To be a traditional Christian is difficult; to be a young Anglican in the 21st century is getting scary. I’ve been asked what it feels like but it’s difficult to describe, so I’ll use some illustrations to see if you get what I mean.
In a Communications Ethics class, my professor once asked a student what she would do if she were a magazine editor whose staff writer accidentally published a falsehood about a celebrity, ruining that individual’s life. Out loud, in mixed company, without a hint of irony, she said: “Well, I’ll still be making money, so who cares?”
You could’ve heard a pin drop. The professor picked his jaw up off the ground and rephrased the question several times, but there could be no doubt. This student had no apparent empathy or moral code, and she was comfortable admitting to it.
Most of us students were shocked too, but I was the only one to respond (in an ethics class) with an appeal to honor, duty and integrity. A lot of people flinched when I said those words aloud.
Some shot me dirty looks for using those mean, judgy old words, even though I wasn’t talking to them. Most rolled their eyes because the “overly-involved” smart guy who cared too much had started yet another argument in class.
Just to be clear, it wasn’t worth bothering.
I’ve told this story to quite a few people. Every last one of them tells me not to worry about it, or that I take things too seriously, or that I’m exaggerating. Everyone else is wrong and I am right.
There is nothing new under the sun, sure, but as a researcher I’m going to tell you something right now: There have been few times in history when people could talk that way in public. Some have lacked conscience in every generation, but the can only get away with saying it aloud in times of total social breakdown.
It’s official. Some of my peers are so amoral, it’s scary. I think it’s usually irresponsible to use psychological terminology outside of its academic sense, but there’s not other word. It feels like a decent chunk of the people I grew up with are functionally antisocial. I know that’s too harsh, and they have problems too, and there’s redemption for everyone, but even so.
People like this could be my boss when most of you are dead. I may deal with them alone if we don’t get serious. And remember, I’ve spent weeks arguing that we have the tools to make this change in an instant.
Even some of my peers are starting to get uncomfortable with the consequences of this sort of relativism, although they need our guidance to see what went wrong. Without us, they will put off worrying about it until they’re fiftysomething PR pros who burst into tears in public all the time because they never focused on what really matters, and it’s too late to start.
As for me, I still believe that I have a duty to God and my neighbor. I want to live in and contribute to a community of people who care about (or at least recognize) one another, and worship God with at least a few of them. I don’t live by my standards perfectly, but I know what they are. Nobody speaks that language anymore.
When I interview for a job and tell hiring staff about what “makes me tick,” they don’t understand what I’m talking about. They hire people who want to find themselves or something, because that makes it easier to bounce them from city to city for work until they can never settle down. Since I don’t fit that corporate culture, they ignore me.
Thus, the people who are shaping the world get jobs because they believe in and care about nothing, or because they learned to talk the talk. They gentrified me out of my home. They’ve been making it hard for me to get more than part-time work. They can steal everything from me. If your kids and I don’t accept their lifestyle to a greater or lesser extent, we can’t get real jobs.
Do you hear me?
It is completely isolating to be an Anglican on top of it, and I still sometimes wonder why I even bother. None of my elders have any idea how to respond when I tell them what it’s like for me, so they say, It’s alright. We’re all going to be gone by the time those secular progressives run things. Hell with ’em. Then they remember who they’re talking to.
Until we get serious, nobody like me has a future. Everyone knows it; they just don’t want to say so. They prefer to tell me that I should stop worrying because it’s in God’s hands. That may be true, but that’s not why they say it.
I’m one of the only young Anglicans in my entire state. When I give in and tell unchurched loved ones that I’m an alien, they try to console me by telling me that religion makes me unhappy. I should “stop doing it” and “find my truth!” Then I feel guilty because they might not want to go to church with me anymore.
Being an Anglican Millennial feels like drowning in slow motion. My despair is so total that I started a blog over it.
- We spend four or more years learning how to fit in, so we forget how to behave. Some people spend years screwing around, then have difficulty getting a job because they no longer remember how to follow basic standards of behavior. I didn’t even party, and I feel that way. There was nobody to practice with. Some discover that even though they don’t party anymore, they can’t stop abusing substances.
- Most thought that those things happen to other people, not them.
- We overachieve, and forget how to be human. Meritocracy is a swear-word to me. It’s the reason so many students postpone life to get an advanced degree, move for work, and finally figure out that the anxiety disorder, the loneliness, and the advanced diploma weren’t worth their soul. But unless we go all the way, we’ll never get full-time jobs with benefits.
- We spend all that time with people who believe the following: You do you! As long as it doesn’t hurt someone, find your truth and trust your struggle. You can be whatever you want, and nobody can judge you. Then we wonder – we wonder! – why people ghost their dates, treat each other like objects, and wouldn’t know how to change even if they wanted to.
- Whether we got out of college spiritually intact or not, we start applying for jobs, paying bills, “adulting” and think, Wow. I don’t know how to do anything anymore. I’ve forgotten half the life skills I learned in the first place.