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knock, knock. [my thoughts on the millennial conversation]

I'm a part of the Millennial Generation, the one that's the focus of a lot of attention this week. I'm not just a normal, run-of-the-mill millennial, either. I'm a die-hard millennial. Boyz II Men was my first concert, for crying out loud. I watched TRL after school (Remember that? When MTV played music videos and musicians actually had to make videos worth watching because they influenced record sales? Man, those were the days...). I know all the words to "Ice, Ice, Baby" and I bought Eminem's first album and hid it from my parents (sorry mom & dad!). You better believe I know every word to every song in the Disney Big Four (The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast), and Leonardo DiCaprio will ALWAYS be Romeo to me, I don't care what you say. My stupid oxen died while fording the river and I always got dysentery on the Oregon Trail.

I owned the Teen Study Bible and wore my WWJD bracelets (I had several colors - one for each outfit), and when I turned 16, I stuck that fish on my car proudly. I listened to Caedmon's Call 40 Acres album on repeat and I dreamed of having a faith like Rebecca St. James when I grew up.

I was a sophomore in college when Facebook started and back then, only college students with a university email address could access it & create an account. The good ol' days, you know? I was nearing my second year of marriage when the first iPhone came out, and I'll always be a Mac, not a PC.

See what I mean? I'm a tried and true millennial. I have the N*SYNC posters to prove it.

We've accomplished so much, have overcome so much, and we are a hopeful generation. We are determined to see the arc of our generation's history bend towards justice. I really believe that. We're slowly starting to take the reigns from our parents and there's a big shift underfoot... I think we can all feel it. How it plays out and what it's going to mean for culture, politics and faith in the long term is yet to be seen, but Change is coming.

And for the Church, it's already here.

 

About 5-10 years ago, it ever-so-slowly started to walk up the steps and to the threshold. We now find it knocking on the door, begging to be let in. There are some that are opening the door, welcoming Change inside with open arms, even letting it rearrange the furniture a bit. Some are opening the door and simply having a conversation about what it would mean to let Change inside. Others have added about 10 locks on the door, propped a chair under the handle and closed the curtains, only to peek out every so often to see if Change is, indeed, still camped out on the front porch.

Change is a bit of a chameleon, morphing its shape depending on which door it comes to. Sometimes, it looks like a woman behind a pulpit. Sometimes, it looks like a gay couple with young kids. Sometimes, it looks like a homeless man pushing a shopping cart. It can look like a whole host of things. 

Now, step on your tiptoes and look over the top of the head of Change. See that? All those people behind it? That's my generation. 

As fantastic and quirky as my generation is, we have our issues. We are a generation of immediacy. We want things, and we want them NOW. Actually, yesterday would have been better, if we're being honest. When everything is at our fingertips at all times, we've become accustomed to getting everything on demand. There are people at the front of the crowd shoving their shoulders into change, trying to force it in the door. The culture of immediacy has run rampant through our crowd and we don't like to wait. We're a little spoiled in that regard. We whine a lot when we don't get our way, I'm willing to admit that. Often times, when the door doesn't open, we sit on the ground and pout and open our laptops and fire up our iPhones to tweet and blog and Facebook about how angry we are. For some reason, that tends to be our default rather than walking kindly up to the door with a plate of cookies and knocking on it.

Some in the crowd were actually inside the house for a long time, but have since found themselves outside on the curb. Some have been thrown out, kicked out and pushed out. For others, the environment inside was toxic or abusive, so there was no choice but to walk out. And yes, for some, they just didn't find anything that fit their taste du jour, so they bailed (not proud of that one, but it's the truth).

As for me, personally, I'm still inside the house. I haven't left the Church. I'm in the western Evangelical house. For how crappy and messy and ugly it can get in here, it's still home to me. I've felt welcome here for a long time. The gift of a good church experience is not lost on me, I'm not naive. I am so grateful that I feel welcome here and I have not had the desire to leave. There are a lot of things inside the house that drive me fucking crazy, for sure. But, I'm not alone.

A big chunk of my generation is here inside the house with me. For the most part, the old guard is standing watch at the door, but our turn is coming. There are so many of us that are excited to finally be able to open the door and either greet Change and start a conversation, or fully open the door and let it in.

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There are a lot of conversations going on about my generation - those of us both in and outside of the Church. They are good ones to have, and I think some good introspection is long overdue in addressing why so many of those my age are outside on the curb, rather than inside. I certainly don't want to dismiss that. But I think that topic is simply a micro-topic of the big one, a conversation that we simply can't avoid having anymore:

 Change is at the door, whether we like it or not. The question we should be asking is, what are we going to do about it?

Nish Weiseth4 Comments