Heroes: I Try One More Time


"There are people who regard it as frivolous, and some Christians think it impious, for anyone to hope and prepare for a better earthly future. They think that the meaning of present events is chaos, disorder and catastrophe: and in resignation or pious escapism they surrender all responsibility for reconstruction and for future generations. It may be that the day of judgment will dawn tomorrow; in that case; we shall gladly stop working for a better future. But not before."

                        —-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

In my previous posts I neglected to mention one truth of the Greek tragic hero. He/She must overcome his greatest temptation/weakness/desire/fear to succeed. Often, he/she discovers that success is just this; victory over great fear.

   We are at the confluence of three large generations in American life; Traditionals, Moderns and Whatever You Now Call the Post-Mods/Millenials, X-ers. Each of the generations has a metaphor to which he/she holds like grim death. To succeed in this day, each of the generations will have to discern and overcome its greatest fear.

   For example, the Greatest Generation Ever, the Traditionals, have to be called a success by any measure, as regards their past works. Born in the Great Depression, weaned in Global War and founders of a Prosperous Peace, this generation is remarkable.

    Traditionals love conformity. That is their generational metaphor. Loss of conformity is their greatest fear, generationally.

   "Why can't we just sing the old songs and have two revivals a year? It was good enough for us," they remember.

   When someone successfully mobilizes an entire generation, it may be by appealing to their greatest fear. The Traditionals fear that conformity will be lost is deeper than the old songs in the church. Traditionals fear that the end of conformity to their standards will render their cultural contribution less meaningful.

   "I wish we could all just get together, send in our money, get our reports and apply for aid from Headquarters when we need it," a Traditonal told me. He was talking about Texas baptist life.

   I don't begin to know how to tell him, Headquarters isn't there any more.

   Controls, business controls, are to Moderns what conformity is to Traditionals. Moderns need a system in place to enlist, train and track. If we have five doing the work this year we need ten next year. If we knock on 100 doors and tell the story we will see eight to ten accept the story and about four come to the church on some level. Ergo, if we can get twenty people to tell the story one hundred times, we project growth of about, well, you get the idea.

   The fear of the Modern is for personal survival. Business controls give him evidence of the fragility of his existence. Raised on political assassinations in the streets of America and the Viet Nam war on the tube, he sees how irrevocably he can be ground to powder in the grand machine of life.

   "I am going to get mine. I am going to keep my head down, stay below the radar, network, never have lunch alone, dress for success, sit up front at meetings, work late. I am going to get mine," and you can pick the part that applies to you.

   And then the world rotates on its axis;  America has 10% unemployment, a tottering social infrastructure and is about 9 million jobs short of a healthy economy.

   "See," the Mods say, "we told you."

   And then come the Post-Mods, Millenials, Xers. They have not been on the scene powerfully or long enough to tell us about themselves yet but I think their generational metaphor will finally be said to be community. They are wired to each other, so connected. They have community with people around the world via the modem and an urban family to gather with nearby.

   Post-mods fear the loss of community. In this fear they are closer to their Tradtional grandparents than their Modern parents. They do not believe you hear a propositional presentation of ancient truth, pray a prayer and walk away cleansed forever.

   They want to see something real, then, though, for the life of them, they cannot focus long enough to find out if there is something real in front of them.

   Or in them.

   They are exasperating. Appropos of nothing, they wish to be treated as equals. Thirty year olds living at home with their mom dressing them and they want you to treat them like an equal, while they work hard to supplant you, oh, Modern.

   "That is not your foot I am standing on, sonny," the Modern tells the Post-Mod, "that is your head. I aim to squash it."

   The Gen-X fear is loss of community. The world is increasingly competitive, they hear, and they may not be included. They may not get a participation pay check like they got a participation trophy for watching other kids play soccer on Saturday.

   A hero at last faces his fatal flaw, his greatest fear and comes to terms with his inner man. He will need an inner life to succeed. A tragedy is a drama but this tragic drama will not allow the maudlin. 

   This is life. Christian theology teaches what we do in this life matters. This is life. This is for real.


8 thoughts on “Heroes: I Try One More Time”

  1. “Traditionals fear that the end of conformity to their standards will render their cultural contribution less meaningful.”
    Maybe so. Or maybe they just like the old songs better. I know I do, and I’m a Modern (baby boomer).

  2. JND,
    I will tell you one more time; if you are going to comment here, please try not to make so much sense. I forbid you to cut through my illustrative verbiage with a pithy comment, dividing marrow from sinew. Drat, man, I am trying to be verbose over here and then you cut in with rationality. How am I to obfuscate the point when you shine your glaring right of reason?
    As to the songs, I prefer the old ones, mostly, though my old ones to back to Gregorian chants, not stopping with “Just As I Am.”

  3. Great post, although I have always had issues with these attempts to categorize people based on when they were born. What Tom Brokaw called The Greatest Generation, was not born in the depression, but in the roaring twenties. These were the people who fought WW II, which we got into in 1941. To have fought in this war in that year they would have had to have been born in 1923 or earlier. Those of us who were too young to fight in the war were born, as was I, in the thirties. I choose to resent being told that I am what you have described here. I also resent being referred to as Traditional, because I am anything but. There are many of us out here, born in the thirties, but more than willing to move into the twenty-first century with the best of them. I don’t think the way I think because of the year I was born, but because of years of learning and seeking to apply what I have learned. I am always going to resist doing things I have seen fail numerous times before. A lot of younger ministers would do well to listen to those who have seen and done many of the things some want to do today, and seen them fail. Continuing to try to do failing things is insanity. Likewise, refusing to do things that have been successful through the years seems a bit of folly. That is why I resist, not because I was born in 1934. We need to be careful that we don’t take at face value what these idot demographers continue to say and write. For instance, you will never hear me quote George Barna. This is the same George Barna that was the chief pollster for a failed presidential candidate whom he continually told was a sure winner (Dukakis). I have no confidence in his abilities as a researcher. We should be very careful trying to explain church dynamics according to the year people are born. We don’t all fit into those molds.

  4. I begin to grasp the breadth of that infinitesiimally thin, meandering line between modern and post modern–no wonder I have been so ‘with(out) it’…

  5. To Ken Coffee
    I choose to resent being called an id(i)ot
    Demographers as a class are scientists, verging toward art, as most human sciences do. The thing about deomgraphy that is useful is its uncovering of trends for generalizaton. The most irritating thing about how people use demographics is to try to predict individual behaviour.
    Generally people do not want to be thought of as ducks of a feather but rather individuals. Individuals on the other hand tend to behave according to the manner of the ducks of their feather.
    oh well

  6. BFranklR: I understand what you are saying. I guess it is the “generalization” to which I express my frustration. I read all the demography books. I started with Toffler’s Future Shock, and then Mega Trends and Mega Trends 2000, and most of the others in that genre’. I apoloigize if you think I am calling all demographers idiots. I would not do that. Neither would I call all idiots demograhers.

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