**Updated**All Grown Up and Nowhere to Go

babiesI 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.

23 thoughts on “**Updated**All Grown Up and Nowhere to Go

  1. Christina says:

    I will have to look at that book. I am 25 yrs old married for 4 yrs with a 3rd child on the way. People get shocked when I tell them my age. They say that I didnt get a life on my own and they feel sorry for me. I wish they could see it through a biblical view.

    My mother who is 42 acts like a 16 yr old. It is hard to see someone older acting so childish. How could it be confronted?
    Thank you for all of your posts. I appreciate them so much!

  2. Stacy says:

    Thanks for this post. I have recently seen a lot of adults (trying to) act like teenagers. There is one adult woman in my college speech class who has short, spikey bleached hair with pink stripes…she said it helps her relate to her 14 year old daughter…

  3. Charlotte says:

    Hi Ingrid,
    I have read the West book, although I warn others that it is quite academic, not an easy read for all folks.

    I think the book is right-on, and I found one of the early chapters especially interesting – all about the marketing to teens that started in the 1940’s and proliferated in the 50’s and 60’s. The pink princess telephone was the best example she gave of her belief that teen-targeted magazines, books, TV shows, clothes, and “toys” are designed to keep you mired in childishness – whereas in the years before that time, materials targeted to teens (if there were any at all) were designed to help you WANT to be an adult and join in on adult activities.

    Today, the marketing to teens, “tweens,” and now kids is beyond keeping you mired in childishness for a few more years. It’s designed to keep you in a permanent mindset of childish youth – albeit a youth that is confused with adulthood. Why else would Hannah Montana (who I call the “child porn queen”) be so popular?

  4. Sharon says:

    It is an excellent read, and I am planning to do a re-read sometime this year. Diana West has her own blog and is now a semi-regular on the Lou Dobbs Show. I think CNN had her as a panelist the other night on another program too.

    Like Ingrid, I don’t want to spoil the book for anybody. However, she makes a point about how families and our culture are so exquisitely attuned to the sensitivities and likes and dislikes of children in a way unheard of even 2 generations ago.

    A case in point is how visits to relatives were handled when I was growing up. To bring this into context, I am 50 years old. When I was a child, my parents, the four children, and my dad’s parents would pile into one car and drive for over 2 hours to see my grandparents’ siblings. These were not orchestrated to be “kid friendly” visits. Outside of the occasional, “And what grade are you in this year?”, the visit was strictly geared for the adults. Mother’s eagle eye would spot four chairs and seat the children accordingly. Whimpers of, “When are we leaving?”, “I’m bored,” “Where’s the bathroom?” were not tolerated. We also knew to interupt the adult conversation would be the kiss of death later.

    When we fast forward to present time, many parents make the preferences of the children the first and formost consideration in what they do. Heaven forbid we go visit Great Aunt Tillie, because Bucky and Priscilla got so bored the last time we went. I in no way advocate making a child’s existence miserable. However, it seems the culture bullies parents into feelings of inadequacy if they don’t make their children’s lives a perpetual funhouse where the laughs never end.

  5. Lori C. says:

    That mother with Sponge Bob pajamas shops at night too–I’ve seen her!

    I’ve also seen full-grown adults in IHOP in pajamas with feet in them. Equally appalling was that instead of being asked to leave, they were served and treated the same as everyone else.

    Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ve ordered it from my library.

  6. Margaret L. Been says:

    What a weird trend, and to see it mushrooming in churches is incredible. The Slice posting about the church in Kenosha may curl my hair inspite of the damage done by all this dry winter air!

    If only people could understand that life is truly exciting when we are “children at heart” in the right sense–having a desire to discover the beautiful, creative things God has given, an attitude of wonder and adventure, and a joy in learning and growing.

  7. Wendy West says:

    I can hardly wait to read the book! This is a phenomenon that I have observed for some time. The sad thing to me is that these “kids” have “kids” and the insanity continues. I am so weary of people who are unwilling to take on any responsibility, obey any law and make life miserable for everybody around them. Besides which few can spell correctly or use correct grammar. What an inveterate tragedy.

  8. mel says:

    Oh Ingrid this is so timely! I am so tired of people getting accolades when they finally rise up and do what they were supposed to do in the first place: raise their children, provide for their families, not go out every night to the bars for fun. It is disgusting.

