A nation of infants?
The guy in the car behind me is fuming, cussing like a sailor, and just threw me a one-finger salute. Evidently I'm taking too long in the fast-food drive-up. He looks to be about fifty, though I'm usually on the light side of calculating ages by mere sight. Gracious may be a better word. Harriet says I've got rose colored glasses and can never see things as they really are. The judgmental person hiding in my skin says the guys acting like a kid. My big wish is that he'd grow up and act his age. Or, go to another fast-food place the next time.
So, we're the culture of road rage, elevator tantrums, key tapping, and whining, to mention a few of our immature ways. Young Americans are growing up around age 35, living at home longer, marrying later, changing jobs every couple of years, and learning the motions of slacker before adult-hood robs him or her from some fun before they are forced to grow up. The other day I was eaves-dropping on four late twenty-somethings at the new pizza place near the outlet mall. One of them asked his bros for some serious advice. I was expecting to hear about a career decision, a marriage proposal, perhaps some spiritual insight. No, he asked his buds for counsel about purchasing a new skate board. Zero? Habitat? Plan B? Element? They were deliberate, analytical, and precise in their answers. You would have thought he was buying surgical equipment.
In a flash we're the culture the celebrates and perpetuates childishness. Even at church infantile behavior is the in thing with epic this and epic that, catchy phrasing, alluring graphics, a playground mentality, and theology lite. Someone forgot to tell some of our preacher cohort that child-likeness is the biblical ideal, not childishness. And, on a national scale, while church attendance and participation numbers are in decline, American infancy escalates. It's no wonder that so many of our industrial, educational, and financial markers are lagging in the world systems while we lead the world in divorce, drop-outs, murder, petty larceny, and anti-authoritarian behavior. We've become a nation of infants.
As an evangelical I'm talking spiritual growth and maturity. The biblical norm for believers is a lifetime of being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us (2 Corinthians 3:18). Scripture instructs us to "... grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen" (2 Peter 3:18, ESV). Life is a process of growing in the likeness of Jesus Christ, of becoming more like him with each moment we live. Of course, reaching his likeness in this life isn't possible for mere humans, afflicted as we are by a fallen human nature. But, as John wrote, "Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2, ESV).
Of course, a majority of Americans can't buy into the spiritual growth thing. It's the snicker among sophisticates these days, the tongue-in-cheek questions about anything spiritual. Still, there is the reality of our emotional immaturity, the way our culture plays to the child is us all and celebrates a world of eternal infants. Suddenly we're deprived of veritas, truth, and have become strangers to gravitas, personal weight or dignity. A childish world cannot grasp the deep things of God or comprehend the mysteries he has revealed to us in his word and great promises. in an instant we have become a culture of babies who love to frolic in the shallows of life. The vast majority of us miss the spiritual depth of a growing faith. What is sad too is that so many of us are emotional babes as well. No wonder we can't handle the more difficult stuff this life hands us. It's softball out there.
As a retired pastor I grieve our spiritual immaturity. As a human being the emotional shallows are grounds for sorrow as well. It's a missing life puzzle piece for millions of our friends and neighbors, the elusive reality of personal growth. We're stalled in childhood and can't navigate these difficult times.
So, we blow our horns, scream our epithets, and fling our fingers. Children. A nation of infants.