a brighter future is possible. 🙂

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