Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. (Deuteronomy 4:9, NIV 1984).
My Musings – “The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side.” I included this movie* quote in a recent e-mail. The response I received, from a colleague in his late twenties, was — “I don’t know what this means.” My son, who in the next few days will pass the mid-thirties’ mark, would have recognized it instantly.
Granted, the movie premiered in 1939, and it it became a favorite of his because it was a favorite on mine and I introduced him to it. And in defense of my colleague, his childhood was much different from my son’s, who was raised in rural, white America, with a mom and dad who was always present in his life. To reference another movie** quote, my colleague was truly born a “poor black child,” with an absent father, and raised in Chicago’s housing-projects, where merely going to school or walking the streets after dark posed constant dangers.
I wrote all that to write this. I was momentarily saddened because what I assumed was an iconic reference that would be immediately recognized across generations, was not. Of course, generations do change. My parents were not impressed by rock and roll. And don’t even get me started on what passes for rock and roll today. But these kind of changes are expected and merely points out that I am getting older. That’s probably what really saddened me. At 65, if not the oldest, I am definitely one of the oldest at my company. I cannot expect what was culturally and generationally important and memorable to me, to resonate the same with those much younger than me.
There are, however, some things that should transcend cultures and generations. But “over the last century the church in America has suffered serious generational drift and decay. In every subsequent generation over the last century, the faith has become more fragmented, watered-down, superficial, and irrelevant. We have drifted from a vibrant faith rooted in the historic confessions, coherent theological convictions, and intelligent cultural engagement to a privatized faith that is indifferent to the past, theologically ignorant, and culturally irrelevant.” (S. Michael Craven, Christian Post Guest Columnist, May 12, 2009).
Wow, quite an indictment. This is what should sadden us. The “faith of our fathers” has “slipped from [our] hearts.” Collectively, we have failed to “teach to [our] children and to their children after them.” On any given Sunday (pre-pandemic), churches built to hold the multitudes are rarely if ever filled anywhere near capacity. Other things take precedence or seem more important. Bibles are rarely “opened,” and prayers are relegated to times of deep grief or distress. The gradual “drift and decay” over the last century has accelerated greatly over the last generation, rushing mindlessly towards the great “rebellion” or “apostacy” that will precede His return (2 Thessalonians 3:2).
My Advice – But there are glimmers of hope. God continues to preserve a remnant. I see signs of it in my own church which boasts a healthy share or young couples, raising their children in the faith. It is not too late to halt the slippage. Let’s do our part. Let’s continue to be faithful in “[teaching it] to [our] children and to their children after them.” Even if they are past their mid-thirties. They can “handle the truth” (final movie quote***). Let’s do what we can to make sure that they (and we) do not become “indifferent to the past, theologically ignorant, and culturally irrelevant,” to the things of God.
*Wizard of Oz, **The Jerk, ***A Few Good Men