There is something sadly, or tragically, ironic about so much that it taking place today in this global scene. I’m watching it in both the political scene, and in the church (ecclesiastical) scene. The somewhat dominant culture that emerged after World War II, was the huge Baby Boomer generation, who after being radical for a time (the ‘Woodstock’ generation, etc.) then settled down to create a safe and prosperous generation, as they still had one foot firmly planted in the traditional ‘Greatest Generation’ of their parents. But then they became very conservative, by and large, and in economic, political, and ecclesiastical dimensions sought stability and control by creating institutions, and government that was comfortable for them, even while realizing due to the Viet Nam war, and other realities, that there were forces at work in the world where American hubris and strength didn’t prevail as the world became smaller and smaller, as the Cold War with Russia challenged them with near in-solvable problems diplomatically and militarily.

But then, like Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle, they went to sleep and slept through the revolution which was the result of the very world they had created. Their children, who were the Generation X generation, were enormously gifted, but cynical and attempted to avoid their responsibility in the emerging new world. They were followed by the huge Millennial generation, which were much more tuned-in, and creative, and transformational, … even as the world came closer to home. Ah! then the huge Millennial generation began to create the whole computer, digital, social media, Silicon Valley—the generation of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, … and a global, informational connectedness that their Boomer grandparents could hardly conceive. They broke the rules, offended the status quo.

The world was now on everyone’s iPhone, and the information age is now incarnate in Generation Y, and now Generation Z (or iY) which is now the largest ever generation. And get this: the majority of the world’s population in now under 25 years of age. But, alas, the aging Boomer generation, now is desperately clinging to an imaginary world in which they were more comfortable, more in control, and more familiar—that world in which they were dominant in post-World War II. So here we are with aging Boomer church leaders seeking to ‘fix’ the declining church institutions they had created, ‘fix’ the denominations that hardly register with the emerging generations, clinging desperately to the heyday of leadership produced by theological academies, and in which they had some influence. They are desperately still seeking to define the moral and ethical climate … and nobody is listening.

In politics it is almost humorously apparent in the current presidential campaign, as (ironically) the one candidate, who seems to see this huge shift in population and attitude, and the potential of the emerging younger culture, is himself the oldest of the three. The loudest of the three is himself the quintessential aging Boomers who wants to make the nation the dominant force in the world, … but the world has changed exponentially in the half century since the era he wants to reproduce. The difficulty is that in politics, Generation Y is unconvinced by what they see in Washington, and with the church they have simply abandoned the patterns of their parents and grandparents, and are creating new forms that are more intentional and relational and radical. The same generational crisis is seen in the UK, where the Brexit vote next week (to leave the European Union) is being aggressively sought by those same aging (and rural) Boomers who want to recover the day when the UK was autonomous—which day will never return in a global society. The moral, theological, political, ethical scene of 2016 is in a hugely different world than the aging Boomers can even comprehend. Wow! Stay tuned …

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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