Saturday, December 27, 2008

Generation We, Eric Greenberg and the Church's survival



Picture by Stephen Larson

"For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of my people, and my chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands. They will not labour in vain or bear children for calamity; for they are the offspring of those blessed by the Lord, and their descendants with them." (Isaiah 65:22b-23)

Watching the video that Moderator, Bruce Reyes-Chow, placed with his recent posting, Moderator Monday: Are our days numbered?, I had several thoughts--all at once. The faces and voices of the young people, were mostly soft, thoughtful and bright with hope and concern. But the actual words, the script so to speak, undoubtedly facilitated or probably written by author Eric H. Greenberg, was arrogant. That led me on a reading excursion into his book, Generation We, written with Karl Weber. (See video at bottom.)

Not only did I download the book file,, but I also found someone else, Bill Kinnon, who had written on the book. The first part of his post is un-related to my thoughts, but his up-dates were important before I downloaded the book and read it. I will put a small part of his post, Millenials - Generation We - a Movement for Change here: (Its actually his up-date.)

"In further scanning Generation We, whilst still seeing much good in it, I feel it's important to recognize that there is a level of anti-Christian sentiment in the book. Christians (specifically evangelicals) are seen as part of the problem. (Greenberg surveyed evangelical Christians in Denver, CO and Birmingham, AB. Those particular locations would tend to skew results, methinks.) See the comments and quotes on pages 110, 114, 142 and 167. And though he is quoted extensively, from Greenberg's perspective, Dr. Martin Luther King's strong Christian faith appears to have had no bearing on his actions. The book is significantly more pro Alternate Spirituality - reflecting Greenberg's own spiritual journey - Page 186 pdf document.

As he writes on page 196, Greenberg was influenced by Dr. Paul Ray who helped him "craft the thesis of the book." Ray, co-author of Cultural Creatives (described by one wag as the New Age version of Richard Florida's Cultural Class), is the Director of the Institute for Emerging Wisdom Culture at Wisdom University - a school founded by Matthew Fox,1 a defrocked Dominican Priest and panenthesist - Fox is best known for his Creation Spirituality."

Reyes-Chow, in his posting, asked some important questions as they related to this video, and he made a very discerning statement. He wrote, "If we are not careful, we will embrace that which should be rejected and/or reject that which should be embraced." That is what concerns me about this video as it is a link to the book and supposedly a movement.

Greenberg quoting from people as diverse as Naomi Wolf and Ronald Reagan, has his own ideology and it is intolerant as far as traditionalists and Evangelical Christians are concerned. Although I have to admit that he writes as though he does not understand orthodox Christians that much.

While I see important issues addressed in the book, I am concerned with several areas, mostlyGreenberg's politics and his religious attitude. I am also interested in answering the question above, "Are our days numbered?"

Greenberg is attempting to form and inspire a movement. He is not thinking in terms of a third political party; an idea he rejects in his book. Instead he writes:

"A more plausible idea is a new social and political movement based on honesty, responsibility, and innovative thinking—a movement with the potential to influence, infiltrate, and take over one of the existing parties, or to form a grand alliance of shared goals that changes the agenda of both parties and uses the existing system to produce a positive revolution" (114)

The worrisome idea here is that some kind of a grand conspiracy has kept Generation We from uniting into a movement. He writes: "Here, if anywhere, is the real conspiracy—collusion among business and governmental leaders, media moguls, educators,and religious leaders who have contrived national and international systems that serve to keep the people weak, fearful, helpless, and under control. The goal of this conspiracy is not to impose ideological or political doctrine but simply to control the world’s power and wealth. These systems keep people sick. (99) Any movement based on even a hint of conspiracy has a very poor if not dangerous foundation.

The Western media, in Generation We, comes in for constant criticism. The Internet is seen as a better source of information.

Greenberg writes about the religious attitude needed if one is to embrace his dreams for the Millennials. He writes of the "Cultural Creatives" and how they will connect with this new generation and their beliefs. Greenburg describes them: "Cultural Creatives are Americans who have already moved beyond old divisions of “traditionalist” versus “modernist” to embrace new forms of spirituality, social experimentation, and personal growth. These are the people who are ready to respond to the new vision of the Millennials."

Greenberg attributes the term Cultural Creatives to "sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson." For information on Ray see above in the material by Bill Kinnon.

Energy is the area Greenberg is most in anguish about and here he pushes what he considers the most important effort for Generation We. He calls it Project Free, and writes, "Inventing the next source of energy is the single greatest thing we can do to change the world for the better. There is nothing more important to our society. It is the call and legacy of Generation We and will be the greatest achievement in the history of mankind." (145) In another place referring to those who believe in end times prophecy, Greenberg writes, "Inventing the next source of energy is the single greatest thing that changes the world for the better. There is nothing more." (188)

Greenberg insists Project Free must be headed by a cabinet post under the President and be a project free from any kind of interference.

Returning to the religious side of Greenberg's issues; he is very clear. He describes the outlook and hopes of such young people.

"They see those far-right dogmatists espousing “traditional” rhetoric today as a cog in the machine that created the mess they are in. When it comes to lifestyle choices whether we’re talking about sexual orientation, abortion, divorce, or gay marriage, or about gambling, drinking, drug use, and church attendance—their all-but-explicit motto is 'Live and let live.'

Having grown up in a world where religious dialogue is dominated by headlines about evangelical preachers threatening nonbelievers with fire and brimstone, about blaming 9/11 on homosexuality, and about Islamic fundamentalists employing terrorism against “infidels” who don’t share their exact beliefs, Millennials have come to associate piety with hateful, us-against-them attitudes." (142)

On another page Greenberg states that Generation We do not hold to moral absolutes." (160)

While I do not agree that everyone connected to Generation We holds the values or concerns that Greenberg places on their shoulders, and I believe that those who are true models of his Millennials will in the end find themselves as troubled and broken as the rest of humanity, my concern is with the question "Are our days numbered?"

And the answer depends of course on the Church's relationship to culture, and here I am thinking of that part of the Church that exists in the West. If we conform, because of pressure, to the post-modern culture we live in, including the amoral side of Generation We, the answer is clear. No we will not survive! The Church will either wither away or be so changed that she is not the Church.

But if the Church in the West holds true to the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ, the living word, and holds true to the Holy Scriptures, the written Word, our days will extend, with earthly suffering, into eternity and the end of the chapter in Isaiah I began this posting with will be ours.

"'It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer them; and that while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpents food. They will do no harm or evil in all my holy mountain,' says the Lord." (Isaiah 65:24-25)

1 For a good article on Matthew Fox see "Matthew Fox and Creation-Centered Spiruality"


Reyes-Chow said...

What a thoughtful contribution to the discourse. Good critiques, insights, etc. Hope others will check out the review as I am sure the "we" folks will pick it up.

Viola Larson said...

Thank you Bruce. Happy New Year.