I’ve been representing Harvest USA at many national Christian conferences over the last two years. We get a lot of traffic at our exhibit tables, and once people find out what we do, most of them tell me about their child, grandchild, or friend who has come out as gay or transgender. Almost everyone I meet has been personally touched by the LGBTQ+ wave sweeping our country. And the overwhelming majority of people identifying as LGBTQ+ are young. What is happening to our millennial, Gen Z, and alpha generations?
In the latest Gallup poll for 2022, only 2.7% of baby boomers and 3.3% of Gen Xers identified as LGBTQ+ versus 11.2% of millennials and 19.7% of Gen Z. Along with that, while there was only a slight increase in the total percentage of Americans identifying as LGBTQ+ from 2012–2020, that number showed a marked uptick from 2020 to 2021. How do we make sense of this data? While there are many factors involved, here are just a few things to consider.
COVID Lockdowns and TikTok
Regardless of what you think about COVID lockdowns, we can’t deny the social impact of forced isolation. Kids were taken out of school and put in front of screens. Not only were many of these children receiving consistent LGBTQ+ indoctrination in their virtual classrooms, but they were also getting heavy doses of it on social media. By April 2020, just as the lockdowns began, TikTok surpassed 2 billion downloads worldwide.
Consider what happens when our youth are cut off from the real world and plugged into an attractive, addictive virtual world algorithmically curated to show only one perspective?
Social media platforms specialize in creating echo chambers, with sophisticated algorithms designed to keep our attention as long as possible. The more we click on one type of video or post, the more we’ll see that type of content. Even if we click on just one pro-LGBTQ+ post, we’ll start seeing more of them. The more we click, the more dominated our feed becomes. Consider what happens when our youth are cut off from the real world and plugged into an attractive, addictive virtual world algorithmically curated to show only one perspective?
Hidden Experiences or New Interpretations?
Many will argue that the dramatic increase in people identifying as LGBTQ+ stems mainly from growing social acceptance. They’ll say the numbers have always been this high, but only recently have people felt safe to be public about it. While that may be true for some, it doesn’t account for the large statistical differences between generations. Now that there is social acceptance, you’d expect just as many boomers as Gen Zers identifying as LGBTQ+.
Instead, we’re witnessing a social contagion to which young people are particularly susceptible. Adolescence is a scary, confusing time for everyone. Our bodies and minds are going through countless changes which we struggle to know how to interpret. But now doctors, teachers, therapists, scientists, and politicians are giving new answers for these age-old questions. Consider that 66% of Gen Zers identifying at LGBTQ+ identify as bisexual. Why has bisexuality become so prevalent? Boys and especially girls will often go through seasons during adolescence when they might develop new feelings for a friend of the same sex. Historically, those feelings wouldn’t have materialized into anything more than a fleeting quasi-crush, leading to little (if any) questioning of their sexuality. But today, their radars have been trained and conditioned to see even the slightest attraction toward the same sex as incontrovertible evidence that they are indeed bisexual.
The questions used to be, “How do I live as a man? How do I live as a woman?” But now the question every child is being forced to consider is, “Am I a boy or a girl?”
The same is true for gender identity questions. All boys and girls will ask questions about what it means to be a boy or a girl: What activities should I like? What feelings are masculine or feminine? Fallen humanity has always struggled to live as the men and women God calls us to be. But, by and large, these questions were limited to our roles, not our ontology. The questions used to be, “How do I live as a man? How do I live as a woman?” But now the question every child is being forced to consider is, “Am I a boy or a girl?”
The Battle for a Better Story
I recently spoke at a retreat for a few hundred Christian college students from a variety of secular campuses. I was sobered by the extent to which worldly categories have infiltrated this generation. The deck has been stacked against them. They’ve been fed language, narratives, and parameters that prohibit any biblical categorization for who we are and how we are to live. Truly, Gen Z needs an entire deconstruction of their sexual worldview for a biblical framework to make any sense.
This deconstruction won’t start with logical arguments and statistics; they’ve been captured not by data, but by a story. A story of liberation, meaning, justice, and beauty has captivated their hearts and they’ve found their identity within it. A competing narrative strikes at the core of who they understand themselves to be. This will feel extremely scary; all their defenses will be on high alert against these threats to their identity.
Many who currently find their value, meaning, and identity in an LGBTQ+ label will, in God’s good timing, find Christ alone to be their all-in-all.
But this is where Christians have every reason for unshakable hope and confidence: we have a better story to tell. The gospel is the only narrative that accounts for everything we experience in this life and promises transcendent, everlasting hope and purpose. And we have the best Story-Teller in the universe! If you’re a Christian, it’s because you were told the story of the gospel by the Holy Spirit. Yes, you audibly heard it through a human voice. But spiritually, your ears were opened, and your heart brought to life by the voice of God himself. Jesus, our great Shepherd, calls his sheep by name, and his sheep know his voice (John 10:27).
Jesus died for Gen Z and alpha generation sheep. Many who currently find their value, meaning, and identity in an LGBTQ+ label will, in God’s good timing, find Christ alone to be their all-in-all. Who is sufficient for these things? “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). May we fervently pray for the hearts and minds of our youth as we point them to the solid hope of God’s better story.
Mark has been President of Harvest USA since October 2022. Mark holds an M.A. in Counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary, Glenside, PA, and a B.A. in Communications & Integrated Media from Geneva College,More from Mark Sanders