7 June 2023

Power hungry hedonists are nothing new

Written by Graham Nicholls
Photo by Ben Duchac on Unsplash

In a recent Guardian article, Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, has been described as being ‘power hungry hedionists’. This is according to a survey of 36,000 people in 30 countries, commissioned by BCW. Incidentally, Gen Z is now the largest generation in the world, with an annual purchasing power of $100bn globally.

The survey found that Gen Z is more likely to value power, achievement, hedonism and stimulation more than other generations. Young people have always been motivated by ambition, to progress and achieve personal success as well as social standing and power. This may be more pronounced now as this generation faces not only economic and other challenges, but have lives dominated by social media – the ultimate platform for demonstrating success, social standing and aspirational lifestyles.

Forty four per cent of Gen Z respondents said it was important to them to be powerful and successful, compared to thirty seven per cent of millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and even less so for older generations. Similarly, forty three per cent of Gen Z said it was important to them to do things that give them pleasure, compared to thirty eight per cent of millennials.

However, it is not all fun for the Gen Z’ers as other surveys have shown they have concerns about the economy, climate change and sustainability (although they might not be willing to pay for it). They are also highly sensitive to aggression in the workplace. This and other factors mean that forty six per cent of Gen Zs and thirty nine per cent of millennials feel stressed or anxious all or most of the time.

Only a quarter of people globally believe that their government shares their values but interestingly baby boomers (1946 to 1964) are the most cynical, perhaps through their lived experience of disappointments from political leaders.

I would suggest that some of this is not only tied to a particular generation but rather to the idealism and aspirations of youth and the lack of responsibility. Additionally, power hungry pleasure seeking people would be a description of all people throughout biblical and world history as we ignore God and seek to make a name for ourselves.

Trends Christians should be aware of

There is a danger of trying to shape our gospel around perceived needs and compromising on the truth in the face of current culture. This rarely works in successfully reaching people because it usually lacks authenticity and the church will always struggle to compete on a pure entertainment level with the world.

But there are trends that as Christians it is good to be aware of as we seek to make disciples and teach all generations:

As God’s people, we need to shine a light on the sins of our culture as we call out the idols of success, wealth and pleasure as things worshipped in place of God.

As leaders of churches, we can encourage parents and carers to be aware of the values of the younger generations and seek to affirm what is good and critique what is wrong. We also need to be encouraging, equipping our young people to witness the power and excitement of the good news of Jesus to their friends.

We also need to show that the Christian faith does have the ultimate power, success and, yes even, the pleasure that we seek – not through our own achievement but by the grace of God.

Knowing Christ is the best relationship we can keep. It will not make life free of suffering but will free us from the anxiety and restless search for identity which is only satisfied in the Lord Jesus.

Written by
Graham Nicholls
Graham is the Director of Affinity and provides strategic leadership of the ministry teams oversees the day-to-day operations and regularly writes and speaks in the media. Graham is also one of the pastors of Christ Church Haywards Heath. He is married to Caroline and has three grown-up children, plenty of grandchildren and a wild dog.

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