Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Seriously, Kids These Days, Right?

I got a lot of great feedback on Sunday's sermon--both online and in person--and I want to thank y'all for that.  It was a message that honestly has probably been a long time in coming, and that has been rolling around in my noggin for quite a while.

It is also a message that--and I say this as humbly as humanly possible--I think way more people in my town need to hear.

I love reading the letters to the editor in our local paper--it helps me keep a pulse on what people care about, and if the writer is a total crackpot, reading can be pretty amusing sometimes.  But other times, things jump out at you, like this one from yesterday's set.

On its face, it is a wonderful, kind letter, praising a teenaged hospital volunteer for all she does to selflessly give to her community, and I really like that this fellow took a few minutes out of his day to write her an extremely thoughtful open letter.

But then I stumbled upon this line towards the end: "More of our young teens need to have this mindset to succeed by giving rather than (by) what they can freely get without effort."

And I wanted to scream.

But I was sitting in my office, so I didn't.

The implication of this line is, of course, that most young people are just interested in being moochers, getting by on whatever freebies or handouts they can bilk from everyone else.

It is a stereotype that is not only hurtful, but also often inaccurate.

Because, first of all, lazy people exist regardless of age.  But second--and far more importantly--I know MANY teenagers and twenty- and thirty-somethings who are going all out in their lives to try to achieve their goals.

It's an interesting paradox: there are tons of news articles playing up this stereotype of young people as slackers, but seemingly just as many playing up the stereotype of young people as overstimulated, overscheduled, overprogrammed zombie drones being controlled by their parents and the adults of their parents' generation.

These are stereotypes that are mutually exclusive--you cannot have your cake and eat it on this one.

And while I think both stereotypes are inaccurate, I think the latter is far closer to the truth than the former.

Expectations for Generation Y are stratospheric.  We're the first generation to grow up with widely accessible internet and personal computers and all the other trappings of the technological revolution.

And it's fine that expectations are high.  They should be.

But only so long as everyone else knows that their expectations of us may not precisely match up with our expectations for ourselves.  Yes, we can respect the tradition we have inherited from the generations that have come before us, but we are not here to recreate it.

In other words: we, the Generation Y young'uns, are not here to bring back the glory days of the Boomers and Greatest Generation.

We are here to create something new.

That is why I used the "Behold, a new thing" phrase from Scripture as the tag for my sermon series on Carol Howard Merritt's Tribal Church book: because I think we have something to learn from Scripture in understanding how different generations view themselves and view the goals they set for themselves.  Humanity is set on a timetable of newness: remaining static has never been enough for us, nor should it ever be.

Which means that newness is integral to who we are--not who you might want us to be.

And so bringing back the glory days of the past may be what you want for us, but it is not what we want for ourselves.  Especially in the church.

All we ask is that you respect that, and not think ill of us for it.

Yours in Christ,

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