Okay so, I know my last post was a list post. I’m not switching to solely list posts, I just found it to be a fun way to organize my thoughts, and it actually helped. I think it was one of my better posts in a while. I don’t know, maybe you disagree, but I figured it’s better for me to organize again in a way that makes sense to me. So here we go the ten reasons why I’m reclaiming the name Millennial.
1. Names are important!
Maybe you were forced to read Shakespeare, maybe you weren’t. Maybe you have done a lot of study on story, the bible, or ancient writings. Maybe you have read the book Freakonomics. If you have you know that names are important! In fact one of the most famous, and famously misquoted scenes in Shakespeare is a characters struggle with why names are important. Juliette struggles with Romeo’s name. After all he’s a Montague and no self respecting Capulet would be caught dead with one. The most misquoted part of that scene is “Wherefore art thou Romeo.” Which instead of the commonly misconceived meaning “Where” means “What or why”. Why are you a Monague? She struggles with the fact that his name divides them from being together, in fact the entire plot hinges on it.
In the Bible names are extraordinarily important. People throughout the Bible are named for the amazing works they are going to accomplish or an important thing that happened to them, except for the James’ whose names were changed for a king but that’s a different blog post for another day though I’m not discounting the name it still bears weight. In college I had to write a 20 page paper on the book of Ruth. One of my favorite parts of that paper was researching the names in the book. One of my favorites was Orpah changing her name to Naomi, going from bitter (or stiff neck) to pleasantness. There are many iterations of name changes and why it’s important. in the Bible. From Simon (God has heard) to Peter (Rock). Jacob (supplanter) to Israel (May God Prevail).
Even in modern story telling names are important. In the new star wars movie for example *******SPOILER ALERT****** (seriously how have you not seen it yet?) Kylo Ren, whose chosen new name I have yet to figure out (also one that I saw that I thought was kind of funny Ky from skywalker and lo from Solo) besides Ren being Ruler, forsakes his given name Ben Solo (bum bum buuuuuummmmm, seriously I gave the spoiler alert why did you read this?). This is essential to who he is. He forsakes Ben (son) or if his full name is Benjamin (son of justice), he forsake being a son and he forsakes justice. There are plenty of these peppered throughout modern stories like in the Matrix, Thomas Anderson (Twin Man, best superhero name ever!) Is the name given to his “digital” counterpart within the matrix. One of my favorite examples, Dolores Umbridge (Pain or sorrows) basically her name is pain so bad she’s named it twice, it’s no wonder she does what she does to the students at Hogwarts…
All this to say I wanted to take a name that held some importance. I chose to start the list with this because I wanted to convey the importance of this name in the next list sections. This name may have been one that has been placed upon us millennials, but it holds importance nonetheless.
2. The Dawning of the new Millennia
We are now firmly in the third millennium Anno Domini, year of our Lord or common era if you’d rather. Some important things happened around the turns of the millennia. In the first we had Jesus’ life and death, in the second we had the forming (as in giving form to) and structuring of our most dominant religions, and here in the third we have made information and learning more readily available for all humankind. That’s terribly important. We are named for the fact that we came of age at the dawning of the new millennium. I was the first graduating high school class of this new millennium, take that class of 2000 that’s right there was no year zero. We are the ones who are to shape the direction of this millennium. I know that’s a lot of pressure, but whether you want it or not it’s ours. We will be the ones who shape the future, good or bad. This is why I feel it’s so important for us Millennials to reclaim this name. They call us lazy, incapable moochers on society let’s prove them wrong. Our grandparents (or great grandparents depending on the timing of your birth since the term millennial has been blanketed over a few generations) were called the great generation maybe it’s time we take up that mantle and take responsibility for this new millennia. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Making a name great
Every great name has to start somewhere right? Whether you are a Catherine (pure) or a Miguel (Who is like God?) your name has an origin. You may have been named for an ancient saint or a saint a bit closer to home. But you are named for someone who made that name great. We have thought a lot about what we are going to be naming our child. He will be named for many many wonderful people who took their name and made it great. There’s Peter Capaldi (incredible actor and the most recent Doctor), Peter Parker (spider man), Saint Peter, but the biggest influence of them all was Peter Bishop (Fringe). Which, granted they are all characters who have not always made the best choices, but they all were solid and reliable in the end. They all embody the name Peter, and they make it great. That is what I want for my son. I want him to embody the name and make it great. His name will be Solid Joy, because he is that undeniably bright rainbow at the end of a long storm. He has already succeeded in that. We millennials didn’t choose our name, but we have the opportunity to make it great. We have the opportunity to turn what was meant to be a negative into a glorious positive. Those are some of the best stories aren’t they? The ones where something went horribly wrong, but in the end the protagonist redeems it all. You are not what people call you. You are not what is said of you. You are what you make of yourself. We millennials are what we make of ourselves. Let’s make ourselves incredible!
