Brian Till of Creators Syndicate, in an op-ed piece in the Florida Times-Union tries to shed a little light on what reaches through the generational divide, to speak to us, i.e. the youth of today, called Generation Y. He has two answers: be clever and adapt.
He claims that the ways to speak to the young and the listless are comically, visually, ironically and lyrically. “Give us something real and insightful, something that’s humorous and memorable.”
This changing demographic will reject commercials and sales pitches for any product, including sermons, unless they are new and brought to them in a creative manner.
“Barack Obama broke through the wall of monotony – he wasn’t an old white man with grey hair that spoke like a grandfather. He effortlessly hit threes in dress shoes, spoke with the cadence of a king and showed us a family that made us all a bit jealous. We’re a generation with very little tolerance for violence, crime and disorder of any kind. We adore structure and ease; we’re in search of compromise and commonality and most importantly, ideas and politicians and law that make things work more efficiently.”
“So you want to reach this generation? Two steps: First, make us laugh; then make our lives easy. Google, Macintosh, Obama – all three have succeeded with us, and all three make things simple – whether using our email, taking our music on the run or volunteering at a phone bank…..sorry, seniors, it’s time to adapt.”
This is a wake up call for any of us seniors who resist change, and won’t experiment with new methods of communication. The reign of the ‘old white men with grey hair’ is over. The Sotomayer Senate Judiciary Committee hearings demonstrate that clearly. For career women and qualified minorities their time has come. And rightly so.
Having said that, it is also necessary to be concerned about the arrogance of youth. The intolerance of youth for suffering, their adoration of structure and ease, their tendency to compromise when it gets difficult in order to avoid discomfort, speaks volumes about their failure to think things through and to weigh up the consequences of such listlessness. Life is not that easy or simple. We can be hoodwinked by attractive politicians and media stars who talk well but who don’t deliver with integrity. The impression given is that Generation Y is spoilt rotten by the affluent society in which they have been raised. They know how to text message, but do they know how to love deeply and honorably, by persevering through hardship, and by overcoming difficulties? I know many who do. There are lots of great Generation Yers like my children and their children who are keeping the faith and working hard at their jobs and their relationships.
Jesus said, “He who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22; 24:13 Perhaps Generation Y needs to be challenged with the call to service that will cost them something. Nathaniel Flick in his memoir of the war in Iraq, One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer, writes that he was drawn to the infantry “where courage still counts. Being a Marine was not about money for graduate school or learning a skill; it s was a rite of passage in a society becoming so soft and homogenized that the very concept was often sneered at.”
If we can communicate the cost of commitment and courage that is necessary in order to follow Jesus we will be truly counter-cultural. Perhaps we need to adapt to Jesus and the realities of life.