Much has been made about the generation known as “the Millennials,” those born between and including 1980 to 2000. They are the most studied generation in history, the largest generation and most educated in Western history, are technologically savvy, and are interested in purpose rather than perks.
They are also found to be civic-oriented, socially, environmentally, and economically conscious, and see themselves as global citizens.
They are entrepreneurial, pragmatic idealists, more liberal than most other generations, compassionate, confident, progressive, diverse, and results oriented. Additionally, they are team oriented, non-religious, multi-taskers, nomadic, impatient, and adventurists.
Some of these characteristics are worrisome to the older generations, particularly, the liberal and progressive aspects. It is true that millennials in general are more accepting of same-sex relationships and the legalization of marijuana. Also troublesome is that many of this generation are less religious than previous generations, and more demanding, which is where the impatience come in.
But many of these other characteristics are also quite desirable. And, it must be kept in mind that millennials are relatively young. They range in age from 17 to 37. Life has a way of modifying views over time. But, like other generations, they will have to make their own way in an increasingly complicated and hostile world.
Last week, my wife and I made our second visit to Parris Island, S.C., in three months. We went there each time to watch two of our grandsons graduate from Marine Corps Recruit Training. This time, as I sat in the stands, I noted the literally hundreds of young men and woman, millennials all, who had enlisted to serve their country. Even the drill instructors for the most part, were millennials, too.
This graduation process goes on nearly every Friday morning. I also thought about the tens of thousands in the other military services who were doing the same.
All of these men and women are offering themselves to a great cause, a cause bigger than themselves. In that way they are similar to the World War II generation. These millennials know that, for the last 16 years, our nation has been in a war against terror. They are aware of the dangers and the risks. Some, perhaps, are looking for a job or educational benefits. Others for adventure. Some wish to challenge and prove themselves. But so it has been throughout the nation’s history.
When I was a teenager, my father looked at me one day and said, “I fear for this country when I realize that, one day, your generation will be in charge.” Well, the baby Boomers haven’t been perfect, but the nation still stands. This current generation is different than mine, but they are also very similar in many ways.
Of my four oldest grandchildren (out of 11 with another to be born this week), two are U.S. Marines, one is in college and works part-time to put himself through, and another is training to be a high school chemistry teacher. They are all preparing for their future. They are all millennials and the country is full of such young people.
Here is where my late father and I part ways. I do not fear for my country when these people get to be in charge. I think, as a whole, they will be just fine. I think they have what it takes and that life will rub some of the rough edges off — just like it did for us.
As far as the religious disinterest goes, that, too, often changes as people get older and realize that there is something beyond themselves that they can’t fully explain. And, even if I didn’t trust this generation, I do trust God with their futures. And ours.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]