Talkin’ ’bout my generation

Generalizations and stereotypes are bad. Everyone will tell you that. Yet, no one can resist doing it. It helps us sum up our complex world in neatly defined boxes. People tend to be OK with generalizations that don’t involve them personally. On the other hand, when it gets personal, we’re ready to protest.

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about my generation lately. We’re dubbed the Millenials, Generation Y, Echo Boomers, among other things. No one can quite agree when we begin and end. The broadest range encompasses those born in the late 1970’s through the 2000’s. Others claim it’s only early 1980’s to mid 1990’s. No matter how you slice it, being born in 1987, I am indisputably part of this generation.

The M.O. of Millenials is not great. If our Gen X predecessors wanted instant gratification, we demand it. If we want to know something, we don’t have to research long. We have Google and Wikipedia to do that for us. Thanks to Tivo, we don’t have to tolerate commercials to watch TV. Apparently, technology such as Facebook has seriously stunted our social expectations. If we don’t like something or someone, we can hide, block or unfriend our way to a happier universe. We don’t have to commit to anything. We can “maybe” our way through life. Forget face-to-face communication; we don’t even have to talk on the phone. Texting gives us a safe buffer zone to protect our private, created worlds.

When we were kids, we were all diagnosed with A.D.D and medicated accordingly. Whatever is wrong with us, it is not our fault. Anything we dislike will not be tolerated. We drop our boyfriends and girlfriends like a bad habit. If it feels good, it is. If it feels bad, it’s gone. When we storm the workforce, we do so with high demands. We want more pay, more vacation, flexible scheduling, the opportunity to work from home and a pleasant work environment. Our jobs will never satisfy us. We will likely change our careers (not just employers) several times in our lifetime. We’ll bitch about our boss on Facebook, then sue him for firing us.

If you want to talk to us, you’d better be quick. We don’t have time to listen. We want to be instantly and constantly engaged. We are the master multi-taskers. We text while singing along to our music and checking our messages online – all while changing lanes on the highway and sipping a latte. We’re also known by some as the “Peter Pan Generation” because we just don’t want to grow up.

That’s what people are saying about my generation. I want to scream, “no, no, it isn’t true!” I want to protest that while I see what they’re saying, that generation should start with people born in the 90’s. I’m a little too old. I can’t be one of them.

Methinks thou doth protest too much? Maybe. I didn’t get Facebook until college; even then I was kind of against it for a while. I hate texting, but last month I went $25 over my allotted 300 texts (still minuscule compared to what others do.) I love talking on the phone, but I don’t like to call people out of the blue because it feels awkward. My favorite drink is a Starbucks chai tea latte. Sometimes I sit with my laptop in front of the TV. I got a degree I knew I didn’t want and am still trying to figure out a career that will fulfill me. Even though I’ve graduated college, I am living with my parents again. I am, in all honesty, often afraid of the future. And I got a lot of my information for this blog from this Wikipedia page. Ugh. Maybe I am one them. Maybe only just a little bit.

So what is the hope for my generation? We Millenials aren’t all bad, right? Some studies suggest that we’re a fairly religious generation. We’re also civically minded, so while we’ve created our own little worlds, we want to save the world, too. We may not want to grow up, but that could be because we don’t want to make our parents’ mistakes. We look at their divorce rate and their miserable jobs and we want to take our time and get it right. We’re disillusioned with the government and the economy. Since we intend to get what we want, we could be a driving force for real reform. And who knows what useful things we may discover through our obsession with technology.

Generalizations are unfair. But we continue to use them because they’re, well, useful. There’s some truth in what’s being said about my generation. There are also a lot of lies and misunderstandings. But the analysis should put us in conversation. Who are we? Who do we want to be? And what are we going to do about it?


About Nicole

Daughter of God, wife, mother, volunteer youth leader, substitute teacher, aspiring writer, rabbit owner, nature lover. These are some of my titles.
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11 Responses to Talkin’ ’bout my generation

  1. Mere says:

    I went through your exact thought process. Although, I maintain that we’re not a part of them… yes, some things apply, but not all. And I think the distinction becomes pretty clear by looking at my little (high school) cousins’ facebook statuses.

