by James A. Wilson
We Baby Boomers are rapidly aging, preparing to pass out of American history. What is our legacy?
We have our accomplishments. In addition to helming the communications and information revolution – standing on the shoulders of parents and grandparents – we led the way to incredible medical breakthroughs from surgical techniques to dozens of available medical therapies using adult stem cells rather than the controversial – and so far useless – embryonic cells. We’ve overseen scientific breakthroughs from confirming God in Creation to the next generation of spaceflight. Our cultural achievements are greater than these.
We achieved racial reconciliation – despite the work still awaiting – through the crucible of war in Southeast Asia. The Jesus People – Boomers nearly all – gave us the short-term missions movement, with its emphasis on trusting local leaders to harvest where we may have planted and surely assisted. They gave us the modern addictions recovery movement and the re-animation of vigorous prophetic and healing – all kinds – ministries in our modern and mega skeptical world. We introduced a culture of people rather than product centrality into business and even political life, a grassroots democratic approach to society and culture. We have launched the beginning of resurrection in the arts that only God can actually author.
We also have much to repent, and that repentance remains in its cultural infancy. Although we invented neither the sexual revolution nor the abortion holocaust, we certainly embraced both with unprecedented zeal. We took drug and alcohol abuse to unprecedented levels and fled from commitments like marriage as an unbreakable and normative union between one man and one woman.
Yet our legacy – I believe – is not so much this or that thing we have done or failed to do. It is rather an approach to who we are and are to become.
In my novel, Generation, the teenaged protagonists come to see early on they cannot rely on what they have been taught or led to expect about the world they were born to inherit. Between the Civil Rights Revolution, war in Vietnam, and the cultural upheavals from social mores to Lyndon Johnson’s so-called Great Society there is no status quo to maintain – despite parental efforts to behave and expect behavior as though there was. These young people are as rebellious and self-centered as any, but they make a decision to seek what they call “the really real” – whatever that may be. Their quest takes them from the beaches of Malibu to the underground sub-culture of Hollywood, and from voting rights marches in Alabama to riots in Los Angeles over one rocket propelled summer. They deal with abusive parents, school administrators, the KKK, and a sudden death with a maturity too young to be achieved in anything but the crucible their lives have become. They find themselves addressing questions of faith – in disparate ways and directions – not because they possess or even desire it, but because of what one famous ancient described as a God-shaped hole in every human heart.
In the course of events they learn to value their quest for its own sake – letting the chips fall where they may – as heroes from the Knights of the Round Table to the Hobbits of Lord of the Rings have always done. Jesus and the disciples managed to turn a three-day walk from Galilee to Jerusalem into a three-year trek because they found such necessary value and significance in the journey itself.
These young people navigating a world turned upside down believe themselves capable of discovering truth and committed to questing for it. They find out – the hard way – that a real quest is equal parts self-funded and unexpectedly gift driven. They acquire the courage to take the risks that accompany the reality they are willing to seek at all costs at the same time they discover real compassion in themselves for those who do not necessarily merit it.
Perhaps most importantly, they learn through doing what they already know by instinct. There is intrinsic, implicit, and incalculable value in having our brothers’ backs. Those brothers are anyone needing a hand up. Such living saves lives; it also makes lives worth living.
As a writer and journey maker myself I would be trapped in my rose colored glasses if I imagine we all did what Jon and Lonnie, Travis and Blume, Leslie and Rindi and Suze and Calvin do in Generation. Yet an awful lot of us navigated the tumultuous sixties and seventies in just this way. This is our legacy and Generation is an attempt to begin to tell our story. Generation seeks to celebrate what we achieved and pass it on to what I call the Genesis Generation. I believe their destiny surpasses ours and their time is now.
James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, Kingdom in Pursuit, and his first novel, Generation – available at Bounty Books, or at firstname.lastname@example.org