I recently ordered Diana West’s 2007 book called, The Death of the Grown-Up: How America’s Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization. It is a fascinating book, and if you at all possibly can, find a copy somewhere and read it.
For years I have documented the foolish, asinine, juvenile behavior going on in evangelical churches. I have gotten to the place where I cringe every time a Slice of Laodicea reader sends me yet another YouTube video of some hip new “pastor”, bristling with body piercings and covered in tattoos with the obligatory baseball cap on backwards. Mark Driscoll, pastor of the über-hip Mars Hill Church in Seattle, calls himself a “pastor-dude.” That is actually the least of Mr. Driscoll’s problems, but it demonstrates the maturity crisis in our nation that is reflected, as popular culture always is now, in evangelical churches.
I won’t try to give you a full review of Diana West’s book. I will tell you that I have never seen a better summary of America’s maturity problem and its catastrophic consequences.
The problem I refer to is everywhere today, and it’s not just seen in the mother showing up in the store in pajamas and slippers for an early morning shopping trip (I’m not referring to the fact that they were Sponge Bob pajamas, either.) It’s seen in the illegal fireworks display put on every 4th of July by a neighbor who can’t wrap his mind around the fact that he is endangering the safety of the neighborhood children for the sake of his own entertainment. He’s well into his 40’s, but still thinks rules are made to be broken because he likes to have fun. It’s seen in the paramedic who took our son with a mangled leg to the hospital and who bristled at being called, “sir”, because he felt he wasn’t old enough. He was also well into his 40’s. Then there are the women in their 60’s stuffing themselves into low-rise, flare jeans, hitting the tanning booths and Botoxing their faces into freakish death masks because they don’t want to look like the grandmothers they are. At all costs, don’t look, or act your age, ladies. There’s only one acceptable look and that’s “hot babe”, no matter how old you are. Just like in high school.
That pathetic baby boomer rock stars can’t admit they are elderly should come as no surprise. The revolting sight of the desiccated Mick Jagger, leaping–albeit gingerly–around a stage, screeching about how he can’t “get no satisfaction” is par for the course for a generation that decided that the rules didn’t apply to them. The generations that followed the boomers, like mine, have had to deal with the fallout of this thinking, however, and it isn’t pretty.
Diana West’s book points out that mothers want to be like their daughters today and fathers like their sons. It used to be that girls wanted to be like their mothers and sons like their fathers. It goes without saying that popular, advertiser-driven media has played a huge role in changing the thinking of Americans, and the result is an adolescence that never seems to end. Adulthood is truly optional now.
Christopher Noxen’s book, Rejuvenile, describes this world of kick-ball leagues and Sponge Bob screenings for today’s, er, adults. Rather than criticize the market for footie pajamas for big people, he, like a typical boomer, prefers to see this new era as a redefining of adulthood where the fun and wonder of childhood can go on forever. As John Junor would have said, “Pass the sick bag, Alice.”
Nowhere is our endemic immaturity more evident than in reactions to the economic downturn we are seeing. Two men made headlines recently for shooting their entire families and then turning the guns on themselves. Why? They had both lost their jobs, and had “lost hope.” Funny thing, that. My grandfather had children and a wife to feed during the Great Depression in the Ozarks. He didn’t shoot up his family and then himself because they had nothing but flour and a little oil in the house for food. He rode the freight cars out to South Dakota and took a job in the fields to earn money for them. He sent the money back and his family survived. Manhood, adulthood in action. He didn’t whine about needing government bailouts or blame the President. He got busy and met his obligations.
One learned “expert” in Ms. West’s book attributed the scene he witnessed of college students huddled around a TV to watch Teletubbies to “insecurity about the future in scary times.” The author jeers at such thinking. If “insecurity about the future” produces infantilism, what about those who lived through the Black Plague? Shouldn’t that have produced epidemic thumb sucking among adults? How about any of the major wars that produced widespread bloodshed and misery? Were the adults found in fetal positions? How about the “Greatest Generation” of World War II? The young men storming Normandy should have all been clutching Teddy Bears and security blankets, right? Diana West points out that it is affluence and ease that have produced the rampant immaturity in several generations. I concur with her conclusions 100%.
I don’t want to live like an adolescent. I want my children to know that years of life experiences produce something other than aging teenagers. Children need to aspire to something called “adulthood.” But how will they know what that is if they never see what it looks like?
**Update**CNN carries this ugly, bitter sounding rant from a mid-thirty something woman who claims her biological clock is “broken”, so she couldn’t care less if she has kids or not. After reading her reasoning, I would suggest that more than her biological clock is broken. The article and the comments below it demonstrate the kind of thinking I have been talking about. The middle-aged author, only now getting married, sneering at motherhood and the burden of caring for some screaming “humanoid”, comes across as a troubled adolescent girl with a chip on her shoulder rather than the woman that she is (or should be). Part of growing up is willingness to take responsibility for another. Is is actually toddler behavior to reject anything that gets in the way of your fun. I will say that it is a good thing this woman is childless. The thought of a vulnerable little baby in the hands of this appallingly selfish creature is frightening indeed. One of the biggest signs of America’s endemic immaturity is the raw self-centeredness. It’s this that has given us 50 million aborted infants, murdered on the altar of convenience for the parents—people who refuse to grow up and take responsibility for the children they create.