By Jeremy Dys
Brett McCracken has written a brilliant article in response to a bad article. Ok, maybe brilliant overstates it, but it is nevertheless worthwhile and timely. Here’s the payoff paragraph from McCracken:
Millennials: why don’t we take our pastors, parents, and older Christian brothers and sisters out to coffee and listen to them? Perhaps instead of perpetuating our sense of entitlement and Twitter/blog/Instagram-fueled obsession with hearing ourselves speak, we could just shut up for a minute and listen to the wisdom of those who have gone before?”
Bravo. McCracken’s rebuke is a good corrective to the church at large today. It is a good reminder that we are to be driven by the unchanging Truth of the Gospel, not by the whim and fancy of every age, and certainly not by the immature whose self-assessed wisdom exceeds their years.
Interestingly, what is a good message for the Church is also a good message for Christians engaging culture. The author to whom McCracken was responding is equal parts progressive “Christian” and progressive political ideologue. Have you ever noticed that the two often go hand-in-hand? That’s likely because one’s political ideology stems from one’s worldview. Skew the worldview and you remove the foundation for the whole of life.
So, let me take up where McCracken left off: at the backdoor of the church. Hey, Millenials: you don’t have politics figured out either.
It’s been the better part of a decade in which I have worked “in the movement,” that is, wherein I have been a Christian working in the political realm with hope that the Christian worldview would influence the laws under which we consent to be governed. For that entire time, there has been a massive amount of discussions within the movement about the need “to engage the younger generation.” And, I mean everybody – me included!
Now, this is part of what happens occasionally. When a politician cannot play to one demographic, he determines to whom he can play and focuses his attention there. Most recent memory shows Barack Obama using that tactic to perfection in the 2008 election (and again in 2012). He had no chance – none – with the aging and conservative population, so he went after the newest class of voters: the 18-25 crowd. But other politicians have done the same thing and will do so again.
Even in all these discussions, and as I watched many of my generational colleagues be swept up in the – I have to say it – unthinking emotion of recent political dialog, something has really nagged at me. I always come back to the face of Col. Warren Schilling. Schilling was a veteran of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. He ended his career as a personal aid to Gen. Omar Bradley. I knew him at church growing up. And, as a kid fascinated by battles and armies, I was enamored with Col. Schilling. He was the stuff of movies. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and helped build the Remagan Bridge. He had seen combat in major theaters and on several different continents. He was as tough as nails and had stories that makes Band of Brothers seem docile.
Schilling died several years ago, but he would have been the first to tell you that, when he went into the army, he was a rough and tumble, drink ’em, smoke ’em, bar fighting kind of guy. In my little boy eyes, he was larger than life. After you got to know him, he was even larger. Schilling literally had a battlefield conversion. In the chest pockets of his BDU’s, he carried a pack of smokes one one side and the standard issue Gideon New Testament on the other. In a truly John Wayne moment, he was hit smack in the chest – right square in the chest pocket where the New Testament absorbed the deadly hit.
From that moment on, Schilling ditched the pack of smokes (and probably doubled up the New Testaments), sought out a chaplain, and fled to Christ. When he was not in active service, he was still in the bars by the bases, but rather than the double-fisted drinker that he was, this battle-hardened man now clutched others with the life-changing, life-saving message of the Gospel.
I’ll forever remember Schilling who, every year, managed still to fit into his dress uniform on the 4th of July, standing proudly at attention as the church choir sung, “. . . and those caissons go rolling along . . .” He led the local parade on his bicycle, riding handsfree – in his upper 80’s – with two small American flags in both hands.
If ever there was a man’s man, it was Col. Schilling. But, this man set aside his self-focus on a battlefield somewhere and only then truly grew up. To me, he left the indelible imprint of what it truly meant to be a man – and it wasn’t the guts and glory meaning one might assume. It was the “all for Jesus” mentality by which he lived daily.
You see, Schilling thought he had it all figured out early in life. He advanced in the ranks because he was a good – very good – soldier. He lived in the moment – he was vintage YOLO! But, his life was ultimately defined by his worldview, not his heroics.
My Millenial friend, when was the last time you sat and listened to men (or women) like Warren Schilling? And, I mean truly listened without figuring out how you could work in a story from your life to show you can relate (thereby demonstrating your arrogant humility). There aren’t many of the greatest generation left, but those who are our elders deserve our ears. Many would look at Col. Schilling, as I knew him, as an eccentric old man that wore a funny straw hat and rode the streets of my neighborhood on his bicycle each day, swinging his arms as he rode, and miss the wealth of experience I gleaned from hours of listening to him and observing his life.
He had seen evil in the face of the Nazis of WWII and knew of what to warn me. He had served side-by-side one of the greatest military leaders of the 20th century, but was quick to remind me of the greatest Leader of any century. He had served under numerous Commanders-in-Chief, had lost friends on the battlefield, and made more than his fair share of mistakes.
I learned early that Col. Schilling could teach me something. Like the problem McCracken addresses of churches catering to the “needs” of Millenials, we have a problem in this country of Millenials insisting that their “needs” be catered to politically. Rather than listen to the Schillings of past generations – men and women who grew up through recessions and depressions and worlds at war, we ascribe to them the tittle, “sweet old man” and dismiss their opinions as quickly as we dismiss Ozzie and Harriett. We claim the title, “progressive,” sweetly dismissing all other political thought and experience as, “regressive.”
Our parents and grandparents were not perfect (and neither was Col. Schilling), but they provide to us a lifetime of the wisdom of experience. If ever we wonder why statistics continually tell us that we tend to become more politically conservative as we age, perhaps there’s a reason for that. The wise youth will take note before living the life a fool.
Our forebears have lived through, and addressed, issues of economic downturn and problems of social import. They have considered the role of sexuality in public policy and pondered the importance of religious freedom. Theirs is a generation filled with women who once advocated for abortion on demand, at any time, for any reason, but are now haunted by political sins that have led so many to death and damage. They have lived what many now debate in coffee shops and craft breweries.
Have we asked for their input? Or do we reject their opinions before even considering them simply because such opinions are held by those who appear physically weakened, with minds seemingly clouded, by age.
Before you scribble, “Keep your rosaries out of my ovaries” or “Jesus had two dads and turned out fine” on your protest sign or slap that dumb “coexist” bumper sticker on your Prius, why not talk to your grandmother about why her wedding dress was so modest. Why not talk to your grandfather about how he won the heart of your grandmother. Why not ask your parents how their political views have shifted over the years? And then compare those words with the worldview of that church some folks think is “uncool.”
Proverbs 16:31 reminds us, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” In our culture that esteems, if not worships, youth, let us not insist that we young bucks be catered to for our self-proclaimed ability to be politically wiser than previous generations. Rather, let us look to those who bear a “crown of glory” in their silver years. And take our cues from them – not because they are inherently wise, but because many of them have gained the experience of a righteous life
And we have not.
Jeremy Dys is President and General Counsel of The Family Policy Counsel of West Virginia. In addition to his duties of providing strategic vision and leadership to the FPCWV, Dys is the chief lobbyist and spokesman. Dys is regularly featured in local, state, and national print, radio, and television outlets. He lives close to Charleston with his wife and growing family. He is a lead blogger at EngageFamilyMinute.com and host of Engaging the Issues.
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