Is It On The Test? (Early Version)

Originally published in April 1993

“It’s not that you (Baby Boomers) didn’t love us; you loved us so much you pushed us to follow your idea of what you were-or would like to have been—instead of teaching us to be responsible.After legitimizing youthful rebellion you never let us have our own innocence—perhaps because Vietnam and Watergate shattered yours.That’s why we’re already mature enough to understand and worry about racism, the environment, abortion, the homeless, nuclear policy.But we also were fed on the video culture you created to idealize your own irresponsible days of youth.Your slim and trip MTV bimbos, fleshy beer commercials, and racy TV shows presented adolescence as a time only for fun and sex.Why should we be expected to work at learning anything?”

The above quote was written by Daniel Smith-Rowsey, a senior majoring in politics and film-making at the University of California, Santa Cruz.He wrote an open letter to the baby boomers which was published in Newsweek.He so eloquently wrote a cry found amongst this generation of youth.

“To be honest, I can’t blame you for all that’s happened.The pre-eminence of new technologies and the turn toward cutthroat capitalism over the past two decades would have happened with or without the peculiarities of your generation.If I had been born in the ‘50s, I too would have been angry at racism and the war in Vietnam.But that’s not the same thing as allowing the system to unravel out of my own greed.Don’t say you didn’t start the fire of selfishness and indulgence, building it up until every need or desire was immediately appeased.Cable TV, BMWs, cellular phones, the whole mall culture has reduced us all to 12-year olds who want everything now.”

Gone are the days where youth want to learn to learn.Do they read books now?If the information won’t be on a test, they don’t want to know.If they did learn it, it’s doubtful they would remember it a few days after the test was taken.

“Not that we’re not smart—in some ways, we’re street smart, David Letterman clever, whizzes at Nintendo.We can name more beers than presidents.Pop culture to us is more attractive than education.”

Gone are the days when youth save money.To put money in the bank for a rainy day or for a college education is not comprehended.It’s not on the test.The amount of money that runs through their fingers in a day—much less a week—is incalculable.In fact, several advertisers on MTV are counting on that money.They are playing right to that crowd to receive their gains.

Gone are the days for this generation to save sex for marriage.(We need to keep speaking this message to save the next generation and those we can reach in this generation.)If you have the chance to talk to youth who are not a part of the church crowd, you will see this.They cannot comprehend waiting until marriage.Marriage is too distant and the girl is willing now.Why marry her? What difference will it make if they are married?We know the answer to that question. The answer is not on their test.This is why the AIDS scare has been somewhat effective.The AIDS scare is affecting their test.

Public service announcements on television aimed to get youth to not start smoking have gone from the long-term dangers of smoking to don’t smoke because it makes your clothes smell.It’s working.

How are you to teach the permanency of the gospel when the life perspective of an adolescent goes all the way to next weekend?(Have you ever tried to get youth to commit to a church event a month or so in advance?”The reward of heaven is so far off in their minds that it is almost incomprehensible.

Some of this cry is part of the adolescent stage of life.Adolescents think they are invincible.They think they will never die, never have to work now to gain later.David Elkind, a renowned adolescent psychologist, labeled this “personal fable.”

As the personal fable is true now as it has been in previous generations, today’s youth are surrounded by death.There are many youth who truly do not believe they will live to be married.

Even with this pre-eminence of death, we may give an altar call reminding youth that we don’t know when we will die so today is the day of your salvation.Tomorrow might be too late.Yet you get blank faces.The thought of eternity in heaven or hell is too far removed in their minds to make this type of altar call effective.

So what is on the test?Anything that frees them from the pain and despair of their life now.The Christian philosophy is to store up your treasures for heaven.No wonder the church is missing it with this generation.

What God does offer to this generation now is the cross.The same one Matthew, Mark and Luke recorded from Jesus’ teaching.“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”The same cross that took the life of Jesus also gave Him the power to hand the ultimate defeat to Satan.The cross brought pain and despair but it also brought victory.

The solution for the pain and despair in people’s lives now is the cross.It is where their victory will come from.And even if their victory is three days away (or three months or three years), Jesus is there with then, holding them, holding out hope.Didn’t the Psalmist write God is close to the broken-hearted?

In working with some of the kids I know now, the only hopeful solution for them is the cross. There is nothing out there in the world that will be the solution for them.Unless God intervenes, they will die.

Why do you think Michael W. Smith’s song, “I Will be Here for You,” was such a smash?It certainly wasn’t his best musically.But listen to the words:“I will be here for you/Somewhere in the night/Somewhere in the night/I will shine a light for you/Somewhere in the night/I will be standing by/I will be here for you.These words pass the test.These words are what God is all about.

God is more than a warm fuzzy or your best friend.Those messages are out there also.We don’t need God to be a best friend, we need Him to be a rock, a fortress, a deliverer, a shield, a stronghold.Psalm18:2.That is what the cross offers.The cross may be ugly but it offers our hope.

“You will differ from your own parents in that you will have missed your chance to change the world and robbed us of the skills and money to do it ourselves.If there’s any part of you left that still loves us enough to help us, we could really use it.And it’s not just your last chance.It’s our only one.”(Daniel Smith-Rowsey)

Epilogue:Do you ever feel like with all the research and methods taught to reach this generation or Christ that if you are going to do your job effectively, you are walking a fine line?You shouldn’t be teaching too much this way.You need to mix in this much fun and this much technology.Be sure to stress this a lot and definitely do not mention that.Keep learning and relax.I’m sure God is pleased with (and will bless) whatever you do as long as you are doing the best job you know how to do.You’ve heard it before:If God can use a donkey to bring a man to repentance, He can certainly use a willing servant to bring a generation to repentance.