Thanks very much for contacting me. I am glad that Dawson encouraged you to do that. Dawson is a great kid, the best of relatives.
From what you wrote, and from what Dawson told me, you are struggling with how you are supposed to understand your “whiteness.” You grew up in the public school system, which inculcated in you a deep loathing of your supposed heritage, against which you red-pilled hard your second year of college. Your parents divorced when you were in second grade, and so you grew up with your mom, with your father being always friendly, but somewhat distant. You did a stint in the Proud Boys, but that got old after about six months, leaving you feeling emptier than before. At the same time, you are resolved to never go back to the self-loathing you grew up with. Do I have all that right?
Dawson tells me that you are a Christian, but that you think the church you periodically attend is pretty “lame.” He said that you told him the sermons are TED Talks with a handful of limply applied Bible verses. On top of that, you are increasingly hearing things from the pulpit that remind you of all that woke stuff you learned the purple-haired lady in junior high school.
So the first thing for us to do is to find you a good church. You will need a place that will provide a healthier context for the things I am about to tell you. I have some friends in your town that I can ask for recommendations.
All that said, on to your questions. And first, thanks for your willingness to ask someone like me—because I picked up on your hesitation. I don’t identify as a boomer, I am a boomer. But even though you already asked me, meaning that you are willing to hear from me, the chances are good that you had to surmount an internal hurdle in order to ask. So let’s talk about generations first. We can get to the other questions later, and I suspect it will take more than just one letter.
One of the things that the deconstructing and corrosive left has done very well with their identity politics is create deep suspicion between virtually every discrete and identifiable group. Nobody in Group A has any idea what it is like to suffer like they do over in Group B, and because this is a fallen and sinful world there are frequently actual grievances that can be identified. Now suspicion between disparate groups has always been around—Greeks, Jews, barbarians, and Scythians have always had their various difficulties (Col. 3:11).
But what the left has done is transform this very natural human failing into a high virtue. But it is only a high virtue when they are wielding it. This means that those who are trained in this way of thinking are deeply suspicious of everyone’s motives but their own, and this obliviousness is taken as a seal and proof of their exceptional purity.
I bring this up because I am sure there will be some things I say to you that will tempt you to think okay, boomer to yourself. Now some aspects of this reaction could be legit, but there are some other important considerations that I want to remind you of at the front end. When older Christians from my generation seek to caution you, teach you, or warn you, you will need to understand that if you have a reflex action of defensively pulling away, this is the result of the very indoctrination that you are trying to disentangle yourself from. Some things are cringe because they are just cringe. But other things are cringe because our propaganda-mongers in the media have assigned it that status. And so you need to think through this because I am not trying to throw a “respect your elders” blanket over your head.
Here is an illustration that I think will enable you to see the principle immediately. Suppose a young man, barely out of high school, showed up at your college group at church and started talking loudly (in an artificial deep voice) about what home school curriculum he was going to use with his seven kids, and how his wife was never going to work outside the home, nossir, and let us say there were three or four other bravado pronouncements. All the young ladies within hearing would have every right to cringe as much as they wanted to. But if they attended a wedding, and in the homily the minister drew attention to the fact that the bride’s vows contained the word “obey,” and that the groom’s vows did not, and he went on to ground this difference in the Scripture passage he was using in the homily, the only reason for cringing is that the world of feminism had instructed them to.
The same principle applies to how you should learn from your elders.
Think of it this way. Let’s say you get some boomer input from somebody, like from me. That input could be coming from at least three different places: 1. wisdom from an older, more experienced Christian, 2. a boomer quirk, or 3. a vestige of the Christendom we are all trying to rebuild and restore. To summarize, the things you hear could be the sorts of things that older believers have always cautioned younger believers about, they could be things that are unique to the personality of those born after the Second World War, or they could be a broad cultural value that we have now lost, but which the boomer generation had some real experience with, or memory of.
Here would be a sample of each. The first would be “young men need to guard themselves against being impetuous and rash.” And example of the second would be “you guys just need to admit that our music was way better.” An example of the third would be that when someone is accused of a crime, we should withhold judgment until the evidence is produced and examined, and the ethnicity of the accused does not constitute part of that evidence.
The second category is easy enough to see. I am seventy now, and this means I have certain things in common with all seventy-year-olds throughout the ages. But I also have certain things in common with my particular age cohort, born into the same general circumstances that I was. This means that some of what I say is because I am older, and some of what I say is because I am a boomer. Now the fact that it is a boomer-sentiment doesn’t make it wrong—our music really could be better—but that should be evaluated with different criteria. The Bible does talk about about the one directly, and not about the second.
And if the counsel from an older Christian is sound, the first category, you should expect that the counsel will highlight certain things in the third category. And that third category contains a lot more wisdom that you might initially suspect. I think it can be agreed that in the last few years our culture has gone off a cliff edge, and this is one of the central reasons your generation is so disoriented and so disillusioned. And it also has to be acknowledged that it wasn’t your generation that was behind the steering wheel when all of that happened.
At the same time, my father was born when Calvin Coolidge was president, and your father was born when Jimmy Carter was. If part of our cultural dilemma is that we have forgotten who we are, and where we have come from, it is at least possible that I might have more of a recollection of what we are talking about, and what we need to recover.
Let me finish with an exhortation from Psalm 78, and then invite you to ask more specific questions, if you have them. I suspect you do.
Here it is. You are supposed to respect your elders, which is not the same thing as following them blindly.
“For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; Who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; A generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.”
Psalm 78:5–8 (KJV)
In this passage, listening to your fathers’ wisdom is one of the central ways to prevent becoming like your fathers in their folly. This obviously invites further questions, like “which fathers?” And my very favorite question, which would be “by what standard?” I hope to hear from you soon.
Cordially in Christ,
Comments are open. If you would like this to be a series, please suggest questions you would like Gavin to ask. And also, please, behave yourselves. That’s what Gavin would want.