15 December 2011

Are we really that bad?

I had a conversation this afternoon with a faithful, devout Episcopalian. He is a friend and someone whose opinions I respect. He quoted a clergy acquaintance, "I cannot wait until the baby boomer trouble makers all die off."

Hmm.... As one of those, I am in less perhaps, of a hurry.

Recently one of my sons, referring to political liberals, made a similar observation, although he made it clear (somewhat hastily) that he did not mean me.

So here it is, nearly year-end, and here I am, about half-way to 66, an age, one hears, for some reflection before the big voyage. Were we really that bad, we boomers? The eldest of us, those now 66 or 65 (moi) certainly were out to change the world. We worked for civil rights laws, Jack Kennedy and yes, Barry Goldwater. We went many of us (not me) to Viet Nam, and we protested the draft.

In the church, we were about change too. If I recall correctly, my first Episcopal tee shirt said, "A WOMAN'S PLACE IS IN THE HOUSE (of bishops.) We got female bishops, and a few very few, lgbt bishops are now finally being elected.

And yet, while we got Jackie Robinson and other African Americans into the major leagues we killed the "Negro Leagues" that had provided Blacks with jobs, investment opportunities, and executive experiences. We got open housing laws, and killed inner city neighborhoods as Black professionals left for suburbs. We got "the pill" and Roe v Wade, unleashed decades of sporadic political violence, and demolished the stay-at-home mother.

Was it worth it? Should we still be making trouble? Did I help enough, do enough?

On a personal level, I am an economic failure. But beyond that? What is the scorecard?

I am beginning to understand why some old people fear the ruffle of the recording angel's wings. It is not the big sins, I have not murdered anyone, raped anyone, stolen anything. Ah but the little things, the generational things. Those concern me. As I hear people not all that much younger celebrate our increasingly imminent demise, am I hearing to voice of judgement?

Ah well, mayhaps I am being a bit bleak of an evening. I do not know. Equally, perhaps we did some little good and much unintended damage. That may well lie with the angel and the historians to conclude.



Anonymous said...

Hm. I'm rather fond of Boomer troublemakers, myself. As an easygoing Millennial (note I did not say apathetic), I figure I need someone to balance me out.

I suspect it's pretty likely that every generation will end up doing "some little good and much unintended damage"––for all our efforts, we humans are pretty good at mucking things up. And the historians can make history look however they want it to, anyway.

In the end, isn't the living itself, the trying and failing and falling into grace, worth it? I like to think so.


JimB said...


Certainly life itself is always worth it. We all pick up some scars along the way, and we win some too. I am just an old folkie wondering why we did not do better when we had the chance. I guess I should have expected that I would be here, after all, we always knew the answer is blowing in the wind.

Thanks for your note!


Anonymous said...

You did one very good thing-religion is no longer needed to maintain social position or respectability. In fact, from the Johnson administration to the second Obama administration, Mainline Protestantism shrank by over one-third and the average age of attendees is over 54 (and rising). Ex-Catholics now make up the second largest denomination in the US.

JimB said...

"second Obama administration?" are you conceding that none of these Dominionist nut case Republicans can win? I hope you are correct.

Certainly I do not think of "religion" as a component of respectability, but I hardly think we can conceive of the massive reduction in membership and attendance as a good dead.


Anonymous said...

"Conceding"? No-I voted for him the first time because McCain was much too old and Palin far too strange. But the scenes afterwards of people "offering our services to our President" were both creepy and un-republican (please notice the small "r").
I think religion is annoying and expensive. I've been to countries that are religious and countries that are 90% non-practicing and the non-practicing countries had fewer problems and were less corrupt. I don't know why I should pay attention to someone's views just because s/he says "That's my faith!" and somehow have the argument end.
And if you don't like the "Dominionists" and the Fundiegelicals, you were way too complacent and smug and self-satisfied for over a hundred years in doing nothing to either address their theology or their economic and social concerns. The "Mainline" thought that it could remain just as powerful politically and socially while it watched its churches shrink away to nothing and now it's paying for it. For people who pride themselves on education and being reasonable, you've sure done some stupid things.
Paternalism, "Lady Bountiful at prayer", is no substitute for at least trying to convince people that you think they're wrong and why. Simply sneering from Olympian heights didn't work out too well, did it?

JimB said...

I think you have skipped over a lot of literature. Sacramental (Lutheran, Anglican, Orthodox, and Roman) theologians ranging from radically progressive to extremely traditional viewpoints, and similar groups from traditional protestant backgrounds, have indeed been engaged with the "Fundiegelical" and "Dominionist" ideas, which by the way are less than a century old.

As Frank Schaeffer has detailed in his books, this form of theocratic fundamentalism focused on the “rapture” is a new phenomina. The “rapture” is itself a completely modern, late 19th, early 20th century mistake. And the idea that is should translate itself into a movement to overthrow democarcy and replace it with thocracy is disturbingly modern. A number of authors, especially Frank, and a fair number of essayists including my humble self, are indeed interested in egaging them.

No one is listening. The theocrats simply condemn us as, “apostates” and ignore inconvieniant things like truth and logic. Agnostics and atheists have translated their volume into a perception that they actually represent the Christian faith. That is a particularly disturbing effect of their campaign to overturn the idea of democratic government.

Yes it remains our duty and I keep trying as do others. One cannot talk to someone who thinks God made up his mind. Senator Goldwater was right about that.


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