All I remember from the seminar “Wien um die Jahrhundertwende” (Fin de Siecle Vienna) was that the visiting professor from Cornell was disturbing and that seemed apropos — the Viennese at the close of the 19th Century were feeling their world had gone crazy. So crazy, their times felt almost apocalyptic. Like end times.
I have remembered that seminar, or the texts we read for it, a lot lately. It seems that our world is lurching through and onto the next unimaginable occurence at breakneck speed. Just when you think it can’t get weirder…
“Dystopian” is for me one of those words like “jejune”: knowing the word doesn’t promise i can remember its meaning! “Dystopian:” ‘an imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly.’ It’s a hard word to miss after recent reporting and news analysis since the convention in Cleveland. When one connects it with its meaning, it relates to a feeling in the air many are experiencing or feeling about their lives and our world.
In the face of all this, one could lose heart. Unless one gets the privilege of spending a week with three thousand teens! Kids as Gospel — Jesus’ voice reassuring “do not give up hope.”
The dystopian echoes are even recognizable here at the UCC’s National Youth Event in Orlando, for example in the worship and programming. I find the “house band” particularly bleak in outlook: a world gone so awry that only God’s radical redemption can make a difference. …troubling as as a vehicle for supporting UCC faith and theology in our kids. Imagine Kurt Cobaine goes to church!
Still, the energy and the spirit of the youth give me hope. The world can be a disappointing place and history can certainly turn sour. And, unfortunately, young people, perhaps even a generation could get caught up in the undertow.
But it still occurs to me that the world is forever being buoyed up by new generations of young people coming of age. Infused with age-appropriate idealism and critique, an unwillingness to accept business as usual. That same willfulness that makes it hard for teens to live within the rules set for them can be directed towards improving communities and God’s world. So if we can just make room for their hopeful enthusiasm and unbridled energy and unsullied expectation that their chance is coming… If we can manage not to kill large numbers of them off in wars that disproportionally cull out the young…
In the midst of so many depressing headlines today, I think we need to look towards the bright eyes and the limitless horizons of our teens.
…And maybe we at Old First could… should make more room in our church — how we go about doing church — for the teens to be right alongside of us in the pews and at the communion table and wherever we serve…
See you in church,