    My mom went to some administrative conference where they had a seminar about the generational differences (she doesn’t buy it either) and I think that they listed us as Gen Y and the younger group as Millenials. Obviously it’s still a stereotype, so mostly untrue, but it made me feel a bit better 🙂

  2. areReady says:

    Generalizations are bad, especially when they dump on a new generation for being new as if it’s a bad thing. We didn’t invent the world we live in. Our predecessors created it and we’ve been raised in it…only now are we starting to have a cultural effect on this place we live in. All these things we want and demand and fail at…this is us adjusting to live in a new world, a world we had no say in creating. All we did was fit in…deal with the new paradigm. And if older generations want to disparage us for how we turned out, well, screw them, because it’s far more their fault then ours. And their “values” are just as arbitrary as ours. If we choose to live a different kind of life, that’s our choice to make, individually. It’s not up to anyone else.

    There’s also an unwarranted assumption in there. We are not a “fairly religious” generation. We are the most non-religious generation in the history of America, according to the Pew Foundation, and we’re steadily growing more non-religious.

  3. piggyy says:

    I don’t think anyone is dumping on any generation. The study found Americans switch religion often and that protestanism and doctrinal understanding is decreasing and as a result religiosity is decreasing, but it’s more complicated than that.

    The biggest change in America over the last 20 years is how interrelated everything has become, church, state, business; everything is lumped together. When the religious right began to grow they started emphasizing a brand of Christianity that emphasized laizzes faire capitalism, social darwinism, and an individual relationship with God.

    In order to do this they emphasized the old testament — and only certain chapters — and denigrated Christ — in particular self-sacrifice for the common good and fearlessness. As a result, individualists, narcissists and selfish people drifted to protestanism so they could have a moral basis for their selfish decisions and humanitarians shifted to atheism.

    If you think about how religion in America has changed over the last 20 years and how superficial and self serving it has become it shouldn’t be a surprise people find it difficult to trust religion.

  4. Nicole says:

    areReady: It’s very true that a great deal of “how we are” is because of how we were raised and the events that have occurred in our generation. There’s a lot of research about how things like 9/11 have impacted us. Each generation has things like that, often tragedies like JFK’s assassination, the space shuttle exploding, etc. And it seems that generalizations often tend toward the negative more than the positive. This isn’t unique to the Millenials. Gen X certainly got a bad rap. What about the Baby Boomers? Usually studies that look at a generation’s “turbulent teen years” conclude that older generations will never understand “kids these days.” I think it’s true across the board.

    As to my comment about religion, I had no idea such a small facet of what I was writing about would inspire such a debate. My comment was in reference to this (yes, from wikipedia, not the best source but often decent):

    “A 2005 American study looked at 1,385 people aged 18 to 25 and found that over half of those in the study said that they pray regularly before a meal. A third said that they talked about religion with friends, attend places of worship, and read religious materials weekly. 23% of those studied did not identify themselves as belonging to a religious affiliation.”

    And here is a quote from a Newsweek article referencing the Pew Foundation study that seems to say exactly the opposite of what you are saying:

    “The belief in God is widespread: 64 percent of millennials, 73 percent of those 30 and older. There’s consensus on many values, even if ideals (stable marriages, for instance) are often violated.”

    Sorry I couldn’t find the direct Pew Foundation study itself, but I trust Newsweek is a reliable source. The whole article is quite interesting. Feel free to check it out.

  5. Nicole says:

    Ryan, the wikipedia section about religion does go on to say that some have been critical of the religious right and evangelicals. But from my perspective, most people who are genuinely spiritual understand that the religious right is more political than it is religious, and that separation of church and state is essential. I also don’t really understand a lot of what you’re saying or where it comes from. Could you give me an example of who’s emphasizing the Old Testament and denigrating Christ? Maybe I’m not familiar with that sect.

    My exposure to Protestantism (and I have been involved with numerous different denominations as well as non-denominational churches and religious organizations) has included a strong message of self-sacrifice and assisting the poor and needy. We are called to be servants like Christ. There are so many religious humanitarian groups, from local food pantries and shelters to international missions, programs to financially support or “adopt” impoverished children, projects to improve life in 3rd world countries, etc. I will name only a few because there are so many: World Vision, Salvation Army, Compassion International. Here is a more exhaustive (yet still not nearly comprehensive) list of Christian humanitarian groups.
    Here is a list of homeless shelters in St. Louis. You can tell by the names how many of them are directly religiously affiliated.

    Do they try to witness and spread their faith through this work? Many do, some don’t (at least not directly). But why wouldn’t they? If they believe that their faith brings eternal salvation, the true humanitarian goal is to provide both for people’s immediate and long-term needs. I do not believe that these are selfish, narcissistic people. Are there some who abuse religion for selfish or political gain? Yes. But those people will use any means to promote their interests, and they do not fairly represent that which they are abusing.

