Over the last thirteen weeks, we find ourselves in an unprecedented global event. Writers and historians call this a “generational event,” a crisis that happens approximately every 80 years and shapes those who are coming of age. They will view and change the world going forward with a dramatic shift called “the turning.” (Generations – The History of America’s Future, by William Strauss and Neil Howe – Quill Publishing, 1992)
The last global generational event was the Great Depression/World War II. Those coming of age in that event, the G.I. or “Greatest” Generation (born 1901 – 1927), came out of it and dramatically changed the social, political, cultural, economic, theological, and physical landscape in unprecedented ways for many decades. Consider the number of U.S. Presidents from the G.I. Generation (John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush).
At this point, it is likely there will never be a U.S. president from the generation following the G.I.s, known as the Silent Generation (1928-1945). The past four (likely five) presidents are Boomers (1946-1964). The likelihood of having a Gen-Xer like me (1965-1980) in the White House is very slim, which means “the turning” will be lead by, you guessed it, the Millennials (1981-1999). Now, these dates are approximations, but each group has specific defining characteristics, and according to Strauss and Howe, the Millennials share many of the same traits as the G.I. Generation.
Maybe “the turning” is why we are experiencing such huge convulsions in our culture during this pandemic (and the decade leading into it). What is exposed are the divisions, divisions that have been there for at least a decade. In my opinion, we are more divided now than at any other time in my lifetime, and the divisions fester with anger and aggressiveness. At the same time, we are hearing the primal scream of people who have suffered for centuries. We see an uptick in nationalistic and socialistic tendencies (just like pre-WWII), economic instability (just like the Great Depression), and progressive and conservative media and pundits (propagandists) screaming louder and louder in an attempt to incite people. We no longer dialogue, and instead yell over and past one another; many people did not feel good heading into this time. CONVULSIONS!
The church is not immune to any of this. Over my career, I have seen people on both ends of the theological spectrum act intolerant toward the opposing viewpoints, all the while claiming to stand on the moral high ground. I have seen nationalistic and socialistic tendencies slip into the church and angry pundits on both ends. During this crisis, I have seen the worst of behaviors come to the fore. I have seen many so preoccupied with themselves and their points of view, that they forget that the Triune God of Grace calls us to be in covenant with him and with one another. And I have seen enough self-worship and idolatry to last a lifetime!
I am not immune, either. My patience has worn thin on more than one occasion, my anxiousness levels are elevated, I have been angry more often, and I too have struggled to forgive. Many colleagues are exhausted as we all are being called to use skill sets that some of us have not used in years, and others who have never used.
If you are honest, you will admit the same. You have been impatient and intolerant. You are more anxious than usual, anger more quickly than normal, and wonder how you will forgive those who have offended you with social media posts, comments in person, or behaviors out in public. And will those people who you offended ever forgive you?
Time to take a deep breath; close your eyes. Think about your feelings and behavior. Think about the people you pray for every Sunday when you say, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” It is time to turn to the Word and listen to the teaching of the Apostle John…
…and his Master!
This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:5-9 (emphasis mine)
Let us pray
LORD of my life, I have sinned. I have trusted myself and society and systems more than I have believed you. I would rather follow my worldview instead of viewing the world through You! I have allowed my anxiety and anger to get the best of me, and I have failed to forgive others as you have forgiven them (and me).
Please help me to walk in your light rather than our darkness. Please help me to listen to the cries of those who struggle without judgment. Please help me to stand against the idolatry that surrounds me, not by screaming and shouting over others, but by listening to your still small voice amid the convulsions. Help me to walk forward in Your history, patiently moving into a “the turning” that I may not understand or even like. Please help me to realize once again that it is not about me.
I pray this in the name of The Triune God of Grace (42). Amen!