There may be some truth in millennial caricatures, but what if underlying causes make the caricatures as shallow and silly as the millennials being criticized?
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f you believe everything you read, the current generation of young adults are pretty much useless. The millennial generation comprises roughly those between 18-30 currently (Strauss and Howe stretch it to 10-32). Among evangelicals are those who never miss an opportunity to blame others for societies ills. Millennials have been in their sights as of late.
Oh wait. They are not leaving after all.
To read some you would think millennials are responsible for the downfall of morality in America, the reason gay marriage attitudes are changing, will not get a job, do not support Israel, and on and on. They are accused of accommodating a “false ‘gospel of nice’.”
In his otherwise helpful book, What’s Best Next, author Matt Perman casts this unneeded aspersion, “Many are still…trying to figure it out as they go. That can work, but it’s a tough road. Others are blowing it altogether. Too many Christians in their twenties are living in their parents’ basements playing video games.” Yeah, and too many authors are unnecessarily critical. Where’s the editor when needed?
As the father of three millennials the subject concerns me. Broad brushing is too easy, and too lazy. Rather like complaining that all these young seminary grads do is sit around all day talking soteriology, combing their beards, smoking cigars and drinking while their wives watch the kids and clean up. Anyone can play the game. Both sides lose.
Perhaps someone can point me to a sociology study on how world bending events like 9/11 and the global recession might play into millennial thinking and experiences. There may be some truth in millennial caricatures, but what if underlying causes make the caricatures as shallow and silly as the millennials being criticized?
Does it matter there are an estimated 290 million people ages 15-24 who are not employed or enrolled in an educational program? That these same millennials are the demographic three times as likely to be unemployed as adults, according to the International Labor Organization? That 40 percent of the world’s unemployed are under the age of 25?
To a fair number, it will not matter. It is easier to criticize than understand.
Chris Martin works with me. Not this Chris Martin; this Chris Martin. He’s a sharp strategist and leader who excels in most everything he does. He’s also a millennial. I asked Chris to address the seeming incessant barrage of criticism aimed at his generation.
“Boys who can shave.” It’s a phrase that is all the rage among some in the Reformed theological movement. Popularized by Seattle pastor, Mark Driscoll, the phrase describes a young man in his early 20s (around the age of a college graduate) who hasn’t reached a place of financial independence from his parents.
Too often, all of these young men—of whom I am one—are lumped together. Why is it assumed that if I live with my parents and enjoy video games that I am a boy who just can’t seem to grow up? What if I also have a job and $30,000 in student loans and can’t afford an apartment quite yet, or choose not to add the additional expense? None of that really seems to matter if I’m living with my parents or I like to play some Madden here and there.
This issue hits close to home with me. I graduated college in January of 2013 and have a number of friends who live with their parents. These friends of mine certainly are not bums.
One of my 24-year-old friends lives with his parents. He also likes to play video games. He does not have a girlfriend. But, he does have a full time job that aligns with his degree and a significant amount of student loan debt.
Is this guy a boy?
No! He’s a poor 20-something that needs a little bit of help from mom and dad until he can start making ends meet!
Why is this shameful?
Why do we open our gracious arms to liars and gossips but point our accusatory fingers at guys who need financial support from their parents?
The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, an organization with which I often agree, recently published a blog post. In it, the author, Jeff Medders, writes about men with what he terms, “Peter Pan Syndrome”:
They are men biologically but boys theologically and practically. They graduate from high school, kite around for a few years, wish they had a girlfriend, wish they had a job, wish they had a wife, wish they didn’t eat dinner with mommy every night—but do nothing about it.
He writes later:
Stop waiting for your dream job and learn to make a latte. Don’t let those britches that mama bought you get too big to flip burgers, collect shopping carts, sell shoes, or stack lumber while you are waiting for the job you really want.
Mr. Medders doesn’t get it. He tried to address the problem of a 20-something living with his parents by telling him to make a latte. If Mr. Medders thinks a barista is paying their own rent and utilities by making lattes, he’s going to the wrong coffee shops.
My friends in the Reformed community—a community built around the doctines of grace—are often the first to call out these “boys who can shave.” It seems as though grace can be shown to the chief of sinners but not the guy who “eats dinner with mommy.”
Are there a lot of men today who simply cannot seem to grow up? Sure. But this does not give those men who have it all figured out the right to make fun of them.
Making fun of men who live with their parents is no more mature than living with one’s parents.
We need a major tone-shift when it comes to addressing men who are not supporting themselves as early as they ought.
Real men love.
Stop calling out everyone who lives with their parents like they spend their days playing World of Warcraft and chugging Mountain Dew. A lot of them are legitimately working hard to make ends meet.
Independent, successful, older men need to stop picking on college graduates who live with their parents by calling them adolescents and “boys who can shave.” Why not start praying for them as brothers in Christ?
It’s about time older men stop demeaning these younger guys and start discipling them.
What if older men stopped making guys who lived with their parents the butt of our jokes and started making them the object of encouragement?
Real men who make fun of perceived under-achieving guys in the name of “maturity” don’t have the slightest clue of what maturity really is.
Real men don’t make fun of guys simply because they live with their parents.
Real men come alongside them and love them.
Get over yourselves and start loving these guys. That’s what real men do.
Millennials are not the devil. They are a generation little different than any before them. Perhaps a little less analysis and a little more encouragement are in order.