The frustrations of the Gen Z
In 1905, G.K. Chesterton wrote a letter to the Daily News. In it, he pointed out the central thing wrong with our lives.
The answer to the question “What is Wrong?” is, or should be, “I am wrong.” Until a man can give that answer, his idealism is only a hobby.
I have often suspected that if we could just grasp that one thing - really know it - then perhaps we would finally be able to do something truly useful with our lives.
There's a popular intramural sport among Evangelicals these days. It involves publishing articles and making speeches decrying the hypocrisies and judgementalism of other Evangelicals. Few of the participants seem to recognize the irony inherent in such an endeavor.
One of the more recent contributions to this sport is a piece published in The Gospel Coalition by one Mr. Jacob Murrie, a student at Wheaton College.
Mr. Murrie concerns himself with the frustrations of Gen Z christians like himself. And in the nature of the sport, it won't surprise the reader to learn that all of the frustrations of Gen Z Christians turn out to be due to...the failures of others.
Mr. Murrie presents a list of 5.
1) "Older believers" have applied themselves to supporting those matters of public policy and governance which they believe are more consistent with a biblical worldview than others. But Gen Z Christians, we are assured, are more "reasonable" and "biblical" than that. They hold themselves aloof from the tawdriness of any particular political associations by not aligning themselves with any political party in these matters.
2) "Many in the Gen Z" have seen apologetics "weaponized" against unbelievers. Murrie throws his own Christian high school under the bus in this regard, at least where his own preparation was concerned. Precisely how many Gen Z christians have seen apologetics "weaponized", Mr. Murrie doesn't say. Suffice to say, however, that the failure which frustrates Gen Z in this regard is the failure of others.
3) Mr Murrie's generation is, he says,"hyper-sensitive to hypocrisy, and "we saw it all around us." Notably, he does not say "we see it all among us". He is frustrated, again, by the failures of others. And more than that, Gen Z Christians, he says, at last represent a generation of believers which recognizes that "living faithfully requires applying Scripture consistently". What they lack in self-awareness they apparently make up for in self-regard.
4) Gen Z Christians are frustrated that they have inherited the reputation of their evangelical predecessors for being judgmental, "but my generation’s hope is that a reputation of radical, Christlike love would also define our faith and attract unbelievers—as it did in the early centuries of Christianity in the Roman Empire." They hope to set things aright after an apparent generation or more of neglecting Christlike love.
5) The parents of the Gen Z Christians are intellectually lazy to an unusual degree, according to Mr. Murrie. They are disinclined to listen to "expert advice". And some of them, at least, show a propensity for trafficking in what Mr. Murrie calls "conspiracy theories" on social media. I'm not sure which ignored expert advice is the source of Mr. Murrie's frustrations, or regarding what subject. His comments are ambiguous on this point. He casts vague aspersions on what he perceives as a disinclination of some prior generations to kowtow to people with advanced degrees. Mr. Murrie is evidently frustrated by his forbears' general lack of enthusiasm for academic credentialism.
I was reminded, while reading Mr. Murrie's remarks, that there is nothing more congenial than a sense of one's own moral superiority. Casting our gaze outward to identify the perceived failures of others is far more pleasant than coming to grips with the failures in ourselves. Unfortunately, though, ever moving toward maturity requires coming to the unhappy realization that the biggest obstacle to living a less frustrated life is not out there somewhere in others, but inside ourselves.
Mr. Murrie's generation, like every generation before it, is going to have ample opportunity to make its own difficult decisions and to decipher complex issues, all while in possession of imperfect understanding. As the apostle Paul pointed out, "we see through a glass, darkly". Hopefully Mr. Murrie will try do his best as have, I suspect, those who came before him.
Perhaps somewhere along the way, Mr Murrie will come to realize that being frustrated with others never ends up being the bed of roses that it started out to be. Maybe he will even rediscover graciousness to go along with the biblical consistency he finds so abundant among Gen Z. He will probably find that his frustrations start to recede just as soon as he can conjure up a little of that "radical Christlike love" he talked about. Especially if he can find a way to direct it toward the very ones he thinks are the sources of his frustration.