When were you born?
If you were born between 1961 and 1981, you’re part of North America’s Generation X. At 80 million strong, you’d think this generation would command a bit more respect than society tends to give it, but the oldest members of this group are now past 50, and hardy anybody has noticed.
Well, besides those Gen-X’ers who are turning the half-century mark!
As Californian Sara Scribner wrote for Salon.com in August, Gen-X’ers seem to be a forgotten generation, except when people want to compare it with the accomplishments of Baby Boomers, or the allure of Millennials. Remember the media frenzy when Boomers started hitting 50? Meanwhile, today’s new middle-agers are too busy trying to survive to spend much time bewailing their advancing age. Turning 50 today isn’t the same as when Boomers did.
In her article, a rather depressing overview of where Generation X is today and how it got there, Scribner says her cohort has been called "slackers" because they haven't been able to build upon the socioeconomic legacy of those celebrated Boomers. Why haven't Gen-X’ers been more prominent, creating their own mark on our world? Instead, almost everything in history’s past 50 years has basically happened to Gen-X’ers, not because of them.
"Downward mobility is a hallmark of this generation," writer and fellow Gen-X'er Neal Pollack tells Scribner. "I just feel like we’re not going to pull ourselves out of the hole. But what can you do?”
Of course, having secular writers bemoaning contemporary life without any apparent faith in Christ and His sovereignty is one thing. Yet, to a certain extent, can’t what they say about Generation X also be seen in Gen-X’ers who profess Jesus as Lord? To be sure, God is saving His people in Generation X to be salt and light in this time and place in world history. But frankly, it’s not turning out to be the best of times, is it?
Generation X is the most educated generation in world history, but they’re earning less than their parents did. Gen-X’ers have lived through 1987’s “Black Monday” stock market crash, the dot-com bust of 2000, the mortgage meltdown, the Great Recession, downsizing, offshoring, and now, the part-time employee trend. Say what you will about America’s widening income disparity, but Gen-X’ers are living it every day.
Time was, married people tended to fare better during a rocky economy, but Generation X was born into an era when failed marriages lost their social taboos. The divorce rate skyrocketed when Gen-X’ers were kids, and never sank when it came their turn down the aisle. Today, many Gen-X’ers are not only single by choice, but single again in frustratingly high numbers, both inside and outside the church.
Television journalist Tom Brokaw famously categorized the parents of Boomers as the "Greatest Generation," since they'd survived two catastrophic world wars and turned around to build the most rapid expansion of our economy in America's history. Of course, the Greatest Generation created some major problems that Boomers are passing on to Gen-X'ers, such as a Social Security Administration that has been woefully under-funded since at least 1982. After the Boomers are done with it, retirement will likely be a think of the past for Gen-X’ers.
And it’s not just successive economic crises through which Generation X has been forced to live. For evangelicals, even going to church became a destabilizing experience. It started with the bohemian Jesus movement in California, which then morphed into the Contemporary Christian Music scene, which led to the seeker sensitive movement, which spawned two diverse reactions: the Emergent church, and New Calvinism. Popular ministry methodologies went from focusing on urban America to suburban America, and now, back to urban America. In between, there’s been the Moral Majority and televangelist scandals. And Generation X saw it all unfold in front of them.
And there was AIDS. Gen-X’ers were teenagers when what we were told was a gay disease exploded onto the scene. You hardly heard about the heterosexuals who contracted it too, and we hardly hear anything about it today. Back then, many people of faith unfortunately displayed an un-Christ-like attitude towards AIDS victims. And how likely is it for that mean-spiritedness to have influenced the environment of hostility towards evangelicals that’s helping propel society’s current debate over gay marriage?
Indeed, if Generation X has learned anything, it’s that none of these social dynamics happened in a vacuum.
Looking back on it all, it’s easy to see that Gen-X’ers have been slammed with a lot of negative stuff in a relatively short period of time. So, does that make them "slackers" for not aggressively solving all of these problems, most of which they inherited? Might it be that they’re the first generation to get stuck with paying the bills of preceding generations whose lifestyles and expectations were not as affordable as they thought they were?
Okay, so we get the point: change happens, and it isn’t necessarily for the better. Yet, no matter when you were born, and no matter your marital status, one thing won’t ever be any different, will it? One Person never changes. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God does not renege on promises, backtrack on commandments, or lose any of his authority. He’s as loving now as He was before He created the Garden of Eden. He’s as faithful now as He was when He had Noah build the ark. He doesn’t love His people today any less than He did any previous generation, and He doesn’t love us any more, because He’s always loved us completely. Christ’s sacrifice for us hasn’t lost value, nor can it. No society can vote God off of His throne, not even the one we’re living in today.
Times have been worse, and times have been better. For Generation X, in North America, things may seem rather dim, but are you aware of the persecution going on all around us, in places like Nigeria, Indonesia, Bhutan, and Egypt? We’re losing some of our comforts, and some of our influence in public policy, but God has still been amazingly merciful to us.
So, as long as we have today, let’s encourage each other, whether you’re a Gen-X’er, a Boomer, a Millennial, or even if you’re a venerable member of America’s “Greatest Generation.”
"We have come to share in Christ," says the author of Hebrews, "if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first."
In Greek, the letter Chi is the first letter of Χριστός, which is translated in English as "Christ," Whose symbol is the letter "X."
Some people fret about using an “X” during Christmas time, such as in the phrase “Merry X-mas.” However, if you think about it, using the “X” instead of “Christ” is simply a contraction based on ancient Greek, and re-introduced to Christianity during Anglo-Saxon times as an honorific in deference to the deity of Christ.
So, with that in mind, let’s re-think this whole “X” thing in the term “Generation X,” shall we? After all, Gen-X’ers can hardly be slackers if Christ would be the "X" for which this generation's "X" stands.
From his smorgasboard of church experience, ranging from the Christian and Missionary Alliance to the Presbyterian Church in America, Tim Laitinen brings a range of observations to his perspective on how we Americans worship, fellowship, and minister among our communities of faith. As a one-time employee of a Bible church in suburban Fort Worth, Texas and a former volunteer director of the contemporary Christian music ministry at New York City's legendary Calvary Baptist, he's seen our church culture from the inside out. You can read about his unique viewpoints at o-l-i.blogspot.com.
Publication date: November 7, 2013