Generational Name-Calling is Getting Old

I have been reading more and more blogs lately that have a tendency to blast those who were born after 1981 as having no culture or no class or no sense of theology.  These bloggers call us the “Dissillusioned Generation,” or accuse us lacking any unique culture ” or of whining too much, or finally of being silent (not always a bad thing in this case, but the implication seems to be that we lack passion).  I can’t help but feel troubled by these accusations–I mean, we are a generation that has faced many challenges but also one that has grown up in a world extremely different from that of our parents.  

Mostly, I am still trying to sort out a coherent response to these blanket-statement claims regarding the twenty-somethings of my time period– but I can’t help but observe that, based on the line that is drawn by most (1981) we are only 27 tops, and it strikes me that the cultural contributions of most generations aren’t fully felt until we get OUT of our teens and out of school and into the world…. and besides, is it really fair for some 35 year old who has a vested interested in his or her own experiences to run around judging what a 15 year old finds meaningful?  Is it fair for the older folks to chastise an 18 year old for using the language of his or her generation to express a desire “hang out with Jesus” without considering that language is so contextual to the group that uses it and that it might mean something different for that generation than for another?  Is it right for the adults whom my generation ought to be looking up to to simply write off everything we do as “not good enough” rather than seeking to journey along with and attempt to understand more fully the experiences of those younger than them?

Maybe my opinions will change, but it is my suspicion that this tendency to write off an entire generation as a failure is a bit premature….and unloving and unChristian and anti-community.  We ought to be using our energies to understand and uplift one another, not tear one another down just because we don’t like what they do.  Sure, reality television and most media culture bothers me, but that doesn’t strike me as a legitimate reason to write off an entire age group as useless… if I am right, in fact, it could be thrown back that it is the Generation Xers who are in fact “producing” and “promoting” that junk, and that Generation Y folks are more consumers who have grown up in a pre-existing media culture that encourages their consumption.  Not that I would throw back… I’m just saying.

 

Anyways, my preliminary challenge, before I have had a lot of time to think this through, is that as people seeking to live in community and in faith with one another, we are called to journey with, not against, those beside us, particularly those who will be here long after we are gone.  Because like it or not, we are here to stay, and I think the world would be a whole lot better off if we could seek to uplift and love and understand and celebrate one another rather than looking for excuses to ignore or disparage our neighbors.  Just a thought.

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11 thoughts on “Generational Name-Calling is Getting Old

  1. I think you have a nice sentiment there, the complaints from Gen X come largely from anger over being totally passed over. As a Gen Xer I can say that the baby boomers (Y’s parents) have totally sold out everything they believe in and in our eyes have instilled Gen Y with this horrific hybrid of 1960s love child relative-ism and 1980s consumerism. The ensuing Generation is a consumerist monster who doesn’t take responsibility, doesn’t have a sense of history, and feels entitled.

    I’m not saying Xers are perfect or that we didn’t face much of the same criticism, it’s just really a frustration that we’re getting squeezed by two larger generations and our culture, our values, our ideals are totally being skipped over.

  2. Thanks Dylan, for your comment and for your sentiments which I was able to read as I wrote this…. it really does get old, doesn’t it, feeling constantly squeezed and unnecessarily criticized by the folks that, if I have my “old timey values” culture right, are supposed to be supporting you and being role models. Anyways, just my thought.

  3. It’s interesting because I think that, as with every new generation, there are innovations and new ideas that are good. It just seems that everything is more disposable now, which seems really bad to me. The thing I notice about Gen Yers is that their parents seems to have done them a horrible disservice by sheltering them a lot more than Xers were.

  4. Just a quickie here…

    I was not writing anything off and would never do so. My concern has to do with the conflation of a consumerist mentality that seems to exist in many reaches of the church today that research bears out in the characterization of religion as therapeutic moralistic deism among youth. My concern has to do with an image of Jesus that is so comfortable and so much like an ideal person with whom we would find a friendship “match” on Facebook, that we miss who Jesus really was, and is. So that is the kind of “hanging out” mentality to which I was responding in specific.

    But this is not new. It has been a common feature of humankind to render God and Jesus in whatever image feels most comfortable and familiar to us. My comments were not intended to pidgeon-hole an age cohort, but to provoke a discussion of what it means for a “familiar” Jesus to trump the cosmic Christ who is Lord and rather different than any other human we have ever encountered (which seems to be the perspective the Gospel writers had about him).

    Finally, even the study on religion and youth an UNC has some time to work out variables. It might be a primary effect of teenagers who tend to be ego-centric as it is to view Jesus this way, and only longitudinal analysis can dis-aggregate those effects. But it also seems to sound an awful lot like the “feel-good” kind of religion of the 70’s of my, and your, parents either espoused or rejected.

    But maybe I am just a jaded recovering evangelical, overly-critical GenXer whose motto should be “I hate everything but love”. 😉

  5. thanks for your comment, drew. I wasn’t try to accuse you of being anything, just trying to organize my thoughts around the perception that I had, which is that I noticed I had read a lot of blogs about my generation lately, and not many of them spoke highly of them… in fact, most were either extremely concerned or seemed to set my generations “characteristics” (as if everyone in an age group acts the same) up against idealized characteristics of previous generations. It just struck me, and so I wrote about it….

    As you know, I agree with your original blog entry, I just happen to define the terms differently than you did.

    🙂 And I love your “motto”, I hate everything but love too, drew.

  6. hey dylan-
    re: the comment on “disposable culture,” that is interesting… I will have to think about that a bit. i do think our parents tried to shelter us a bit more than whas healthy at times… I mean, you have to face life at some point, right? (or maybe not, with internet “reality” being as pervasive as it is…)

  7. I am reading a lot on consumerism and advertising right now for prep for a class I teach in the fall. Rushkoff’s book “Coercion” lends itself to a lot of insight with the disposable issue. It’s all about marketing and marketing is all about psychology. No matter how good you feel about a purchase, chances are you did not need it in the first place and therefore, somewhere, somehow, you were coerced into buying it. You know, like Mr. Bush’s “stimulus” package which is really a message from the government to go out and buy crap you don’t need to make his policy look better. Schor’s “Overspent American” and Schwartz’ “The Paradox of Choice” are also really revealing to why so many well-off Americans have so much malaise. Good stuff for an adult Sunday school as well methinks!

    And yes I am getting more into the deep well of cynicism with this – especially since I am reading it along with memoirs of the effects of Shari’ah law in the Sudan and all of the exiled peoples there. Stimulate that Bushy 🙂

  8. Thanks for the book suggestions; I will have to get around to reading those this summer (i guess its not that big of a surprise that this stuff interests me). Regarding cynicism, I found myself increasingly cynical of international aid orgs after I read Gourevitch’s “We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families” about the disaster in Rwanda. And here I thought that nonprofit aid orgs were only out there to make the world a better place… I guess you can develop a general sense of malaise from all sorts of things, good and bad, these days.

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