I recently realized that someday I too will be a baby boomer. It’s not that the year of my birth will mysteriously jump to 1959 but that culturally I will become (or realistically I have already become) that which I criticize.
Complaining about Baby Boomers is a part time job for Gen Xers in church leadership. I sometimes say that mine is the Prince Charles generation…Boomers are never going to retire and the crown will pass right to Gen Y. My theory about why Baby Boomers have difficulty listening to younger generations or even entertaining the idea that maybe they are not as culturally relevant as they once were, is that Baby Boomers were the first generation to come of age in what we call youth culture. Prior to 1950’s there simply was not a distinct teenage and young adult culture. (The advent of such was deeply rooted in marketing opportunities within the burgeoning consumerism of post-war America.) So I wonder if, being the first generation to grow up with the idea of themselves as being culturally “young”, if Baby Boomers have, to large extent, not adjusted to the idea that they are, well…old. The counter-cultural and anti-war movements in their formative young adult years instilled a lingering identity that prevents them from realizing just how much a part of the Establishment they have become.
Of course there are many exceptions to my characterization of the generation that came before me and I am painting with an awfully broad brush and perhaps lacking in generosity. But the purpose of this post is not to make my case about Boomers, it’s to say that I realize that soon, if not already, I will be the one of whom younger generations say she doesn’t get it. A day will come (or is already here) when exasperated young leaders in the church will be begging me and my Gen X peers to hand over power based in part or full on our inability to grasp the cultural changes that have taken place since we began our careers. “Hold on” I (cringe to) imagine myself saying, “I’m a heavily tattooed, cool emerging church pastor. I know what young adults want…just stick with some Gregorian chant, interactive ancient liturgy and candles…lots and lots of candles.” And when these younger leaders roll their eyes at me and say how irrelevant, un-hip and out-of-touch I am I think I know how that will feel: like shit.