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Friday, January 15, 2010


Jesus came to Earth with a futile task.

Wait just a second... let me back up. I'm reading a book called Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. It's a novel, I guess, but it really comes off as a series of loosely-related short stories rather than as a unified whole. The reason it's written that way is because the theme of the book is the isolation, aloneness, and helplessness that young people in their 20s and 30s were feeling in the late 80s/early 90s, when it seemed like Baby Boomers ruled the earth and would rule it until their children, the "X" generation, were too old to enjoy it. The term "Generation X" was invented for this book, but since it seemed to describe the group of young people which I belonged to so well, the term was subsequently adopted by other authors, the media, and the culture at large. A few weeks ago a Tulsa radio station converted over to a "Gen X" format, meaning that they are playing the hits of the 80s and 90s, catering to the generation that thought they would be forever invisible. It's incredible how short-sighted we are when we are young!

The music and the novel have got me thinking about how hopeless and impotent we, as a group, seemed to feel back then. The characters in the novel have isolated themselves from their families, from corporate life, from caring what happens to the world (actually they care very much, and think the world is headed for a bad and imminent end, but they don't think they can do anything about it), and moved to the desert to try to get their heads screwed on straight. I remember as a child watching The Cosby Show and thinking how cool it was that the Huxtables were such a close-knit family, and then a few years later watching Seinfeld and Friends and thinking how cool it would be to be on my own in the big city of New York, with nothing to tie me down, able to basically do whatever I wanted to do. That was a naïve illusion, of course; we all have responsibilities (for example, if you you enjoy such activities as eating and getting to sleep inside, you probably want to have a job!) but I think that kind of thinking drove much of my generation. We had spent our childhoods fairly convinced that someone somewhere (probably the Soviet Union) was going to push a button, probably a really big red one, and blow the whole world to pieces, and the last thing any of us was going to see was a mushroom cloud. After all those years of fear, no wonder we grew up slightly sullen as a culture.

Much of the music of the 90s has that same helpless, hopeless feel about it. There are the dance songs and the rock songs, but the big-party hair-bands were gone, replaced by the alternating sad groans and angry screams of bands like Nirvana and the plaintive melodies of groups like Blind Melon and Dave Matthews Band. I'm not sure if popular music reflects culture or if it influences it (probably a little of both), but I always find it interesting to look back and see how a decade seems to match perfectly with the prevailing music of the time. The let's-ignore-reality-and-party music of the 80s collapsed into the sullen, reality-sucks-and-we-don't-care-anymore music of the 90s, much as the optimistic hippie idealism of the music of the 60s had collapsed into a low, fluorescent corporate buzz of the music of the 70s two decades before.

I think that we-can't-do-anything-anyway apathy still prevails in my generation. I think the very positive rhetoric of the Obama Presidential campaign was successful in part because it managed to somehow shine a glimmer of hope into a group of people who had felt helpless and futile for a long time. And I think that without hope, we wither and die. I think the words "Yes we can!" were like a drink of cold water to those of us who are now moving out of our 30s and into our 40s.Can Barack Obama fix everything that is wrong with the world? Of COURSE not. Nobody can. Nobody will ever be able to fix everything. Show me the person who could have prevented the tragedy that is going on in Haiti right now... nobody could have stopped it. There will always be evil in the world. This is the thing that frightened, discouraged, and I think deep down, angered Generation X in our youth. We wanted to fix things, just like our parents had wanted to in the 60s... it's just that our parents thought they could do it with music, flowers, and tie-dye, but we thought that we couldn't do it at all. Both extremes are wide of the truth. Each person can do some good. I can't help everybody, but I can help somebody. And I should.

Back to Jesus. Like I said before, Jesus came to Earth with a futile task. The desire of God's heart is that everyone would come to repentance, but God also knows that many will choose to die in their sin. So Jesus came to Earth, in a sense, doomed to fall short of what God wished would happen. Now, Jesus succeeded fully in what He came to do Himself, which was to make Salvation available to all, but since the other part of the fulfillment of God's desire depends on our acceptance of His gift, that part can only succeed as each of us makes a decision to receive Salvation. Jesus' Salvation is only received by a portion of those He seeks to reach, and with our human limitations we can only help part of the people we might desire to help, but it didn't stop Jesus from doing what God had called Him to do, and it shouldn't stop us, either.

The word "Christ" is the English version of the Greek word pronounced "Christos" and spelled "Χριστός". Christos... with an X. Let's seek to have a heart like Christ... today let's be "Generation Xristos". The generation that seeks to do good, regardless of the impossibility of fixing everything. That's the "Gen X" I want to be a part of.

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