4. Rethinking Religion
Millennials, it has been said, are much more accepting of different faiths than any preceding generation. The only problem is they are largely giving up on organized religion, allegedly. There are many reasons for this in my studies. Not the least of which being that this age demographic throughout history has always had an odd relationship with the institutions of faith. Eighteen to thirty-ish has been a largely un-reached demographic within mainline denominations and faiths. It’s only when those thirty-ish-somethings start having children to they finally see value, again, in the institutions of faith. I could write another whole list post on why this is as well. Well they are all mostly unproven hypothesis’, but educated ones to say the least. One of the biggest ones in my mind though is one that I keep facing to this day.
I think this image encapsulates exactly what I mean by this. It was the very first image that came up when I did a google image search for “Youth Group”. Let’s deconstruct the image. It looks like a raucous good time. It looks like a bunch of people at a rave or something. A lot of people with their hands in the air like they just don’t care. OK, now what in this image says church? Go ahead take another look, I’ll wait…. You back? Did you find anything? Maybe a cross? A star of David? A crescent moon and star? No? What did you find? I couldn’t find anything in this that says church to me. In fact have any of you found an institution of faith that looks like this? Not discounting Mega-churches and all that they do, but since when has a church that actually did spiritual direction, education, and formation looked like this? Granted the early church worship services were basically dinner parties at peoples homes, I don’t think they ever looked like that. That’s the problem. We have made youth programs into fun raucous parties, and when those teens go off to adult they can’t find a church like that. They don’t really exist, at least in my experience. So there is this big disappointment and let down in college, and they end up leaving the church until they find value again for their own children. This is a cycle that I have so desperately fought to break in my career. It’s tough though to break people’s expectations.
It’s on millennials to shape the direction the institutions of faith are going in. I, personally, don’t think that we should go the direction of Sunday morning raves. But maybe I’m a bit old fashioned. I think it has a lot to do with rethinking what those institutions of faith are supposed to do, and how best to do it. I think it’s a bit of deconstruction and reconstruction. After all isn’t that what the people at the turn of the last millennia did? It’s a new millennia time for us to do our own formation and structuring. But we don’t have to reinvent the wheel as it were.
5. An age of Love
At the risk of sounding like a hippy, wouldn’t it be great if we learned to love each other? Again, millennials are seen to be the most accepting of all generations. I think there is a major hurdle facing millennials is that the preceding generations are teaching us division. Especially in this country, people are deeply divided on many issues. Which is alright in itself, but we have to allow people to hold their own opinions and love them anyway. This is one of the reasons why I fell in love with the Episcopal Church. I had been looking for a place where I could still worship with people even though we held different viewpoints, but we still came together as family around the Lord’s Table. I think this is what can make a society great. An ability to put aside differences and talk about how best to move forward as a whole. Isn’t that the vision our country’s forefathers had for us? Isn’t that what Democracy is meant to be? Let us Millennials be the generation that does that. Let’s come together. Let us not hate each other due to differences, but love each other and realize that only together do we have all the pieces of the puzzle to move forward. I believe that we can achieve that. That is another reason why I’m choosing to be called a millennial.
