Friday, September 10, 2010

Quakers and the age wars

Micah Bales posted a blog at which made good points about the way Quakers (and other denominations) need to change to be relevant and attract membership. Like him, I agree that Quakerism needs to become less institutionally bound and more open to community (more missional) and transformational in order to attract new members. I too deplore that lack of younger Friends. However, I also regret the lack of Friends my age (late Boomers) and the lack of early Boomers and the lack of older-than-Boomer people who are alienated from Quakerism and other faith institutions for the same reasons as younger people.

Below is the comment I posted at Micah's blogsite, cleaned up but not polished, so I hope you will respond to raw thoughts. I also want to say that my comments in response to your comments keep disappearing into the ether, but I will continue to try to respond.


I enjoyed and resonated with your post, which was thoughtful and held insights. We do need change, but perhaps need changed hearts, not changed generations.

Although I am statistically a late Boomer, like many of my cohort, I think like an emergent (in fact, the emerging church movement was started by disaffected Boomers), so I don't believe that a generational explanation is the best explanation for the lack of change, growth and vitality you see. It may be more that the people who seek--and hence get--fixed, institutional power with strong boundaries and privileges have a certain mindset that is identified as "WWII" and "Boomer" because these are the people who happen to have by this time worked themselves into the institutional power positions. In other words, certain ways of thinking aren't necessarily distinct to certain generations as much as they are distinct to certain people within generations.

Unfortunately, our society works to divide people along lines of color, ethnicity, political affiliation, etc., and age is another way increasingly used to pit people against one another, especially now that we have largely arbitrary labels for different age groups. Does someone born in 1963 (a "Boomer") has more in common with someone born in 1946 than someone born in 1969? I believe we need to be careful about not fostering divisions. I have noticed in my life that in any time period I have studied or lived through, the same attitudes crop up again and again. Dorothy Day, eg, who was born in 1897, in the 1930s held much the same attitudes as many Generation Yers do now. Luckily for her, the dark powers and marketing forces had not yet stamped a label on people born between say, 1888 and 1902 that marked them as different from anyone else. She was able to gather around her like minded people of all ages. And so must we.

I believe we are increasingly sliced and diced into generational groupings by powers that would like to pit us against one another. "Boomers" are pitted--unnecessarily-- against the generations that follow when it comes to programs like Social Security, as if we are not all in this together. Divided we fall. I believe the powers of darkness would love an intergenerational war between Quakers that would divert us from the larger and more important concerns of loving God and neighbor with all our hearts, minds and souls.


Hystery said...

"I believe the powers of darkness would love an intergenerational war between Quakers that would divert us from the larger and more important concerns of loving God and neighbor with all our hearts, minds and souls."

I thank you for this line. I am in love with the Baby Boomer generation who happen to be the generation that raised and educated me. I also thank them for the incredible work they accomplished for social justice, work in which my particular beloved Boomers continue to this day. I also feel occasional resentment toward this ginormous generation from my position in one of the demographically puniest generations sandwiched between Boomers and Millennials.

The occasional resentment I feel as one who feels that she has limited career opportunities and who resents the state of the environment cannot bring herself to resent the generation who taught her to be an activist. As a Friend, I am being actively and lovingly supported and encouraged by Baby Boomers who listen to me, provide me with resources, and encourage my ministry. I find that these are NOT people who are busy, busy, busy with organizational activity for its own sake. As you say, my study of the history of social and religious movements indicates that each generation has its own "system people" who horde and guard power and each generation has those, often marginalized and forgotten, who serve the Light and their fellows rather than themselves.

Diane said...

Hi Hystery,

I hope this comment will go through--I keep losing them. I, in turn, thank you for your comment.

I agree that we need to go doing what we are doing. Some of us are called to be the big gun, organizational people and some to quietly do our thing.