Fill in the following blanks however you see fit:
____________ people are lazy.
____________ people are self-centered.
____________ people are shallow.
____________ people are unemployed moochers.
____________ people live with their parents way after they become adults.
How did you fill in those blanks? Did you answer Black, White, Asian, or Hispanic for any? What about Rich, Poor, Old, Middle-Aged, Fat, Skinny, Disabled, Male, Female, Gay, Straight, Republican, Democrat, Country, City, Suburban, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Agnostic, Single, Married, or Foreign?
No? Of course not. Because, clearly, that would be bigotry.
Making harsh or derogatory comments about a person or group of people—simply because of the time, place, family, or culture they were born into—is wrong. It’s harmful. It’s inhospitable. And it’s ignorant.
I thought we knew this by now.
And yet, this article still made the cover of this week’s Time magazine.
To be fair, this article is not entirely negative in its portrayal of millennials; Stein eventually has some nicer things to say about 15-35 year olds in the final pages. He also cites stats and studies to back up his criticisms—this isn’t just one guy ranting about “kids these days” with no research to back up his observations.
But data and compliments don’t undo the damage done by bigoted language. If I said, “But polls show that old people really are more racist!” or “Asians may be bad drivers, but they’re great at math!”, I’d still deserve a slap in the face.
So why would someone think it’s ok to label an entire people group as lazy narcissists entirely based on their date of birth? At the risk of sounding defensive, that sure seems like hate speech disguised as sociology/journalism.
I don’t want to single out Stein’s article though. The fact that this article could be published by a magazine as prominent as Time points to the wider reality that denigrating the young is still somewhat acceptable. Time’s cover story is only the latest in a long line of similar articles.
This bothers me. And not just because they’re talkin’ ‘bout my generation (although, I do feel the need to ask: does any generation really have the monopoly on narcissism?).
The real reason I’m concerned enough to write a response is because so much of my job and calling centers on developing intergenerational friendships between millennials and older adults. A generation isolated from all others is likely to lose its way, to forget why we’re here in the first place. In short, my generation needs older people to welcome us into adulthood.
But when our parents and grandparents are taught to despise, pity, or fear us, they’re less likely to welcome us as individuals created in the image of God. That’s what ageism (and racism, sexism, and all those other isms) does—it covers up the image of God with hurtful stereotypes, replacing people with caricatures.
This is why I’ll be using my blog over the next few weeks to highlight stories of millennials who embody God’s hospitality. I hope that, by offering redemptive examples of young people exchanging selfishness for the welcome of God, I might add some more robust images of my generation. We’re broken, for sure—but we’re being transformed, just like everyone else.
I have a short list of people I’d like to feature in this upcoming series, but I need more suggestions. Do you know anyone under 35 who’s especially gifted at welcoming others in Jesus’ name? Mention them in the comments, and I’ll make sure to highlight them a future post!