Probably if you’re from my generation and live in the States, you may wonder why there’d even be a need to write something like this. “Everybody knows what the Generation Gap is!”, you could say. But evidently many don’t.
I was in contact with a friend in her 40’s from east Europe a few days ago and was telling her about my experiences growing up and experiencing “the generation gap”. Her response was,
“What’s the generation gap? I’ve always had really good relations with my parents and grandparents. What’s a generation gap?”
Me, with my parents and grandparents.
That was really striking to me. It made me realize how in many ways her experiences and my experiences have not been the same. I told her that, in part, I’d been close to my relatives also growing up. I wrote a blog post “Texas People”, about my grandparents and the very good effect they had on my life as a child.
But I felt it would help her to have a better understanding of the world we live in today if I explained to her some about the way the Western World was in the times when I was growing up, a generation before her. My explanation may be too simplistic for some. But on the other hand, that’s what many people need in these times.
My parent’s generation was the ones who fought in World War II. My dad was a soldier in North Africa during that war. It’s considered in many ways to be the last “good war”. The Germans and the Japanese back then were trying to take over the world and to subjugate so many countries. For a while they were successful. But the other countries fought back, helped in a big way by the intervention of the USA.
Coming home from the war
So after World War II, Americans were feeling really good about themselves as they’d helped to defeat evil in many ways. All the American solders came back to the USA, got married and started settling down, having kids. They just wanted to finally enjoy the good life and be successful and fulfilled. Before World War II, back in the 1930’s, the world had experienced “The Great Depression” and things were really bad economically just everywhere. The Great Depression didn’t really end till World War II came along.
So during the late 1940’s, all through the 1950’s and into the early 1960’s, almost everyone in the USA and other parts of the western World were just wanting to be successful, prosper economically and to sort of bask in the afterglow of their finally having some stable times and prosperity after the great difficulties of the 1930’s and the victory of World War II.
When I was 4, a “Baby Boomer”
All this time their kids were growing up, people like me and millions of others. If you ever hear of the word “Baby Boomers”, this is the name that is given to my generation. It’s called that because when all the soldiers came back from World War II, they all got married and suddenly there was a big “boom” in the birth rate. There weren’t so many people born during the period of World War II. But for 10 of 15 years after the war, the birth rate really went up dramatically and it was called “the Baby Boom”. That’s what I’m a part of so my generation is called “Boomers”.
But here’s the problem. Those folks of my parents’ generation were basically satisfied and content to build up their material possessions and to get rich, if they could. Most didn’t realize that there were a whole lot of things that weren’t right in their society, like racism and segregation for one. Also, I’m sad to say, their Christianity was often shallow and formal. They had little interest or background in actual spiritual experiences or personal knowledge of the things of the Lord. Many were very religious, but it was often superficial.
All the while their kids, people like me, were coming to realize that things weren’t really the way they should be and not as nice as it seemed on the surface. So often their parents were not much involved in their kids’ lives but were into the country club, making more money, buying another big car or just other things than taking time with their kids.
Then in the late 60’s it was like “a perfect storm”. Very many things happened at nearly the same time. The assassination of John F. Kennedy was a serious shock to people around the world. The escalation of the Vietnam war meant that tens of thousands of people my age were being sent to far off southeast Asia to fight in a war that most people didn’t think should be happening. Huge racial riots were occuring all over America as the African Americans in the USA were demonstrating for basic human rights that they’d been denied as US citizens for centuries.
Also the youth culture at that time had begun to use drugs like marijuana and psychedelics in their search for deeper truths and alternative experiences. And the music of that time, with things like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan were bringing in a totally new and different kind of culture that was mostly totally opposed to the superficiality and materialism of the older generation.
So during that time the “generation gap” became apparent. Multitudes of young people ran away from home, sometimes with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, to hitchhike and travel around with other young people. It was the time of the hippies and the whole alternative lifestyle of the late 1960’s that grew tremendously back then.
I was totally in the middle of all that. There were large riots at universities across America against the Vietnam war. There were huge rock concerts like Woodstock. So many young people were looking for something more than materialism and the shallow secular values they’d been brought up with.
And it was during this time that what’s called “the Jesus Movement” happened. Hundreds of thousands of young people all over America and actually all over the world more or less spontaneously, individually ended up coming to the Lord in their desperate search for the truth. That’s exactly what happened to me.
It didn’t matter if they came from a Christian family or not. Many didn’t but still ended up finding that the God of Abraham was real and that Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t some weak, namby-pamby religious figure that rich white people worshiped but that He was exactly who He said He was. He was still alive and well, able to answer prayers and lead our lives in a new direction.
So that in a nutshell is what is meant by “the generation gap”. I was thinking of adding a song here from the Beatles, perhaps the most famous music group of that time. It’s a song where two parents are talking about how their teenage daughter has just run away from home. The lyrics are so significant, here they are:
“She’s Leaving Home”
[This is the part about the young girl running away from home]
Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins
Silently closing her bedroom door
Leaving the note that she hoped would say more
She goes down the stairs to the kitchen clutching her handkerchief
Quietly turning the backdoor key
Stepping outside she is free.
[This is the words of her parents, talking about how she’s run away after, so they thought, they’d done so much for her.]
She (We gave her most of our lives)
is leaving (Sacrificed most of our lives)
home (We gave her everything money could buy)
She’s leaving home after living alone
For so many years.
Father snores as his wife gets into her dressing gown
Picks up the letter that’s lying there
Standing alone at the top of the stairs
She breaks down and cries to her husband “Daddy, our baby’s gone.”
“Why would she treat us so thoughtlessly?”
“How could she do this to me?”
She (We never thought of ourselves)
is leaving (Never a thought for ourselves)
home (We struggled hard all our lives to get by)
She’s leaving home after living alone
For so many years.
Friday morning at nine o’clock she is far away
Waiting to keep the appointment she made
Meeting a man from the motor trade.
She (“What did we do that was wrong?”)
is having (“We didn’t know it was wrong?”)
fun (Fun is the one thing that money can’t buy)
Something inside that was always denied
For so many years.
She’s leaving home. Bye, bye
And here’s where you can hear that song on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=docIZINYZR0
I felt it would help my friend in east Europe to understand the world as it is now if she understood this series of events that happened in the western world in the generation before hers. This mostly didn’t happen in her part of the world. People who were living “behind the Iron Curtain” had a totally different experience and a totally different set of problems to deal with. I told her that it’s wonderful how she’s always felt close to her parents and grandparents. It just shows that material wealth and “serving Mammon” (Matthew 6:24), that’s been so prevalent here in the West, are not really the true riches that are most important.
So often in history God has had His times when a whole generation or nation almost suddenly swings toward Him in desperation and searching. Strangely, it even says in the Bible “God is in the generation of the righteous” (Psalms 14:5). And then Jesus called those of His times “you generation of vipers” (Matthew 23:33). Does that mean that some generations are good and some are bad? Everyone in one generation is good and everyone in another generation is bad? Of course not. But there do seem to be times in history when there have been great reapings, great harvests, great revivals that somehow find more fertile ground in one generation or time in history than in others.
It happened in my youth. It happened in the aftermath of the collapse of Communism in the 90’s. And it’s happening even now in some parts of the world. As Paul said on his missionary journeys, “God doesn’t leave Himself without a witness“. (Acts 14:17) There’s always been, and always will be, a sowing and a reaping going on somewhere.