"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.