Tuesday, August 01, 2006

About My Generation: We Are Irreverent

A quick note about this series: I'm speaking about my secular peers, those who form the bulk of my generation, but what I'm saying also applies, I think, to all of my generation, though some of us may not know it. Long sentence, I know, but a true one. Now, not everyone is cynical; but most of us will have undercurrents of such behaviors and principles in our thinking and living. We may not even know it. But we are embedded in our culture, and likely bear to some extent the cultural attitudes of our day. It's almost impossible not to.

But enough of that. My generation is irreverent. That's what I want to say today. This won't surprise you on the heels of the other posts, because I've tried to cover how we're distrustful and slow to believe. Irreverence walks in step with these values. Past generations would be shocked at just how irreverent we are these days. The punchline joke is dead. The "knock-knock" joke is buried in a farm in Kansas. Nowadays, mockery and sarcasm reign. Everything is deadpan. Most of the popular comedies on TV are shot through with sarcasm: The Office, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Steven Colbert Show are just a handful of the "mock-everything" kind of comedy that dominates today. Sure, we'll appreciate you; but first, we want to mock you, and knock you down to size a bit. We can't stomach earnestness these days; again, we're too cynical for it. Our earnestness can be found in the dirt, trampled on by happy marriages that were really divorces waiting to happen, campaigns founded on ideals that crumbled on scandals, stars that smiled beautifully but lived horribly. Earnestness has had its day in America. We are a mocking generation. We are irreverent, and we want to cut everyone down in our path. Draw a face of this generation, and it would have a vague smile that on close examination proved to be a sneer.

Leaders of the church can thus know that it will help not to take themselves too seriously. It's a good and healthy thing in today's age to show that one can take and make a joke. However, we cannot approach our faith irreverently. Many are doing so today, making light of all kinds of doctrines and practices that are holy, and they will regret doing so one day. This is a major reason the emerging church is so popular: it is irreverent. Few things are sacred. The historical church is mocked, the modern-day church is mocked, serious Christianity is mocked. This gives the emerging church a pull with the younger crowd. I should say that there's nothing wrong with levity. It's needed. I try to find it in everyday life. But levity can cross into blasphemy with surprising speed. It is our mission, I think, to be personally disarming and theologically serious. Some things are sacred. Not everything should be questioned or joked about. My generation needs to learn that. You can help teach them.


Anonymous Calabrese said...

At some point, Owen, I respond at length on my views on our generation, but let me offer a small point now. Some in the conservative catholic blog world are inclined to think that the Colbert Report is not so irreverent as it may initially seem.

See, for example http://amywelborn.typepad.com/openbook/2006/07/colbert_redux.html

This all depends on how you want to view his irony, but comments like the above may have a point.

5:38 PM  
Anonymous calabrese said...

let's see if this works...


5:40 PM  

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