"Turn, Turn, Turn"
Films and television are beginning to reflect the visions of Generation Xers like Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), Judd Apatow (Knocked Up), the fresh, young voices at Pixar (Up, The Incredibles), and other young artists who dare to buck the tired irony-cool cynicism that has shaped and stifled too much of the culture. Suddenly, after decades of being shut out, minimized, or mocked, film characters have room in their lives for optimism, and even something almost like faith. The Church, if it seeks to be relevant in the future, needs to welcome this development and encourage -- even patronize -- such talents.
Pope Benedict XVI, who has an artist's heart, seems to realize this; he recently met with artists to discuss the role of beauty in the health of the world. That is a start, but more is needed. The Boomers' exit from cultural influence creates a two-sided pastoral challenge for the 21st-century Church.
First is the effect on the gargantuan Boomer generation of a lifetime of listening to their own voices. The movies being created by and for the Boomers today are a very unentertaining mix of "Never regret! Life starts at 70!" and "Life is a cruel joke, ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.'" Movies like It's Complicated showcase a bunch of grey hairs still acting badly, swallowing their shame and ignoring their appropriate role as the wise mentors of the younger generations. The Dorian Greyish dark echo of this kind of story are movies like There Will Be Blood and the chillingly titled No Country for Old Men, in which the characters' lives of narcissism and greed devolve into cynicism and brutality.
As an institution bent on saving souls, the Church's urgency with the fading Boomers must encourage them to face and take responsibility for the mistakes they have made. If they would be saved, the Boomer Generation must be guided into repentance for the way they self-righteously sacrificed all others as they fled from the simple heroism of adult human life. The rigid eradication of tradition, the gross materialism, the unbridled license, the embarrassing promiscuity -- all always accompanied by shrill distortion and denial -- have left our society disconnected, bloated, poorly educated, unable to trust and simmering in resentment. If the Boomers don't begin to admit to the rest of us where they went wrong, we all risk losing any of the positive achievements the generation has contributed to human history. I see many of my Millennial Generation students clamoring to set back the clock to a day before the Sixties, when there were grown-ups.
The Church's secondary, but equally urgent pastoral challenge, is with the younger generations. Do not think me flippant in suggesting that pastors and teachers of the faith must quickly provide substantive, moral reasons for GenXers not to euthanize the Boomers; I wish I were kidding, but I watch television, so I know that euthanasia is coming. The Entitled Generation will quickly morph into the Expensive Generation in the minds of the Millennials bent low under the weight of social programs that were strapped on their backs without their consent. It will be very easy to isolate the folks who are draining Medicare and Social Security and the health care system of most of the resources. History has a devastating way of being cyclical. It was the Boomers who made the case that they should end their marriages and abort their children for the God Expediency. Now, their children, stripped of any attachment to a moral framework, will eye the old grey hairs drooling in a corner in diapers -- but certainly still sneering -- and consider expedient "Death with Dignity" to be a sensible and pragmatic policy. The Church must use all media to reach these new cultural power brokers, and to penetrate the commanding subconscious voices of their parents; she must teach them that the breakdown of the Boomers will require patience, heroism, and long-suffering.