In the American Church, there seems to be a divide between generations. There is a brokenness in this that must change. Three days ago, I posted a response to something Franklin Graham stated. He said: “Islam has declared war on the world…”. I posted what he said and stated: “ISIS, not the entire Islamic world has declared war. Mr. Graham this is racism. This is akin to saying any crazy Christian group doing something then represents all Christians. Even if a WHOLE subset like the Catholic Church were “declaring war” you yourself Mr. Graham would say it’s not “all Christians”. This statement declares war on a whole group of people and it’s wrong. Sadly this isn’t just a “religious” issue but as stated before one of race. This simply frustrated me and I wanted to share not all Christians think this way.”
With my statement, I showed my own generational bias, as well as frustrated several others outside of my generation. Some of it ended with visceral responses akin to: “Millenials always do this, they are arrogant, self-righteous and wrong”. It denigrated into an us vs. them mentality of the older generation against the younger generation. I think it exposed a bigger issue in the church than simply what was on the surface. This generational divide is going to be costly if we do not correct it.
The day following my post, a generous Baby Boomer, who knows my heart sent me this email:
I’ve followed the Facebook conversation since your original post (yesterday, I think) re. Franklin Graham’s comment about Islam and terrorism. Rather than simply ignore it, I decided instead to see it as, perhaps, a teachable moment.
Question- in retrospect- do you think it would be more helpful to disagree publicly with people like F.G. using language that is more charitable and respectful?
For example, instead of accusing F.G. of racism and greed (lining financial coffers in an election season), could you signal your disagreement by saying something like, “Rev. Graham, with all due respect to the incredible work of your organization, Samaritan’s Purse, among the world’s poor and dispossessed, I fear your recent comments about Islam paint with far too broad a brush and could hurt the church’s witness for Christ among Muslims.”
I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but, rather, simply encourage you to be more charitable in your speech on social media. To do otherwise in such a public forum can come across as if you have an inflated view of the importance of your own judgment and opinion, which I know isn’t your intent.
I was rebuked and I heard it loud and clear. I personally thanked him for his rebuke and his generosity in bringing it the way in which he did. I needed to hear the message on stating things with clarity and generosity. I was hot-headed in the way I wrote the first response and needed to see another way. This man from the older generation was able to do this to where I heard it.
We must all, myself included, begin to trust the heart of the other generations instead of going on tirades that end up wounding rather than bringing healing. We need to hear the other generations side and not outright deny it plausibility. The biggest step in grossing the generational divide is one word: trust.
Millennials in many areas do not trust Boomers and vice a versa. We see each generations response to things and think: “How could they possibly thing THAT!?! What an arrogant person (generation)! How self-righteous! How fake!” We can’t lie, both sides do this. I do it. You do it. We must catch ourselves before we respond with these harsh accusations, which will only serve to DEEPEN the divide, we must come together in trust and love, the way I was approached by the Boomer above.
The church will not survive unless we cross this divide. The enemy has been stirring up trouble left and right for us in this and he’s been winning. Pitting us against each other and causing us to think the other has “no idea who the real Jesus is”. I’ve heard Boomers say this about Millennials and Millennials say this about Boomers.
If this divide is not fixed, the older generation won’t ever hand over the reigns to the younger generation. We will have 90 year old pastors refusing to hand off the church because of their lack of trust. This can’t be the case. We must all humble ourselves and work together…even if we disagree on certain things.
Also, we can’t make assumptions. I can’t make the assumption that because a Boomer is Republican and is against the refugees coming, that they are a right wing conservative who hates the poor. Nor can a Boomer make the assumption that a Millennial who is Democrat and wants to bring in the refugees to the USA is a Left side socialist, liberal nut job (simply suing current issues). Those types of assumptions don’t allow for healthy cross-dialogue and healthy cross-dialogue is what we need.
If we really sat down with the intention of getting to know each others hearts we’d be in an awfully better place. We however, have allowed our generational prejudices to interfere with seeking to know the person across the generational divide. For those I’ve done this to in the older generation, I am sorry. We must work together to advance the Kingdom of God and I may have allowed my generational bias to interfere. It’s about Jesus and His Kingdom, not me and my thoughts.
Finally, my generation needs to be mentored by the older generation. There are things we don’t know and we must humble ourselves to learn from those who came before us. In almost every culture (except American culture) this idea of mentorship and apprenticeship was very much integral. We’ve lost that and much of it is due to Millennial arrogance. We need you Boomers, so we can take the torch well. We also have things to say that are important for you to hear, so please be humble when we come to you with ideas and advice. We can help, don’t shut us out. We may come in the wrong manner, please gently rebuke us and walk alongside of us…don’t simply throw us out as useless because of how we may or may not approach you.
Who knows, if we work together and meet each other in the middle with our thoughts and passion, we might find a middle ground solution that was better than our generations sides. If the church can lead in healing this cross-generational divide, I think it could go a long way for the rest of the world as well.