Thursday, December 15, 2022

When right replaces gratitude. . .

We live in an age of ingratitude.  The young believe they owe nothing to their forefathers -- not even a moment to consider the legacy of the generation before them.  Instead, they are filled with contempt for the past and thus refuse to give the past a cursory glance except to note its faults and failings.  But where did they learn such an attitude?  It could be from some of those who went before them, perhaps even their parents.

Ours is a generation of complainers and complaints.  The times are filled with people who have contempt for those who went before them.  It seems everyone has an axe to grind with the generations of those who came before them.  Perhaps it was epitomized by the stunning ingratitude and unconcealed disgust offered by the then spokesperson for climate change, Greta Thunberg.  She is certainly not alone.  Careers have been made by those whose outrageous contempt for the past and whose ignorance of that past have not kept them from displaying an equally shocking ingratitude for anything good that was passed down to them.

It has spread to Christianity -- who is surprised? -- and the good that this faith has borne in the lives of the many is seemingly buried under a mountain of angst and disgust.  Everyone from Rome to the Evangelicals is shouted down by a people who condemn the whiteness of their faith or the bigoted response to every new slant of gender and sexual desire or the sins of God's Word that offend the modern ears.  Under such a view, orthodox Christianity is hopelessly racist, homophobic, intolerant, misogynist, and, well, every other thing offensive to modern culture and society.

Self-expression rules the day and there is no more common form of self-expression than to show utter and unreserved contempt for those who gave you birth, who provided you with such a comfortable life, who sacrificed for your education only to have you spit on their, and who have a strange notion of personal responsibility and accountability that expects us to sweep clean our own stoops.  I am weary of the constant strain of condemnation that seems to come forth against the past.  Indeed, to read the history of things you might get the idea that all clergy are abusers, all churches filled with hypocrites, all church schools abusive, and all church leaders power hungry.  

In a few weeks we will gather to remember the Savior's incarnation and use His birth to give expensive gifts, to party without restraint, and to indulge ourselves as much as we can afford.  I wish we might use His birth as an occasion to learn a little gratitude.  Digging into the pathology of human emotion, gratitude seems to me to be one of the most profound things that separates us from every other species yet this is the very thing in short supply today.  We live like selfish and self-referencing children who know nothing and care for nothing but ourselves.  We complained about a pandemic but through it all the government gave us checks, Amazon still delivered, Prime brought it to our door the next day, our favorite restaurant dropped our food, and the grocery store did our shopping for us.  Yet we somehow have the nerve to presume that the time of the pandemic was the worst ordeal humanity has ever endured.  Indeed, we claim PTSD for the terrible suffering we endured.

Ours is a culture of rights that demands and, generally gets what is demanded, though seldom thinks to offer a hint of thankfulness or gratitude in response.  The demand of rights has become the Achilles' heel of American culture and religion.  We are probably not the most selfish or self-centered people who ever lived but we have honed our ingratitude and our demands and our victimhood to a higher plane than those who went before us.  What a shame.  We cannot seem to bring ourselves to be even a tad bit thankful and it is probably why we are filled with such angst, anxiety, despair, and disappointment.  My wish for Christmas would be that we all could learn a little humility -- at least enough to be thankful and grateful for the many things that make our lives pretty exceptional.  And I would hope that it might start with Christians. We have a gracious and merciful God who continually gives us more than we deserve and prevents the bad we do deserve.  If we could learn to be grateful to this giving God, perhaps we might learn to listen to each other, get along with each other, and appreciate how good we have it.

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