Monday, September 3, 2012

Grappling With the Generation Gap

During a recent trip to Ohio, I stumbled into the generation gap, a danger for all Baby Boomers.

I was telling an old joke to our 17-year-old granddaughter, Kara. The punch line was a reference to the popular Christmas song, “Home for the Holidays,” written in the 1950’s. At the end the joke, Kara just stared at me, still awaiting the punch line. She wasn’t familiar with the song, so the humorous twist was all for naught.

Whether it’s issues surrounding the upcoming Presidential election, differences in values, or facts we presume are commonly understood, the generation gap is real – and widening.

Recently I read about students born in 1994 just entering college – the “class of 2016.” Their reality is startlingly different from that of my generation. Like it or not, we must recognize and appreciate these differences if we’re to have any meaningful impact on them. Here are some examples of “normal” life to them:

-Children of cyberspace, many are addicted to “electronic narcotics.”
-They have no clue phrases such as “forbidden fruit,” “the writing on the wall,” “the Good Samaritan” and “the promised land” originated in the Bible.
-The assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and JFK are equally “ancient history.”
-For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job. And women have always piloted warplanes and space shuttles.
-They might never have seen a real telephone booth.
-“The Twilight Zone” involves vampires, not Rod Serling.
-There has always been pro football in Jacksonville, but never in Los Angeles.
-Most of their news comes from YouTube.
-Many can’t conceive of bound encyclopedias on bookshelves.
-They wonder why their parents refer to DVDs and CDs as “tapes.”
-They believe that “in the beginning”…there was cable TV.

This list could go on indefinitely. It seems humorous to “senior citizens,” but it’s important not to dismiss these differences. Because they’re important if we’re to “connect.”

Recently I’ve started mentoring two sharp young men; I’m at least 30 years older than each, so I must remember life as I’ve known it is far different from theirs. They can benefit from my wisdom, but I can’t expect them to share my nostalgia over “the good ole days.”

Thankfully, contrary to prevailing opinion, matters of faith are not so outdated. The message of sin, grace and mercy, forgiveness and redemption is as necessary today as ever. But in light of the generational divide, our methodology for communicating this message, the Good News, must adapt.

Hebrews 13:8 assures us Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” but how we convey that truth to a new generation is the challenge. Particularly in helping them grasp its practicality in a world of smartphones, the Internet, 24/7 media, electronic books, and problems besetting mankind we never envisioned when I was a college student in the late ‘60s.

So we need to heed the admonition of Colossians 4:5-6, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

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