Culture At Large

The Generation Gap is for Suckers!

Paul Vander Klay

I love the Spanish saying, "mas sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo," which means, "the devil knows more because he's old than because he's the devil." I think the Bible repeatedly admonishes the young to listen to the wise both because the wise have something to contribute and because many who are young need the help.

As a culture, we are fascinated by youth and terrified of age. Visiting a nursing home for the abandoned elderly gives both justification to this fear and the observation that it is ours. Two pieces I read this week offer some common sense information for two foundational institutions that are idealized for American youth both inside and outside the church. In each case the idealization itself undermines the institution and leads to its own destruction. I suspect that in each case we would save ourselves much grief if we could less afford the age segregation we consider desirable today.

In the first, Carolyn Hax gives advice to "Las Vegas Lovers" who imagine that avoiding the institution of marriage will help them avoid the kind of unhappy relationships they've seen in the marriages of others. Before marching out the standard relational bromides, she breaks through with the frank and obvious observation that "life can suck the life out of someone." To me, it is a breath of fresh air in the triumphal procession of airbrushed propaganda in modern social idolatry. Time kills almost everything, except Edward Cullen of course.

The second article is a fascinating piece in New York Magazine on why parents hate parenting. It contains this insightful quote:

Not only did they find that couples’ overall marital satisfaction went down if they had kids; they found that every successive generation was more put out by having them than the last—our current one most of all. Even more surprisingly, they found that parents’ dissatisfaction only grew the more money they had, even though they had the purchasing power to buy more child care. 'And my hypothesis about why this is, in both cases, is the same,' says [psychologist Jean] Twenge. 'They become parents later in life. There’s a loss of freedom, a loss of autonomy. It’s totally different from going from your parents’ house to immediately having a baby. Now you know what you’re giving up.'

Our really good idols offer us both the promise of rapturous exaltation and a reliable path to its acquisition. I would imagine the devil knows what an idol looks like better than we do not just because he’s the devil, but because he’s so old. Not all who are old are wise, not all who are young are foolish, but experience mixed with honesty can teach you a lot. The better the gift, the greater it’s capacity for idolatry and more susceptible we are to its lures.

Right from its inception the community of Christ was intended to be multi-generational. Those who have walked similar paths to our own, both the living and the dead through their writings, are available to be heard. In honest listening there is much salvation from grief.

Do we seek a body of Christ segregated by age? When we enter a church service and see it dominated by the aged (and there are many) do we imagine we may have discovered a wealth of unhurried, untapped wisdom? Do we imagine only new books have something to offer? In most cases learning from previous generations requires some effort of cultural translation. Do we see the value in breaking out of the prison of age segregation?

Topics: Culture At Large, Home & Family, Family, Marriage, Parenting