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"Turn, Turn, Turn"

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.

How can we help the younger generations break out of the resentment and emotional disconnect that has come from being the children of the Boomers? Decades of being abandoned, let down, and embarrassed has meant that we are engulfed in a new society that sneers at its own impulse to hope and dream. Survey most of the "adult" characters in today's popular entertainment for a scary cultural temperature. The parents in the global phenomenon Twilight, for example are immature, emotionally needy, and insecure. The "adults" in Harry Potter's world are mostly needy, clueless, and ultimately oppressive to the younger generation

I suspect the only way to reach the Millennials and Gen Xers, from a spiritual standpoint, will be with a powerful, renewed ethic of the value of suffering and the urgent need for forgiveness. We need hero stories perhaps more urgently than any generation of humanity that has come before.

The Church needs to give serious, thoughtful, and weighty commitment to a whole-hearted engagement of the arts. Dostoevsky's notion, "Man will be saved by Beauty" is now a prophetic and frightening warning. Human society will either be saved by beauty or lost, as men cease to be men and become boorish beasts, scratching and burping like the bloated floating creatures in Pixar's Wall-E. Those young artists who are making films like Juno and Superbad write characters displaying good instincts under pressure, but possessing a bittersweet befuddlement that has them stumbling into the good choices, because their relativistic upbringing gave such little direction.

The Church needs to come alongside artists, to pray for them and form them so they can inspire us and our future. We need beauty -- in music, in story, in visual art, in oratory -- to frame a restored vision of human life and dignity. 

It isn't going to happen by accident. Let the church get her own house in order, in the area of art and story. We will have to wage war against the egalitarian impulse that has trumped excellence so often in the Boomer's reign. We will have to fight against the legacy of sloth and greed that will keep us from mastery of craft and full investment in the beautiful. 

As cultural drivers, the Boomers have done a tremendous amount of damage, but the Good News is that in the Divine Economy, it is never "too late."

Portions of this piece appeared in Nicolosi's essay "Save the Boomers, Save the World; Redeeming Culture," part of the Future of Catholicism forum.

7/29/2010 4:00:00 AM