A recent survey found that fewer people use email now. The survey didn’t say, but presumably we use cell phones to text or leave messages more than we send emails.
How long has the general population used email? A little over a decade? And already it’s passé.
We ceased writing letters long ago. For some of us, letters seem on a par with medieval manuscripts. Now email is equated with the old snail mail, as texting takes over.
From both email and texts, we delete much of what we receive, and much of what we send to others is deleted. We live in a send/receive/delete world
We form and delete relationships as well. Americans have always been on the move, changing houses and jobs. Now we pass from one relationship to another with little thought.
Perhaps this generation should be called the Delete Generation.
Yet a yearning seeps from our millions of electronic words—for permanence, for “a city not made with hands.” We seek lasting community
“While many congregations modify their music, order of worship, and sermon topics in an attempt to make church ‘relevant’ for newer generations, I am more interested in figuring out how I fit into the rich and complicated tradition of Christianity than in asking how Christianity can be molded to meet my needs. My desire to receive Communion . . .wasn’t about the individual act of taking bread and wine. It was about a deep need to connect with God and others beyond myself.” (Anne Marie Roderick, from “‘Relevance’ Is Not Enough,” Soujourners, February, 2013, Anne Marie Roderick and Joshua Witchger)
Recent articles evidence a desire to return to the ancient rituals and disciplines of the Christian church. Perhaps the yearning stems from an age that has stressed individualism to the extreme. Self-discipline has appeared an anathema to this age, hardly mentioned in fact.
The lack of sexual discipline is often remarked on, but perhaps the increased numbers of obese Americans at the same time is not a coincidence. Both obesity and sexual license became part of the mainstream soon after the mall age began. Our culture of sex, food, and shopping slipped upon us hand in hand.
The antidote may lie less in condemnation of lust, gluttony, and greed as by a call, once again, to a disciplined life.
With that in mind, I am rereading Celebration of Discipline, by Richard J. Foster. Discipline is something to be celebrated. The world waits for it, Foster says.
So reads the book of Genesis. Some, pointing to resources strained by growing populations, would say we’ve already been fruitful enough. One woman apparently struck a chord when she said she’d considered and deliberately decided not to have children. Apparently, other women felt as though she’d helped them come out of the closet. They said her column liberated them to express their reasons for opting out of motherhood.
We line up on one side or the other, suggesting reasons for or against having children. It’s certainly possible to be fulfilled without motherhood—or fatherhood, for that matter.
The thought struck me from out of nowhere, however, that as I grow older and understand that I’m going to die—in the next hour, the next year, thirty years from now, whenever, that I’m glad I’ve left children for the world. It has nothing to do with support or companionship in declining years. It has to do with my children as gift, with the hope that they will become useful citizens and give something to the world that makes it a better place.
We leave legacies. The legacies may or may not pan out as we wish. Career goals may be met, met partially, or not at all. The point is that, if we reach mature understanding, we live not just for ourselves, who will pass away in a short time, but to serve the greater good.
Motherhood is a career with legacies also. Perhaps our hope in raising children is that they will continue to serve this greater good when we no longer can. We want them to bring love, joy, peace, and other such fruit to a dysfunctional world. Surely we would welcome this kind of fruit and hope that it might fill the earth.
“Belief as upbringing, belief as social fact, belief as a species of American weirdness: our literary fiction has all of these things. All that is missing is the believer.”
–Paul Elie, “Has Fiction Lost Its Faith,” The New York Times, December 23, 2012.
Mr. Elie has written such books as Reinventing Bach and The Life You Save May be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage . In its review of his writing on Bach, The Economist stated:”Mr Elie deploys considerable scholarship (the more notable since his previous book, about four modern American Catholics who made literature out of their search for God, had nothing to do with music), and he writes beautifully.”
Mr. Elie says in his article: “. . . if any patch of our culture can be said to be post-Christian, it is literature. Half a century after Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Reynolds Price and John Updike presented themselves as novelists with what O’Connor called ‘Christian convictions,’ their would-be successors are thin on the ground.”
So should this lack suggest despair?
“People of faith,” Elie states, “see decline and fall. Their detractors see a people threatening a rear-guard political action, or a people left behind.” Elie, however, seems excited by the new place Christian writers find themselves. “This development places the believer on a frontier again, at the beginning of a new adventure; . . . ”
We Christians, whether writers or not, can avoid acting as though our feelings are hurt because Christian culture no longer occupies the dominant position in our society. An old adage illustrates the times we live in: Some see crisis as danger; to others, it is an opportunity.
In celebration of 2013, I’ve picked ten of my blogs that I’ve chosen to define 2012.
Plus, I am giving away three copies of my latest book, A Sense of Mission. See details below.
The ten are:
Which blog do you like best? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your choice of the best blog and your reasons why.
After two weeks (January 16), I’ll enter all email addresses in a drawing. I’ll email the first three that I draw for an address to send a copy of my newest book, A Sense of Mission.
No names, addresses, or email addresses will be made public or used in any other way. I would like to use your thoughts only in future blogs.
George Weigel (author of The Cube and The Cathedral, which describes the death of Christianity in Europe) was interviewed for Response magazine several years ago: He stated: ” . . . by 2050, on present trends, 60 percent of Italians will not know from personal experience what a brother, a sister, an aunt, an uncle or a cousin is.” This is, Weigel says, what happens when parents mostly have only one child, and only children marry only children.
Even couples in countries with traditionally large families, like Mexico, are choosing to have smaller families. If present trends continue, cheap labor from these countries may be a thing of the past, for good or ill.
What is happening is not a dastardly plot to kill families but has developed gradually. Birth control, the economic necessity of a paid career for all adults, and education that delays marriage and family all contribute.
Parenthood is not suitable for every adult. It’s good that we have a choice. However, many couples want to have children, but economic needs and the demands of career discourage parenting.
We are told that several jobs over the lifetime of an individual is the new normal. Perhaps we should consider new patterns that include parenting as one of those jobs for those who desire it.