samedi, juillet 03, 2010

Talkin about your generation?

As the upheaval of cultural change sweeps through the American church, one of the groups most affected, and most on the forefront of change, is the so-called "Millennial Generation."
Also known as Generation Y, this cohort of younger people is posing significant challenges to the faith practices, if not the theological foundations, of older generations.
Few are better positioned to have their finger on the pulse of this questing group of young people than the president of Eastern University, David Black.
Its main campus situated in the suburban greenery of St. Davids, the 4,000-student undergraduate and graduate school also has satellite colleges and centers in urban Philadelphia, West Virginia and in various countries around the world. Affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA since its founding, the university has a tradition of teaching rooted in faith, reason and justice.
What characterizes this new generation?
Bright, but probably not as well-read as previous generations, and living in a time dominated by technology, millenials are more introspective and reflective, not willing to embrace uncritically what they have been taught about God and what it means to know and follow God, Black said.
"What they see in those of us who most readily identify as Christian appears to them to be the most readily mean-spirited," Black said.
From the perspective of some younger Christians, "we reduce something as profound as the love of God to something that is more political and cultural than formational and spiritual."
Yet Black doesn't cast this generational divide in personal terms.
"I think most of us (older Christians) have tried to honorably and prayerfully live up to what we understand the Gospel to be. It's just a statement by them that what we have given them doesn't intersect with their own autobiographies, and that they are seeking for a new way to express what they believe."
Drawn to nondenominational churches and more liturgical settings (like Anglicanism), the evangelical millenials that Black shepherds find themselves at home in churches exploring new ways of worship and in settings that hearken back to some very old ones, he said.
As other commentators have noted, millenials do not seem to have the investment in the battles over human sexuality issues that have so preoccupied their elders.
"They aren't going to get exercised over these things" said Black, who characterized that generation as relational, nonjudgmental and able to find goodness in people they get to know personally.
In rejecting the strong connection between politics and Christianity often embraced by their elders, many (but not all) younger Christians also are rejecting, he said, a Christian viewpoint that "wraps itself in the American flag."
But that doesn't mean that this cohort is missing a social conscience. In fact, they are deeply concerned about global problems like the degradation of the environment, sexual trafficking and the plight of oppressed peoples, Black said.
In addition, his students find themselves disillusioned with a market-driven culture and question the integrity of a system in which there is such a gulf between the "haves" and the "have-nots," Black said.
At Eastern, faculty are addressing the concerns of millenials by teaching spiritual formation, justice and critical thinking — providing a safe place to ask questions, but being clear about what they believe, he commented.
Given the environmental, spiritual and cultural difficulties that may confront young adults, is Black optimistic?
"I believe that this generation is preparing itself psychologically and culturally to live with less than their parent's generation. It's going to be more difficult. They have to be more creative, more courageous and less materialistic."
Black, known as a sometimes bold innovator himself, believes that God is faithfully preparing his young students for what lies ahead of them.
"What I celebrate is that, rather than rejecting the church in a difficult time, they are deepening their search for the things of God in the penumbral (partially shadowed) regions of the church.
(I should disclose that a few years back I worked for Palmer Theological Seminary, an Eastern University graduate school.)

lundi, juin 28, 2010

After the storm

I don't know that anyone expected the violence.

Last Thursday, I had just said goodbye to a younger friend when the skies began to darken.

Oh, a thunderstorm, I thought -- forgetting, of course, to check to see if we had left any windows open.

Then the winds began -- shaking the trees, sending plant containers across our grass, and leaves dancing through the windy air onto the lawn.

I called my ex husband, hoping to establish some kind of human contact. After leaving a message, I got ahold of the grandmother of neighbors, staying at their home while they were on a cruise.

But it wasn't until I got outside and saw that a tree had come down in the back that I realized the tempest might have been more than a bad thunderstorm. And it was only after that, driving around a town where poles and wires swayed tipsily across lanes, that I realized this was more than your average storm.

Some of my neighbors have generators -- it is perhaps a mark of my citified mindset that I don't have one -- yet. Nor do I have a chainsaw.

Imagine me with a chainsaw? Right.

There was mildly wry excitement in the fact that we made the newspapers, little Glenmoore being a storm epicenter. Talk of 90 mile an hour winds is thin gruel when you can't flush a toilet or water your crops.

It took us till Sunday to get our power back. Some neighborhoods here still don't have it. And they predict storms this afternoon -- better get out and mown the leave strewn lawn.