6. Millennial doesn’t have to apply to only one generation
The official term came about to describe “those who came of age at the turn of the millennia”. To which I say, “that’s incredibly vague!” Coming of age is a sort of nebulous term to me. Considering this whole concept of adolescence has thrown us off of things for over a century. We’ve prolonged the process of transition to adulthood well into the twenties, and sometimes even thirties. Here I am sitting here writing this thinking, “Yeah, I don’t feel like an adult.” I’m thirty-two. I don’t know that we have enough rites of passage as a society to help people feel like they have left behind childhood. Or maybe it’s alright that we haven’t completely transitioned out of childhood. Maybe it’s alright that we still hold on to that. Because as Madeleine L’Engle once said “The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” So in essence we all still have that child inside of us that gets giddy when watching the latest Star wars movie (Woot! two references to star wars down!). So essentially I’m saying you are a millennial if you want to be one. If you don’t that’s fine too. The reason why I say that is because some of the most inspirational and transformative moments I’ve had in my life were moments of inter-generational togetherness. Some of my favorites were talking theology with a deacon I served with, her husband, and my wife in the pub. We all learned and grew from these interactions. It wasn’t focused in a teacher/ student dynamic, it was a free flowing conversation on whatever came to mind. This, then, became the inspiration for one of my favorite ministries. I think this goes back to my previous point about overlooking the differences and just loving. So don’t worry too much about the name, but know that it holds importance and meaning.
7. It’s a challenge
There has been plenty of shade thrown the way of the Millennial. I’ve mentioned a lot of it here already. That’s just the tip of the iceberg as well. We have been called the unluckiest generation, and many other things that instill doubt and hatred of us. The funny thing is that I don’t take that too personally, because I know I, for one, am not like that. So I take it as a challenge to prove the powers that be wrong. I don’t know why I do this. Every time I have been called something in my life or challenged on something I have always tried to set out to prove that person or thing wrong. Often I come up short, or I’m the one who changes in the process; but my point is that we should see this as a challenge to be better.
As I’ve already, and will in the next points, laid out some of the goals for us we need to change some things. Yes, change is hard. But nothing in life worth having is ever easy. Those who tell you that they are easy, I think, don’t truly appreciate what you have. Remember how I said the best stories are those where something is redeemed. It’s through hard work and dedication to something that redemption is achieved. I enjoy a challenge, because I know that something will be gained through the process. Win or lose you are changed by the process of the challenge. That’s why you take it on. You will be changed by the process. Hopefully for the better, but it’s not often that rising to the occasion has made someone a worse person.
8. It just sounds cool
This is probably my least significant point, but seriously say it.
Millennial… Millennial… Just sounds cool doesn’t it?
9. It’ll strike fear into the hearts of your enemies
Okay, so I know these last two sound like I’m kind of stretching for extra points, and on some level I am. I challenged myself to 10 points after all. But if you have a name that sounds cool, and has had negative pr surrounding it don’t you think it would be a bit intimidating, for others, if you chose it for yourself? Sometimes intimidation can get some people to listen to you, granted it’s not the best method to do so, but it can get the job done.
10. We are here
George Mallory was asked in an interview why he wanted to climb mount Everest. His response has been famously re-quoted ad-nauseum. He said “Because it’s there”. Honestly, it is simultaneously apathetic and inspirational. On one hand it’s basically saying, cause I wanted to. On the other it’s saying, why the hell not? We the millennials are here. We’ve been named, so why the hell don’t we reclaim that name? We are much more than Buzzfeed articles or test results. We are much more than youtube and netflix. As Father Richard Rohr said,
Grace and mercy teach us that we are all much larger than the good or bad stories we tell about ourselves or about one another. Please don’t get caught in your small stories; they are usually less than half true, and therefore not really ‘true’ at all.
Don’t let the bad stories define us. Make our story the best the world has ever heard. May it be said of the Millennials, not that we were the unlucky and lazy ones, but that we met our struggles head on and overcame. That we changed the world and shaped the millennium to come. We are here, whether we like it or not, so let us make the best of the time and stories that have been given to us. May we be remembered, and remembered for the good that we did. So come with me. Let’s climb this mountain of reclaiming this name together. Let us be the millennials they will speak of!