  6. piggyy says:

    Anti-homosexuality rhetoric would be the first thing that comes to my head. The bible says one thing in Leviticus and Jesus handles such issues a different way in the Gospel. There are a lot of incongruences like this in the Bible. What you prioritize makes a huge difference in how you practice Christianity. I personally think a Christian should strive to view the world from Jesus’s point of view — or MLK’s if that’s easier.

    I certainly wasn’t saying that Christian groups don’t provide help, but realistically the religious right does represent Christianity for many people as do the actions of many evangelicals. I think Christians think they have to stand hand in hand with every Christian, but sometimes it’s necessary to condemn the acts of others. If Christians aren’t upset by the actions of the religious right why should any outsider not view those actions as representative of Christianity, especially when they constantly claim orthodoxy?

    The finding of that study was that people believe in God, but that Protestantism is declining. I believe that’s because many people want more moderate ideas without the harmful associations. A lot of people don’t want to be lumped in a group with Rush Limbaugh and Jerry Falwell.

  7. Nicole says:

    You are right and wrong at the same time. Jesus does handle things very differently than the religious right or Old Testament justice. However, Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-20:

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    Jesus was a Jewish rabbi. He knew the Old Testament law including the passage you mentioned from Leviticus. He did not change that law. Jesus actually interpreted the law much more strictly than others did. In the same sermon that I quoted above (Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount), Jesus tells his followers that if you are angry or insulting, you will be judged the same as a murderer. He also says anyone who looks at a women lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Jesus was no softy on the law.

    The Bible also explicitly talks about homosexuality in the New Testament, no matter how unpopular that teaching is now. One example is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

    “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

    However, this passage demonstrates the fundamental difference between Jesus’ teachings and those who will scream things like “God hates gays.” This list of sins is intended to show that ALL PEOPLE are sinful. The Matthew passage affirms this teaching as well. Jesus constantly criticized the Pharisees for their hypocrisy because they pretended to be righteous. So when he says people must be even more righteous than the Pharisees, he is making a jab at the Pharisees’ claim to be perfect. The point is that in able to be able to EARN heaven, we would have to be perfectly righteous and never do anything wrong. The Gospel of Jesus is meaningless without the Law. The Law proves to us that it is impossible for any person to earn heaven (or the kingdom of God). Then comes the meaning of the Gospel. We would all be damned for our sins except that God became man in the form of Jesus to live the perfect life that was demanded of us and then take the punishment we deserve for our sins by dying in our stead and then defeat death by rising after three days. So we get His righteousness and our punishment is paid for.

    A nice summary of this is Romans 3:21-25:

    “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

    What does this mean for the religious right and homosexuality? They have got it very wrong and somewhat right at the same time. The Bible, both Old and New Testament, clearly state that homosexuality is outside of God’s plan and is therefore a sin. We are not to deny or water down that truth. But the Bible also says greed is a sin. And lust. And envy. Jealousy. All natural feelings that pop up in us sometimes beyond our control. Divorce is condemned more often in the Bible than homosexuality is. What all of this means is that some Christians have gotten very distracted from the point. They’ve chosen one sin to focus on and say, “those people are evil. God hates them.” They ignore and divert blame away from their own sins, which the Bible is equally clear about. They are like the Pharisees. Jesus didn’t deride the Pharisees for doing good things, he derided them for doing good things with the purpose of making themselves look good and others look bad. The whole point of the Bible is to show us that God doesn’t hate anyone. He loves us all with an unfathomable and perfect love. He hates sin with all of his wrath because he loves us and sin hurts us. But he never hates a person for their sin.

    I cannot and will not say that homosexuality is OK, because I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and is true in its entirety no matter what we want or do not want to believe. I will also never say that God hates gays or that gays are bad people, because they are no better or worse than me. They are no worse than my parents who are divorced- a very public sin that no one is willing to condemn any more. They are no worse than me – I have my own litany of sins. God calls us to repent and to turn away from our sins, and I believe that we should all be making an effort every day to do that and to follow God’s law. But we will fail, and when we do Jesus still loves each us equally and has already died to atone for those sins.

