Each year, Time Magazine has named a “Man of the Year” who represented the greatest impact on the previous year. Most of the time it is presidents or Nobel Prize winners.
In 1966, Time’s man of the year was not a man, a woman, or even an individual. The cover bore a nondescript likeness of a young adult and the “winner” was The Baby-Boomers.
It wasn’t until the 1970’s that tabloid-style sociologists started using jazzy categories. The name comes from the explosion of births that took place when soldiers and sailors returned from the Pacific and Europe following World War II.
Mostly, it describes people born in the 1950’s and he developed in the 1960’s. It may be better to define generations according to a single standard. Every generation has a “defining event.” It is the one that fills in the blank, “where were you when….?” One Generation fills in the blank with Pearl Harbor. Some make it the space shuttle Challenger disaster. A third is 9/11. For the baby-boomer, that event is the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, TX in 1963.
We were once called the “Me Generation” (although every generation is self-absorbed in teen and young adulthood.) We are the largest demographic in America with the highest amount of disposable income. Today we go by many names including the Sandwich Generation, paying for college while caring for aging parents.
Who are we and how do we fit in God’s kingdom?
Every generation is shaped by the times they live in. That is especially true of the rapid changes of the last 70 years. For baby boomers, the times of our developing years shaped us.
We are the TV generation. Ours was the first generation in which television became a dominant media. It was primitive though. We had small, graining black-and-white Zeniths. There were three channels that came on at 7 and went off to the playing of the national anthem shortly after 10 p.m.
We ate Cocoa Puffs in front of Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Green Jeans, and Bunny Rabbit. We whistled to Andy Griffith and knew all the words to Gilligan’s Island. If you were male, you were captivated by a new genre, one that went where mankind had never gone…the original (and I add the best) Star Trek (the one with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock).
We listened to Elvis, the Beatles and irritated our parents with loud rhythms and long hair.
We both watched and telegraphed great technological advances. 1955 was the year of the birth of great minds such as Bill Gates of Microsoft and Steve Jobs of Apple. We watched as John Glenn opened the world of space and sat with our families and witnessed Neil Armstrong plant a footprint on a far-away moon.
On a bright clear Friday morning, an assassin’s bullet shattered both the skull of a young president and the idyllic sense of our childhood. We all can tell you where were when we heard the news and watched a tear form in Walter Cronkite’s eye. With TV, we became a witness to the brutality which seems to be lost in history books.
A presidential candidate and a civil rights icon were both gunned down. Neighborhoods such as Watts in Los Angeles and one in Detroit went up in flames. The times became turbulent.
A war in jungles in an unknown little peninsula called Viet Nam invaded our hearts and lives. Television gave us the “body counts” each Wednesday. 300 American young men dead, 1400 wounded, 45 captured. For years, we got the grisly statistics every Wednesday. We knew brothers, friends, uncles and neighbors who left for Southeast Asia and return only as a name on a wall in Washington. In this church, one teen retreat tackled the timely topic of Can a Christian Fight in a War.
These are not old memories of aging people but the brand impressed on our lives.
These things have left us in a particular shape.
Need for Reason Beyond Authority
The mold of our minds is to be suspicious of easy answers. We don’t care for slogans and are suspicious of things like “because we said so.” After all, we are the generation who said, “never trust anyone over 30.” (Today, it is more “don’t trust anyone under 30.) We watched an American president lie to us over and over again and, when he was exposed he was forced to resign the presidency, something unprecedented in our history. All along Nixon maintained, “you can trust me!” Trust is the last thing we will give easily…it must be earned and maintained.
We need reason, proof, clear and precise explanation. The term “because the Bible says” is insufficient. Where does the Bible say that? Is that what it really says? How do you know that? Those are the hallmarks of our skeptical thinking.
However, we do not come to this just as warped people. Peter, in a highly volatile context of persecution and secularism counsels:
15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, -1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)-
Look carefully at the words. We must make a “defense.” The word is “apology” which means a reasoned defense. It is inadequate to say, “it’s the Bible.” It takes more. That’s because people ask for a “reason.” Both are words whose roots give us the term logic. We need to discover and provide the logic of our faith. Our feelings, our traditions, our well-ingrained lessons are not enough. We need to give reasons.
