Do We Have a Better Story?
I’ve been reflecting on those who are “.In Search of a Bettery Story” as Melissa Wiginton shared with us at the WTC Faculty Convocation at Howard, September 26. She focused on younger, “emerging adults” of the millenial generation, and the great paradox of their being on the one hand, resourceful “tinkerers” who can pastiche, rethink and reconfigure almost any framework of knowledge (or faith)… and on the other hand a virtually saturated generation who basically “flip through the channels” of life experience. Some Howard students took Ms. Wiginton on, stressing the innovation, creativity, and passion of this generation–with which she agreed, but she claimed they still seek “a better story” than what the world of immersions and experiences is offering. I think of the Wallstreet and DC Mall villages of protest that are arising–knowing quickly what to say “no” too, but still struggling to offer the world a clear and positive challenge.
There have been days when the Christian churches have saddled up to the young, being energized by their commitment to world missions (in 19th century), or their marches against war and for civil rights (20th century). Perhaps supportive adults hoped the churches themselves would catch the fire of their visions for faith, peace, and human dignity. As one who grew up at the tail end of the activist days, I was encouraged by Robert McAfee Brown and others toward passionate social engagement, but without being invited to ground myself in a living and reforming tradition, from which to stand with and for others. Perhaps standing for or against aspects of the world requires a deep sense of belonging to a spiritual house that will not easily be shaken by every world tremor, but is agile enough to move and adapt at the same time.
How then do theological schools, congregations, and spiritual institutes engage and entrust a younger generation to help ‘re-tradition’ the expressions of faith, as Diana Bass invites us to do? Can we offer a “Better Story” to youth than what the world is offering, while inviting young students and believers to help shape the next chapter? To do so would require profound ecumenical thinking and resourcefulness that authorizes a rising generation to think and pray in bold new ways.