The “Me” Generation

Last night, Beck spoke briefly about what he called The “Me” Generation. I don’t necessarily agree that it’s the population under 30 years old, which–at least for another year–includes me. It does seem far more prevalent in my peers and the younger hooligans, but it certainly cannot be limited to us. I suspect that we are just more likely to act out and vocalize our self-focused ideologies.

It’s not just a “generation,” unfortunately. It’s an entire culture. It’s an entire structure of our existence here in America*. The individual has become more important than the community. No, strike that last statement. The individual is not “more important” than the community; rather, the individual is more concerned with himself than with anybody around him. But it didn’t start with us young punks. Where did it start? Did it start with the fathers we never knew because they left our families to go and “find themselves”? I don’t know.

It seems to me that this has been a long time in coming. Perhaps this is simply how mankind self-destructs. It grows in us like a cancer unchecked. And where does it stem? Loss of identity?

In The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer wrote that “all our problems and their solutions are theological.” I try to avoid sweeping statements, but this is one I tend to agree with wholeheartedly. He talks about our perception of God, our tendency to define God by what is not God (words, ideas, things in the world around us), and how these things shape our lives and our identities. He also writes, “we can never know who or what we are till we know at least something of what God is.”

Erwin Raphael McManus talks about identity in this regard, also. In his book, Soul Cravings, McManus writes that “the power of community is that it helps us understand ourselves.” Whether we like it or not, we are shaped by our relationships and our culture; we understand ourselves in reference to other people.

So consider. In a culture where we no longer have clear ideas about God–even in our churches, and our relationships are constantly failing because of divorce and infidelity and abuse and manipulation, how can we be a people that is anything but self-serving? In a culture where human life and dignity has been so devalued, how can we be a people that is anything but self-degrading? In a culture where fame and money are honored while sacrifice and humility are mocked, how can we be a people that is anything but self-concerned?

How can we be anything but a “Me” generation?

Last night at the grocery store, I found myself in a “You Bag” checkout aisle,  just in front of the Customer Service Desk, behind an adorable old woman with curly white hair, funny big glasses, and bright pink lips. She moved slowly, but I didn’t mind. After paying the cashier, she walked slowly toward the end of the aisle to gather her few groceries–a grapefruit, a piece of german chocolate cake, a bottle of grape juice, and a small bag of dinner rolls. She quickly became confused, however, and couldn’t find her groceries. The aisle next to us was a “We Bag” aisle, so she stood there with her shopping cart, waiting for the bag boy to find her groceries and place them in her cart or offer to carry them out. But nobody came to her aid, and her groceries just waited there. The bag boy rolled his eyes and ignored her. The cashiers in both lanes watched her with disbelief. And the manager at the Customer Service Desk smiled in humor at her misfortune and turned the other direction. I was appalled. After paying for my own things, I bagged her things and turned to place them in her cart. She smiled, oblivious to the lack of concern by the employees, and thanked me.

For a moment, let’s forget the fact that employees should have jumped at the opportunity to help this woman. And let’s set aside my utter frustration and anger that I cannot find work, but these self-serving, inconsiderate, un-customer-service-friendly people are employed. The thing that really caught me attention last night was not the lack of help offered to the woman, but the fact that the manager smiled his humor at her; and the other guy rolled his eyes at her. What have we become, that we would find entertainment in an old woman’s struggle rather than offering to help her?

2 Timothy 3.

1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

Have nothing to do with them, folks. Be filled with the fruit of God’s Spirit.

Pax Christi.

Semmie.

*Here in America? Sure…I’ll post this for you…copyright, Rich Mullins:

Saints and children we have gathered here to hear the sacred story
And I’m glad to bring it to you with my best rhyming and rhythm
‘Cause I know the thirsty listen and down to the waters come
And the Holy King of Israel loves me here in America

And if you listen to my songs I hope you hear the water falling
I hope you feel the oceans crashing on the coast of north New England
I wish I could be there just to see them, two summers past I was
And the Holy King of Israel loves me here in America

And if I were a painter I do not know which I’d paint
The calling of the ancient stars or assembling of the saints
And there’s so much beauty around us for just two eyes to see
But everywhere I go I’m looking

And once I went to Appalachia for my father he was born there
And I saw the mountains waking with the innocence of children
And my soul is still there with them wrapped in the songs they brought
And the Holy King of Israel loves me here in America

And I’ve seen by the highways on a million exit ramps
Those two-legged memorials to the laws of happenstance
Waiting for four-wheeled messiahs to take them home again
But I am home anywhere if You are where I am

And if you listen to my songs I hope you hear the water falling
I hope you feel the oceans crashing on the coast of north New England
I wish I could be there just to see them, two summers past I was
And the Holy King of Israel loves me here in America

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