    People can take any passage of the Bible out of context. They can prioritize and twist it to serve their own interests. But that does not mean the Bible has incongruities. I could take a direct quote from you, out of context, and make it sound like exactly the opposite of what you wanted to say overall. But that wouldn’t mean you were a hypocrite, it would mean I was misusing your words. Same with the Bible. It is meant to be studied as a whole work. You cannot understand the Old Testament without the New Testament and vice versa. They work together to paint a complete picture of who God is, how he interacts with his people, and how we should live in response. Almost all misunderstandings and arguments among Christians or between Christians and non-believers stem from a failure to understand the book and its teachings as a whole.

  8. Nicole says:

    Sorry that was really long, but I also want to attempt to respond to another part of your question. You said,

    “If Christians aren’t upset by the actions of the religious right why should any outsider not view those actions as representative of Christianity, especially when they constantly claim orthodoxy? ”

    That’s fair. There are lots of reasons you don’t hear strong opposition from the church. One, as you mentioned, is that Christians do feel the need to stick together. It is a delicate balance because the Bible calls us to be unified but also commands us to correct and rebuke each other in love and to never tolerate false teachings in the church.

    Another reason is that many Christians are just not as well-versed in the Bible as they should be. They struggle with these issues because they see that the things the religious right condemns are indeed condemned in the Bible. It’s confusing because they know that God commands us first and foremost to love. They don’t know how to reconcile the two, and so they stay silent to keep from saying something wrong.

    Finally, I think it’s important to note that many Christians do indeed speak out against abuses in the name of faith. We are, however, not an organized political group spending money on campaigns or pandering to the media. So we speak out on an individual level, or on a congregational level through sermons and discussions and church policies. We mostly try to correct problems from within. So unfortunately, those who are screaming the loudest may be what you hear the most, but they are not a fair and accurate representation of the body of Christ.

    On a semi-related note, many people who call themselves Christians are not truly followers of Jesus Christ and will not be saved. Conversely, I also believe there are followers of Christ who will never associate themselves with organized religion or be called Christians, and yet they will be saved for their faith. Christianity is a label we’ve created, and calling yourself a Christian doesn’t automatically make you right with God. Only God knows what is truly in each person’s heart.

  9. piggyy says:

    I agree with a lot of what you said, but I think my pragmatism causes be to believe what you say are little things are actually very big things.

    For example, casting aside homosexuals and understanding we all sin are two entirely different things. How do you expect people to react when you hate them before you even meet them? If you treat people like monsters they will become monsters. It’s much better to get to know people and help them from their perspective.

    You can’t build a society based off completely impersonal idealism. Really how hard is it to cast judgments and feel good about yourself when those other people are different then you? It’s just weak. But the reason it upsets me so much is because I believe our parent’s generation’s greatest weakness was their individualistic idealism. Rational self-interest resulted in an inability to listen. With economics, the war on drug and the war on terrorism they tried and shove square pegs into round holes rather than understanding that each situation requires a different solution. In a round about way the difference between the old testament and new testament is the difference between individualism and collectivism, the difference between good as trying and good as results.

    I’m a good as results guy, which brings me to the religious right. Nelson Mandela, MLK Jr. and Gandhi have proven that good can win in any circumstances, but only if the actors are completely above reproach. If Mandela was associated with liars who manipulated markets and religion to serve themselves he would have lost credibility. The Religious Right’s affiliation with Christianity makes Christianity meaningless.

    And I don’t buy that Christians can’t criticize other Christians. Many of them have no problem criticizing others. I think we need to get over the idea that being Christian makes you better than anyone else. It doesn’t. What you practice has a big say in that.

    But Americans have a false sense of entitlement. It’s amazing how many problems in American religion and politics are similar.

  10. Nicole says:

    Did I say casting aside homosexuals and hating them was a little thing? And didn’t I specifically say that I’m not better than anyone else? And claiming that the religious right makes Christianity meaningless is just such a thing to say, I don’t know how to respond without starting a fight. I think this is breaking down from a discussion into a debate trying to prove each other wrong. That’s not usually real productive in the end.

  11. piggyy says:

    I didn’t know I was insinuating that you did cast homosexuals aside or that you did think you were better than anyone else. Looking back I probably shouldn’t have used the second person to mean a general person.

    I was only trying to explain things from a pragmatic perspective. Perhaps, if you read about pragmatism you wouldn’t be so upset. The essential idea is that a philosophy is as good as the results it yields and that if people genuinely care they will understand and make things work in a way that yields good results for everybody. My point was that the Religious Right is so appalling to many people that having them associated with you makes your philosophy incapable of yielding results and therefore meaningless.

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