Okay, I’m old and I know it. I’m not old old, but old enough, and I’m tired. Tired of hearing how hard young adults have it, but really super-D-duper tired of hearing how the Baby Boomer generation ruined everything and how “this” generation (which BTW changes depending on who is complaining at the time) is going to be the one that changes things for the better.
Okay, Whipper Snappers, I’m a Baby Boomer and I have a few things to say.
1. What in the world makes you think the world wasn’t already ruined when our generation got here? It was! They had already dropped real atomic bombs with real radiation that killed real people including innocent children. The economy was still struggling with a depression so bad it’s still referred to as THE Depression. They had made the sale of alcohol illegal. All this just before the Baby Boomers were born.
2. Do you really think that Baby Boomers didn’t want to change the world for the better and try to do something? Really? The was a generation that tried to promote peace and love. This was a generation who physically put themselves out in the streets to protest an undeclared war that no one could explain, and who were often beaten, jailed and even shot for their trouble. This was the generation who took investigative reporting to a new level and brought down the entire Nixon administration. This was the generation who took up the cause of Women’s Rights and pushed it further, demanding equal pay for equal work, something we still don’t have even though many young women today would rather not be considered feminists and think we don’t need these fights any more. You think? Look up, Sisters and Brothers, we are losing ground every day.
3. Remember that the Baby Boomer generation covers A LOT of ground – everyone born between 1946 and 1964. Here, let me do the math for you: that’s 18 years. It was possible for parent and child to be part of the same generation. Does that make sense to you? Do you really think we were all coming from the same place? Of course not! The world had changed a lot between 1946 and 1964. And seriously, are you just like every other member of your generation even if it is only a ten year span? Of course you aren’t.
4. So, the mean old Baby Boomers won’t listen to your new ideas. Well guess what, some of us are listening, and you have some great new ideas. But guess what else, not only are some of your ideas not good, some of them we have already tried and they didn’t work. So listen to our experience and use it instead of denying it. Let us help by pointing out the pitfalls so that together we can make the plans of execution better and accomplish something.
5. So, the mean old Baby Boomers won’t retire so you can have our jobs. When I was in seminary twenty years ago I got the same load of horse-hockey except it was about the generation before. Oh. all these ministers who came back and were ordained after World War II are retiring now and all kinds of calls will be opening up to you. Yeah, didn’t happen. Those ministers did finally retire and the calls dried up because the congregations were already dying. So even if all the Baby Boomers retired tomorrow (and wouldn’t I just love to do that – but not only can I not afford to retire now, the IRS tells me that to get my full Social Security payment I have to work until I’m at least 70 and I’m only 56.) Folks, those jobs just aren’t there. I think y’all are finally starting to figure this out for yourselves but I still hear about it on occasion. Finding a call for anyone, no matter what generation is taking longer and longer. We are all going to have to create our own places for ministry and chances are truly excellent that most of us in all generations will be tentmakers.
6. The mean old Baby Boomers are holding on to all the money and refuse to spend it on ministry that really counts. Okay, endowments were seen as the way to give congregations security in the lean times, but no one ever dreamed that after the seven years of plenty suddenly the skinny cows would eat all the fat cows. Maybe there would be a year or two of skinny cows, but this is a really long seven years. Please know that not all Baby Boomers are fans of endowments, and many of those endowments were set up with all kinds of restrictions on how the money could be spent and how much of the money could be spent. When they were set up, no one dreamed that congregations would be struggling to pay both the light bill and the water bill in the same month. Taking those endowments apart is a nightmare. I’m sure it can be done somehow. Have at it.
7. There are plenty of Baby Boomers who have fought to maintain the status quo, just as their parents and grandparents did. That’s not a characteristic of a specific generation. It is a characteristic of every generation. Just as the youth of every generation are seen as slackers. I remind you of this famous and pithy quote:
The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” That did not come from a Baby Boomer. It was attributed to Socrates by Plato in the fifth century BCE.
Look, I know that every generation starts out idealistic to some extent and believes that they will be the ones to make positive changes in the world. I applaud you in this. Go out and do it. I just want you to understand that we Baby Boomers felt the same way when we were in our teens and twenties and even our thirties. And the truth is that we would still like to be part of that positive change. We are not your enemies. We are your sisters and brothers (okay, yeah, and parents and grandparents), but our God has always been an intergenerational God. Let’s work together to spread the good news so that everyone may know and experience the unconditional love of God and the power of God’s forgiveness. Let’s stand side by side and work for justice and peace and health and wholeness.
And don’t stand there with the screen door open. You’re letting the flies in. Were you raised in a barn?