As I was perusing Facebook this morning I came across an article that hit on a problem I've seen in schools, universities, and churches in the three states I've lived in over the last 6 years. It hits each area in different ways; sometimes it's racial, other times political, and still other times gender specific. The topics may change but the problem has not.
The real problem with millennials isn't that their lazy (this just isn't true). It is not that they cannot become grown ups. It's not any of the simple things that the media and one liner Facebook memes make themselves out to be. Instead, it is their teachers, parents, and authority figures in their lives fault. We have taught them to refuse to listen to anyone else. We have taught them to "believe in themselves," have "self esteem," and live according to their own selfish desires. And when leadership or authority calls into question this selfishness, they are not afraid to walk away. Or protest whatever person, business, or company they disagree with. These people end up becoming victims of a growing crowd of young people who refuse to see the human in the person standing next to them.
I recently went to a Poverty 101 workshop at our church districts assembly and meeting time. I'm frustrated at the moment because I cannot for the life of me remember the mans name, but one particular thing he said stuck with me. When we send our kids to various schools or institutions of higher education, the most important thing they teach won't be the facts, figures, and rules the kids learn in various subjects although those things are important. The most significant thing they will learn is how to think. The processes by which our children come to conclusions about life are more important than any single thing they learn throughout their school years. We teach them how to ask questions, how to use facts, reason, and logic to come to conclusions about life in healthy ways.
I'm sure you have caught on by now to where I am getting... millennials have been taught to think differently than those who have come before them. They were the generation who's teachers and authority figures started asking themselves, "is there a better way to do this?" This approach has created a group of people who are incredibly empathetic, place high value on love and acceptance, but have a huge inability to deal with perspectives, thoughts, values, and opinions that are not their own. In an effort to teach this group the value of inclusiveness to all people, races, ethnicity's, and religions, we have failed to teach them how to interact with these people in healthy ways. And now we are paying the price. Please watch this video... it's a good one.
What I don't agree with in this video is that they blame this problem on the universities change in focus going from intellectual discourse to creating a "home" atmosphere. Instead of being a place that emphasizes deep thought, intellectualism, debate, and discourse, the video believes the root of the problem stems from the universities shift in focus to entertainment and consumerism.
This may be part of the problem, but it is not the sole cause. Although the university has jumped on the bandwagon with these things, I believe they are merely meeting the wants and desires of the people they are trying to target. They do have to financially support themselves after all. I believe the root of the problem stems with how these kids were taught to think before they ever stepped foot at Yale. The real problem is with how they think. If you aren't as open minded as me, then you are close minded. If you don't think like me, agree with me, or process life like me, then you are wrong. You are oppressive. And you can never understand because you are not me. This sense of rugged individualism and selfish perspective has undermined the education of this group of people.
As a 35 year old born in 1981 I have one foot firmly in Gen X and another in the Millennial camp. I fell for this thinking for some time. As a female clergy person, it's difficult to live with men and women who refuse to acknowledge the leadership of half the body of Christ. I told myself that "no one gets it." That I was being oppressed, shoved to the side, and left by those who disagreed with me. All this kind of thinking produced was a very angry and selfish person. This was not healthy anger; this was the anger of self righteousness. It was an anger rooted in my belief that I was right and everyone else was wrong.
I still believe I am called to ministry. I still know that the Lord has given me gifts, talents, and tangible abilities to lead God's people through the storms of life and help further the Kingdom of God in our world. But I can't throw out those who disagree with me. I cannot consciously leave them behind. The Lord has pressed these people upon my heart and made me see them as my people, so I have to come to a place of love and humility for them. For Jesus' sake. It is my call to bridge the gap and be a peacemaker in the storm. I have struggled with the need to be right and asked for the transformational power of the Holy Spirit creating in me a woman who gives up all rights to be like Jesus. This means becoming a servant of the people I disagree with.
Church, we have the ability to model the love of Jesus Christ to the world in significant ways by listening to the stories of those we disagree with. We don't have to agree with them, but we can respect, love, and give value to the people who these opinions are coming from. We have to pray and seek the Lord's heart in all things not in an effort to prove "Christian values" to the world, but in an effort to further the Kingdom of God for the Lord's sake. Only this will transform our desires to the desires and will of God. When we approach Scripture with the sole purpose of proving we are right and "they" are wrong, we are being just as hard headed and difficult to work with as the rest of the world. And we are not called to be of this world. We are called to be of the Kingdom. Let us choose Kingdom Life.