A Baby Boomer thinks Millennials have it a lot tougher than she did.
Not long ago I was at a meeting with a fellow baby boomer and was reminiscing about years gone by, stating that “I would not want to be a young person today.” One of our millennial staff members, Brian Brown, who is always looking for insights, questioned me for more details about why I would say that, and asked me to write it down. So I will offer what I know, based on my sixty years of living.
I came of age during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. It was a time of cultural revolution; a rebellion against what we young people perceived then to be institutional phoniness, a hamstrung human existence lived under the burden of legalistic principles and morality, and inequality led by a white male majority. It was the era of the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the Beatles, and an audacious Time magazine cover that said “God is Dead.” The atmosphere of rebellion that permeated our lives over a period of years was unnerving; we knew that pushing against the generation that had come through World War II was awkward, yet we believed that our cultural revolution would bring about social change for the better.
So in reflection, I pondered why I was so nostalgic for this period in history with all its angst and conflict. And then it occurred to me. Yes, we rebelled against many things, but we always knew there was an undercurrent of moral consciousness that kept culture in some sense of balance. Whether we liked it or not, our generation was not the majority. There were enough older Americans living who had the good sense not to believe Time magazine’s cover, and provided a social fabric that we were not strong enough to rip all at once. We didn’t realize it at the time, but that social fabric of moral consciousness created a place of safety. We could rebel all we wanted to, but at the end of the day, we knew there was something more, deeper, and true that waited in the darkness. God was not dead after all.
It is the sense of underlying Christian moral consciousness that is missing now in our culture, and is the reason I would not want to be a young person today trying to make decisions about my life. The social fabric we tried to rip in the 70’s has simply disintegrated and blown away in the wind of time. There is no longer a cultural moral compass grounded in biblical teachings to keep us out of trouble. That has been sacrificed on the altar of tolerance.
I now have the sense of being cast adrift culturally, and imagine many young people feel this as well but without the knowledge of ever having known what it feels like to be grounded as part of a nationwide Christian community. The only answer that makes sense to me is to look to Christianity before it became distorted by my generation. Look to guidelines and boundaries given to us by God, not to limit us, but to protect us and help us become fully human. Cling to those truths as a moral compass, in spite of conflicting guidance that comes from a culture of unexamined tolerance, and we will be OK.
God IS alive, after all.
Debra Tenney is a deacon at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Colorado Springs.