For us, nothing less than the reasons suffices. We will trust the truth but only the truth.
A Need to Remain Relevant
In an age which worships and elevates youth, those who grow older are nudged from the forefront and pronounced “irrelevant.” We tend to grow more ignored and shown the backseat in the church. After all, the young are our future. But where does that leave us?
Perhaps we have earned it because we probably did the same. Is there a role as someone hair grays, who holds books at arms-length, and whose face is tracked with time?
When in doubt, read the text. Paul knew that Christianity was not simple lessons in Bible classes or sermon points. It was living, breathing and alive.
1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. -1 Corinthians 11:1 (ESV)-
Or what about the Hebrew writer?
7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. – Hebrews 13:7 (ESV)-
How do the young learn? Just read their Bibles? Circle up in a Bible class and come to a conclusion? Not wrong, just lacking. Paul would add, “imitate, mimic, follow.” Everyone younger needs to step in footprints of older Christians. We learn by mimicking (watch your children sometime—they are the mirror of your life.) Look at their faith. How do they believe? What do they do when trouble comes? All of us have experienced the mountaintop experiences and have walked the valley of the shadow of death. We have been overjoyed and overwrought. We can teach and show you something about faith you have not experienced.
We admit, many of you are smarter than we are because you had great educations (probably paid for by a baby-boomer!). We too attended a school, the University of Hard Knocks. You are smart because of what you know. We are wise because of what we have experienced. We can save you heartache, point you in the right direction, teach skills that take a lifetime to learn. Take the time to get out of your circle and get to know us. You might develop a little differently.
But a word to ourselves as baby boomers. Paul says he is imitated because he imitates Christ. To be a worthy model, you need to be developing your own life. If you are not worthy to follow, no one should Is your faith strong? Is it something that would make someone younger stronger? If not, don’t ask for respect from the young. Live to a higher plain and we will find someone wanting to know “how do you believe that way?”
We are relevant, far more than many of you can understand right now…but one day will understand only too well.
A Need to Finish a Race
Our problem is we are growing older. We love youth. We are not aging gracefully, but throwing a toddler’s fit at having to age. We spend more on gyms, diets, and plastic surgeries. Friends of mine by motorcycles to find their youth and I attend their funerals.
We are facing the eternal verities of life. Someone has described life as starting at midnight at birth and death 24 hours later. On that clock, it is 11:30 at night.
At one time, we attended the funerals of the friends of our parents. Now we attend the funerals of friends. In my high school graduating class, 1 out of 4 of us are no longer here. We visit the graves of our parents and find ourselves orphans the first time in our lives.
We are reaching the age of the apostle Paul who died probably in his mid-60’s. He faced his time with simple words.
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. -2 Timothy 4:6–8 (ESV)-
Those words are beginning to resonate with us. We look back on earth but not forward on earth. We are gradually raising our sight to heaven. We have a race to finish and sometimes we get tired. What do we need from the church and the body? We need someone to love us, to appreciate us, to keep encouraging us. It is easy for us to grow more discouraged. Notice. Don’t build all the programs for the young. Help us with a mature faith. Give us deeper teaching, something that challenges us to the next level. Many of times, we’ve had the thoughts and we need to go further. We need that challenge. We need that to encourage our run to the tape.
We know one thing…one day the tape will break and the race will be over.
One thing we all need to keep in mind. We were all born into a time and we had no choice about it. We are not members of a generation. We are members of the Lord’s church.
We must go to heaven together or go to hell together. We must respect each other, We must love each other. We must struggle with each other. There will be disagreements. We need to talk. Not text, not tweet, not email. Talk. We need to bare our souls, shed tears together, and come together. We will never do that staying in our generational corrals and only spending time with those like us. We all…all…must help each other find truth, discover how faith grows among us. It is a shame we have let sociologists tell us who we are and have forgotten who God told us who we are…we are the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are male, female, black, white, millennial, Generation X, baby boomer, and the oldest among us. We are not any of those things. They only describe us as individuals.
Jesus tells us we are his body, we are his church. We are his, not our own. At some point we must say, “I don’t know what I would do without each other.” We will live beyond the borders of generations?