This article first appeared on anglobaptist.org. When will the age genie stop by and make it all better? When will that beard cream take all the grey away? Maybe you've seen the add where the last grey-haired man on the planet caves to the social pressure and colors the hair on his face...That's right. Colors. The. Hair. On. His. Face. You have got to be kidding me! Unreal. Many of the commercials are utterly offensive to men and women, but I digress.
Once upon a time a grey beard symbolized wisdom or intellect. A sage had a long grey beard. There was something synonymous about wisdom and grey hair. I don't know what sages are sporting now. Seth Godin's bald head, perhaps? Amazing how times change and what meant one thing to one generation means something else entirely to another. Your grey beard is another generation's, I don't know, um, coffee press. That's right. Coffee press. Yes, I'm being silly. Of courseI am. Sometimes it just cannot be helped, but this whole thing is silly. It's one sociological non sequitor after another. It is in this spirit I request:
Someone explain to me why we viify one another by virtue of age in this culture.
I don't have any real understanding as to why. It didn't begin with the 1960's and the don't-trust-anyone-over-30-40 propaganda, that's for certain. Ancient theater and epic poetry is full of "youth culture" (Paris, Helen, Achilles, etc) and their disdain for the old people in their lives (Priam, anyone?). Old gods are replaced with new and vigorous gods. This ain't a new phenomenon. Still, this bit of satire has some folk riled up. Perhaps it hits too close to home. I don't know.
It's a little satire, a little poking of fun from some 30-somethings to other 30-somethings...but some of us are taking it rather seriously. Suddenly young people are once again unable to make the cut. They are whining. That's all. They need to get over themselves and get a real job and move to the suburbs/exurbs/whatever. That's okay, because the young adults want everyone older to stop trying to save their precious institutions/religions/political parties and let them all die like the irrelevant relics of television reruns that they are. It's all useless. Who needs 'em?
The generation of men is like that of leaves. The wind scatters one year's leaves on the ground, but the forest burgeons and and puts out others, as the season of spring comes round. So it is with men: on generation grows on, and another is passing away. The Iliad, Book 6.
There are countless stories of generations being at odds with one another. None of this is news. It's simply that I'm astonished at how pervasive it is these days..especially in church circles. How many posts have there been about young adults and the church? Heck, Newsweek has been publishing articles about it. I've certainly passed them along.
I wonder what it will take for us to stop doing this to one another...or if we're simply doomed to find ways of tearing one another down like this. We have reasons for young adults leaving the church (fifteen or seven). Sure. We always have. And though the challenges that this generation (which generation?) of church leadership faces has particularities, we will always find a way to blame those younger or older than ourselves for the collapse of civilization. We've gotten very good at it. In a related Facebook thread I offered this comment: "We have decided that useful people are roughly bettween ages 45-60...maybe. We don't like aging. We don't like watching one another aging. We don't like one another as we age. We find reason upon reason to cut one another out and call it 'generational theory' or 'age appropriateness.'"
We're cutting one another out of church left and right. It's not about theology this time though we tell ourselves it is. It's about age.
"You aren't old enough for it. You don't appreciate it." says the Boomer. "You are too old for it. You don't know how to let go." says the Millennial.
I'm still muddling through as I do...But I was wondering what wisdom you all might have to share. You see, it's one thing to use demographic trends to understand sociological phenomena. It's another thing entirely to think that such generational theory is a determinist theory for sociality. There's no such thing as a determinist theory.
This was originally posted at anglobaptist.org, April 18, 2012