Friday, July 22, 2011


Age segregation

MAtthew Shaffer writes of age segregation @ NRO:
Church attendance has collapsed among youths and urban dwellers, so giving urban-dwelling youth special attention makes sense; congregants are interested in coreligionist marriageables, and the church has a clear interest in their meeting. It is unsurprising that young-adult services are an accelerating trend, in Protestant and Catholic churches alike.


Critics worry that a church trying to be hip is self-defeating — in being too accommodating of its parishioners’ wants, it softens its majesty. But the more important loss is much less abstract: old people. They are, by the nature of the service, missing, in a way that is peculiarly noticeable and sad because church might otherwise, did it not balkanize its generations, be the only place unrelated youths and geriatrics communed.

America today is startlingly segregated by age relative to historical norms, a change that is as lamentable as it is unremarked upon. Alarms have not been sounded — partly because we have chosen this separation, partly because it is unnoticeable in its progress, partly because its harms are not concrete or statistically measurable. They fall on our patience, our humility, our relationship to history, our gratitude, our preparation for death, in short our wisdom — things that are hard to put before Congress or in a think-tank finding.


How can this bad (separateness) come of this good (freedom)? The best allegory for this, the dilemma of modernization, is C. S. Lewis’s imagining of Hell, The Great Divorce (the title implying that it is a response to Blake’s Marriage). Lewis envisioned that the damned suffer not a fire, or any physical torment or confinement, but absolute dominion and inalienable rights: the liberty to roam an infinite and borderless land, and to freely and instantaneously build castles wherever they like.

Lewis’s damned enjoy this freedom by abandoning locations and acquaintances the moment they become inconvenient. The awkwardness of an exchange with a neighbor we think has slighted us can, in Lewis’s Hell, be evaded by simply moving away. So after a few years’ stay in Hell, each of the damned is thousands of miles away from any other, pacing solitarily in his castle.
He goes on to chronicle a number of reasons for this trend, and then comes this goody:
Facebook appears to have been modeled on C. S. Lewis’s Hell. It is the acme of modernized society, allowing us unrestrained control over our relationships — we literally choose the face that others see, and can start or end a friendship by tapping a finger. These friendships never become inconvenient, because no obligation can impose itself through the digital medium. The irony of Facebook, and of modernity’s expansion of social autonomy generally, is that total, unlimited cosmopolitanism in the end produces more parochialism, homogenization, and even chauvinism than geographical confinement does: I can now commune with people all over the world of all nationalities and tongues and races who are just like me. As human interactions become less contingent on geography, and more on the preferences of digital cosmopolites, communities became more horizontal — incorporating similar kinds of people across broad territories — and less vertical.
Shaffer goes on to try and come up with a few ways to fix this problem, but he does not mention one that I think is vitally important.
Prov 19:26-27 - He who assaults his father and drives his mother away is a shameful and disgraceful son. Cease listening, my son, to discipline, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

Prov 23:22-23 - Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding.

Prov 30:17 - The eye that mocks a father, and scorns a mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it.
The wisdom literature is full of admonishment to listen to our elders for they have wisdom. Which leads me to the one thing Mr. Shaffer forgot.

The church should be come intentional about mixing the generations. We are told to by God, we hold the scripture that tells us to. We of all the institutions in society have the values and means to counter this force.

Nothing will kill our church or our society faster than a lack of maturity and how can their be maturity without old people?

Closing Note: It is shameful how little discussion of this important article I have seen in the Godblogosphere....

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