Soapbox: An Oak Among Birds

Since the dawn of the Information Age (aka the Digital Age), there has been a tremendous amount of progress as well as a careless disregard for where it would take us. The Bible gives us clear warnings that information, or knowledge, is powerful and has a great tendency to go to our heads (I Corinthians 8:1). Though the Information Age is vastly different form it’s predecessor, the Industrial Age, it is not without it’s faults. Those who grew up in the Industrial Age, however, may be focusing on the faults too much that they are not actually compensating for them. These two factions are inevitable working against each other and breaking an essential interconnectivity that is critical for cultural development.

The Industrial Age came with certain values, which is reflective of many of the systems which came out of that era. Public schools were designed to push people through a factory model and prepare them for industrial jobs. In a sense, this domesticated Americans to think and function as a community rather than individuals. People who didn’t get married before they were 23 were looked on as strange and those who thought of leaving their home towns with huge ambitions were considered foolish. While the times have changed, these standards carried on in the lives of those who lived through that era and had those values ingrained into their very essence.

As the Information Age took full swing, it had a major impact on the cultural experiences new Americans were growing up under. Parents attempted to raise their Children under the same values they were brought up to respect, while the world around them was challenging them to shape their own identity. The hodgepodge of cultures mixed as consistently as oil and water. Schools continued to pump out cookie cutter imprints of good old fashioned American industrial workers, while society promoted individual values and the limitless notions of amateur celebrity. This left us in the complicated state we are in today; a bitter rivalry between generations. The older casting fault on the flightiness of youth and the younger showing the hand to their unaware elders. Prejudice has prevented us from comprehending the causes of such great division, blinding our eyes to our own faults when the flagrant failings of the other are so evident.

As a metaphor of where we are today, the older generations are similar to domesticated birds, chickens and pigeons. Their condition left them dependent on their masters to feed them and protect them. They spend most of their days grounded and in groups. They know their routines and they are assured of their stations in life. On the other hand, younger generations are like the robin or the hummingbird. They are skittish and flighty. If many of them stopped moving, it seems they would inevitably die. There is no guarantee to their provisions and stations in life. They spend most of their time in flight, continually searching.

The divisions between these generations are obvious. Hens and roosters can’t comprehend why a robin would work so hard for so little reward. Pigeons can’t comprehend why hummingbirds waste so much time going from flower to flower instead of staking out a spot and claiming it their own. The distinctions are vastly different, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t turn a hen into a robin or a hummingbird into a pigeon. They are nothing alike and their essential make up demands that they live distinctively different lives.

Let’s face it, some adults may never understand the importance that Twitter has to a teenager. I’ll be honest, I don’t even get it most of the time. But attacking it won’t change the fact that it is in their life and has drastic affects on their development as a person. Disregarding it’s importance isn’t healthy either. It’s essential that we understand the advantages and the drawbacks.

Every bird needs a perch. Flighty little tweeters need a place to rest. The Church should be striving to be more than just a cultural hangout for either generation. Pastors don’t need to choose between which flock they will join and influence. Leaders ought to strive to be the trees where the foul come for shelter, nourishment, and rest. Despite what our culture tells us, we do need each other. What we don’t need is the prejudice in focusing on our differences.

It is essential that we grasp what we have to offer each other. Instead of focusing on the failings of the future, older generations ought to focus on the few who can change it. Young Christians, too, have a lot to learn from their elders. Look past the thoughtless disregard for the way things are, and listen to what they’ve learned through their struggles and victories. As different as our worlds have become, the personal struggles and the biblical truths remain the same.

Creating an environment where we only have influence over our own generation lends to a dangerous limit on ideas and opportunities. Each generation is commanded to interact with the other, and to do so for the betterment of themselves, not the scolding of the other. The future of the Church is bleak, but the potential of God’s people is limitless. We need to focus our efforts on where we are going, and not where we’ve been. But we can’t forget from where we came.


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