Generation Gap

My parents weren’t even married when JFK was shot.

I was toddling during the Summer of Love.

I was 3 years, five months and five days old when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. I was 3 years and six months old when Richie Havens played “High Flyin’ Bird” to kick off Woodstock.

It’s fair to say I have few, if any, memories of 1969.

According to experts, that’s when the so-called “Generation Gap” was the widest it’d ever been in America. Now, I’m not sure how they came to that–largely because I don’t think social scientists were measuring the disconnect between parents and kids while they were busy throwing tea bags into Boston Harbor–but we certainly saw a cultural shift during that time.

Haight-Ashbury. Martin Luther King, Jr. Woodstock. Vietnam. Watergate. All the stuff Forrest Gump covered for those of us that didn’t live it. No one can argue (generally speaking, of course. There are always exceptions to the rule) that there was a significant difference in the way the younger generation and the previous one interpreted the exact same events.

Case in point: My Aunt Vicky–the closest thing my family had as far as liberal thinking goes–and I were having a discussion after I’d gotten all hot and bothered by watching Oliver Stone’s conspiracy-laden movie about the JFK assassination. During my rant about all the ways the government covered everything up, I asked Aunt Vicky how it was that all these rebellious activist ’60’s Children could let the government get away with lying to the American public. She said something that highlighted the generation gap between us: “Brent, we grew up in an America where we never imagined that our government would lie to us. All that changed about five years later, but you grew up in an America where it’s assumed that the government is lying to you…or at the very least not giving you the truth.”

Now, I’ve since recanted my conspiracy theories on J.F.K and the Warren Commission. You can learn more from well-written books than Oliver Stone. And those theories were much more fun that the truth that Oswald acted alone. But that’s not my point. See, my Aunt Vicky pointed out a generation gap. The way she interpreted information and the way I interpreted information were completely different.

And that generation gap in 1969 led to all sorts of cultural change, didn’t it?

So, I read an Associated Press article that discovered that the generation gap is actually GREATER now than it was then.

Think about that for a second.

The generation gap is bigger now than it was during a very significant time of cultural change for our country.

Be careful not to think of that gap in terms of things like music. You know, like when your parents called your music “noise” like their parents called their music “noise.” Or in terms of fashions, like when your parents said your parachute pants were stupid like their parents said leisure suits were stupid. Or even in terms of a cultural morality, like when your parents said language in movies has never been worse, which is what their parent said about Dennis Hopper, which their parents said when Rhett told Scarlett he didn’t give a damn. These things were always thus, and always thus will be.


Think in terms of how information is interpreted.

Like the election of Barack Obama…which highlights this gap more than anything else I can think of (and the article highlights). Ask the over-50 crowd their thoughts about our president and his policies and ask the under-30 crowd and you’ll get bipolar responses (again, think in general terms).

Like the use of technology. Last night I sat in a room with 7 teenagers playing Mario Kart on the Wii. At some point, each and every one of them got text messages. Not one of them thought it rude to read them immediately, and, in fact, when they did check the messages, it actually enhanced their interaction with the others in the room when the content was shared. An over-50 person likely wouldn’t think the same way about it. Same for Facebook and Twitter. Older folks tend to think they detract from “real” relationships, while younger folks see them as an enhancement to their “real” relationships.

Like social morality. Want to see the gap in full-force again? Bring up the issue of homosexual marriages. You’ll see one group believe that to be the downfall of our culture. The other group will take a “what do I care?” mindset and that we might was well “live and let live” on that kind of stuff…hence, no big deal one way or another.

I could go on.

But what I’m highly interested in is how this generation gap affects churches and the spiritual life. I mean, it is my job and all. I do sit uniquely between generations and much of my job involves ping-ponging back and forth between older generations and younger ones.

Suffice to say that I have strong opinions about this…which I do want to discuss in the next day or two.

However, before we get going, I’d like some conversation among the Diner patrons…


In what ways, if any, do you see this generation gap?
If you see a gap, to what degree do you think it impacts our American culture?
If you see a gap, what should our role be as a Christian community regarding serving the next generation?
What attitudes and actions would the Christian community need to change in order to serve the next generation? What should we cling to strongly?

I’ll chime in tomorrow, kids. Have at it, patrons.

*pours coffee, rubs hands together, glad to be thinking deep thoughts again*