Age-wise, I straddle the Baby Boomer/GenX line. I married a Boomer, yet many of my perspectives (and musical tastes!) are GenX in nature. This is relevant for my reflections today because I’ve realized in the past few weeks that there’s a “protective” Boomer bubble that’s being burst in my life—and probably the lives of many others. Let me explain.
White middle- and upper-class American Boomers had a pretty darn good time of it growing up. The fifties, sixties, and seventies in American culture were a time of rapid innovation and greatly expanded quality of life. Yes, there was turmoil, but the underlying sense that “life is good” went unchallenged. Everything was just going to get better and better, from now on.
That fundamental perspective is facing serious challenges today. Authoritarianism is expanding, here and around the world. Income disparities are once again on the rise. Those like me who have learned to pay attention to others’ realities have realized that life has only really been “good” for middle- and upper-class whites.
Back in 2020, I reflected on whether xenophobia is, in fact, a human norm. Over the decade I’ve been blogging (Yes, that’s right, I’ve pondered something online every week since August 2013!), I’ve reflected on numerous conflicts, most recently in Ukraine and the Holy Land. In fact, both those wars are only the latest eruptions of longstanding conflagrations. When “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho” (the ruins of which are pictured above) back in 1400 BCE, he was displacing Palestinians—theoretically at God’s command.
The bottom line is that I’m realizing how life has, in fact, been downright horrid for most people in most countries throughout human history. We didn’t read about that in school because history is written by the powerful winners, not all those they stepped on, beat down, or killed to get there. Exploitation and domination are the norm.
So, where do we find hope? For me, bursting this Boomer bubble is necessary to comprehend both that life is not good for most and also that I cannot forge a utopian new world order. I don’t have that kind of power. I do, however, have enough power to do what Jesus did: spread news of a radically different perspective in each of my daily encounters. That radically different perspective is love—but it is love rooted in powerlessness. Even Jesus didn’t try to overthrow the Roman government. He stayed with the powerless.
Understanding our powerlessness is not easy for us, but neither was it easy for Jesus’ earliest followers. Many of them “turned back” and quit following him because they couldn’t handle the radicality of his message.
Friends, this is a hard season and a hard lesson. Yet, I believe we are called to live and love with our eyes wide open. So, what bubbles need bursting in your life? What hard realities do you need to face?