Book Review: Googling God

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Googling God: The Religious Landscape of People in their 20’s and 30’s by Mike Hayes

I have to admit that I’m not a fan of navel-gazing. Our proclivity to study ourselves into a stupor is ultimately unhealthy, accentuating apparent differences and further segregating us. I suspect that part of the reason that young adults are not well represented in our congregations is partly due to the very moniker of young adult. It screams that you aren’t really an adult yet. That’s convenient for older folks who would prefer to keep doing things the way they like them to be done, and it’s convenient for young adults who aren’t necessarily jazzed about plugging in to an existing structure until there is an opportunity to modify it or change it.

I also tend to have Ecclesiastes replaying in the back of my head somewhat perpetually, reminding me that there is nothing new under the sun, and anytime we’re overly impressed by our uniqueness or specialness, it’s helpful to remember that these distinctions only get us so far. We’re still human. We’re still sinful. We’re still struggling with essentially the same things mankind has struggled with since the fall – Why am I here? Who am I? What is life about? How then shall I live?

Whether these issues are being grappled with while plowing a field or sipping a latte while watching Dancing with the Stars on an iPad is – in the big picture scheme of things – largely extraneous and irrelevant. The answers need to be found, and lives need to be organized around the answers.

Enter Googling God. While the title sounds like a more sweeping overview of the young adult religious experience, the book is in fact far narrower than that. For starters, the book is totally focused on Roman Catholic young adults. Although there are some early attempts to identify broad psychological issues driving all Generation Xers and Millenials, this quickly gives way to a focus specifically on Roman Catholic young adults. There are 12 profiles – six Xers and six Millenials – but all are Roman Catholic in one sense or another. They are almost all college educated as well, further limiting the focus of the book. These profiles are then used to examine specifically Roman Catholic practices and institutions to discuss their relevancy to young adults.

Since the goal of the book is to describe young adults and evaluate possible means of reaching out to them, there is no real discussion or analysis of the attitudes of young adults (in general or the 12 profiles) towards the church. They represent the predictable mindset that church exists to fulfill my preferences and needs, and I reserve the right to reject anything I don’t like or want that is debilitating American Christianity today.

The title promises a greater focus on technology than the book actually provides. Almost four years old, the book is somewhat outdated in the references that it gives to technology. MySpace is referenced as the premier social networking utility. Twitter is barely mentioned. Although the title invokes the mighty Google, the metaphor is superficial and not an intrinsic part of the book’s focus. There is a last chapter giving some hints on how to utilize technology to reach out to young adults, but it is very light and very general.

Unless you’re a Roman Catholic attempting to do outreach to young adults, this book isn’t going to be much use to you. It describes what is, and doesn’t offer much in the way of concrete methods for engaging young adults beyond personally invite them to participate and don’t pressure them to participate.