In an op-ed for the Richmond Times Dispatch on potential reasons for the Boston Marathon bombing, the Rev. William L. Sachs, executive director of the Center for Interfaith Reconciliation based at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Va., writes:
Sociologist Christian Smith offers clues to the underlying motivation. His book “Lost in Transition” presents findings of a study of the lives of 18- to 23-year-old Americans. The results are troubling: Smith concludes that the lives of many young adults are adrift. They do not feel they belong, just as one Tsarnaev declared that he had no American friends. Many cannot define clear moral values. Apart from defending individualism, many affirm little.
Worse, many young adults have difficulty grasping that their actions affect the lives of others. While declaring individual prerogative, they have difficulty sorting out social relations and taking responsibility for their roles in them.
Most face such uncertainty while sustaining themselves in education or work and family life. Some live in multiple worlds, appearing to function acceptably in one realm, while exploring other sets of values and life in other realms. For most, the quest is as benign as it is uncertain. After all, these are young adults in the midst of transition.
For a few, there is backlash. A minority seek a way out of the ambiguity of individualism and a plethora of life options. They opt for authoritarian systems, as they construe them. One-dimensional views and stern rejection of difference surface profoundly. In a few cases, the turn proves combustible.