    And this mentality is just perfectly timed for the new government. Who cares about Big Brother? “Father” Obama will take care of us all. WE don’t need to worry about a thing- just keep playing at life instead of really living it. We throw everything of value on the altar of the government (our freedoms, our children, our faith) as a sacrifice so we can just “enjoy” every sin imaginable and continue being irresponsible!

    I recently came across a quote by Adolf Hitler at a gun show in WI. It read, “How fortunate for leaders that men do not think.” Why do we need to think when we’re having so much fun?! UGH!

  9. unstresst says:

    Much childishness is evident in marketing.
    Prescription drug companies and Auto makers have cornered the market on appealing to the underdeveloped.

  10. Lisa K says:

    Wonderful comments on “Father Obama” and marketing to teens! Since my older son was born 22 years ago, the culture was geared to making every day a circus for him: Chuck E. Cheese was required for every birthday (does anyone remember the simple cake and ice cream parties of the 1960s?), children were told “good job” for no reason, and self-esteem was considered the most important thing to be taught in school. And how about participation trophies?? Everyone has to be allowed to play sports and receive awards – even if they don’t try or have no athletic ability. Hmmm… this all sounds like aging hippies control society doesn’t it? So many young adults expect to be celebrated for no reason, because they grew up that way. Add to that the crazy emphasis on looking or acting “young” and we have country consisting completely of children!

  11. Paula says:

    This topic has been on the top of my list ever since I had my first child and began to notice how stupid other parents acted (20 years ago). I have grown so tired of it all and feel as though I was born in the wrong era. I think the baby boom opened a pandora’s box with this’ peter pan’ attitude and there is no going back. We now have more than one generation of this and the sad thing is there is a few generations who don’t have any idea what a real mom and dad should be like. They have no role models. They have no guidance and our society is paying a heavy price – from electing a president with style over substance to the institutes that call themselves churches (where people have to slosh down cups of coffee and wear their dumbed down wardrobes). Adults have so minimized the importances of respect, decorum, responsibility, character etc., that I don’t think they have a clue of the irreparable damage that has been done to our society as a result. I guess the surprise will be on them when they end up in a nursing home one day only to be cared for by young people who treat them in them in the ways they were taught.

  12. Jennifer Peacock says:

    I did read the West book more than a year ago and highly recommend it as well.

    I homeschool my daughters. I’m reading “Farmer Boy” with my 7-year-old daughter. Saturday night I read where Almanzo, despite knowing better, gets a little too close to a hole in the ice and falls in. He’s caught in time by one of the men cutting the ice. But rather than his father coming over and hugging, kissing, and fawning over him, Almanzo is told he deserves a whipping for his foolishness. And you know what?–Almanzo agreed!

    Rewrite that in 21st Century standards.

    But I digress…

    In my own situation, it’s my mother-in-law who demands my husband and I make everything child-centered. Every decision should be based on the happiness of the girls. I’m only 33 (she’s fast approaching 70) and I find it not only bizarre, but detrimental to my girls’ character development. But I’m trying, with God’s help, to look forward to when they are adults–how we raise them today will impact what adults they grow into tomorrow–while others only see today. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow’s another day to do the same!

    So, please have a little hope. There is a remnant of we Gen-Xers (well, OK, my husband is a baby boomer) who haven’t completely lost our minds. I can’t speak of for the generation right behind me, though.

  13. Trixie says:

    Hello Ingrid,

    AMEN!!! (Prentend the print is much larger because I’m yelling AMEN quite loudly in my head).

    We are surrounded by examples of 30 and 40+ individuals that have no idea of what being a grown up means. Adults behaving as though they are small children sickens me.

    Trixie
    http://farmhomelife.blogspot.com/

  14. Margaret L. Been says:

    I have purchased Diana West’s book, and yes it is the most honestly thorough analysis of our culture that I’ve ever read–outside of Scripture. I can’t put it down (except sometimes when the facts get so horrible, I need a break before continuing!)

    It’s occurred to me that the radical growth of this dominant youth culture began to mushroom out of control around the time when prayer was outlawed in public schools (1962?).

    Author Diana West documents how the cult of the teen ager was spawned big time in the 1950s–with the birth of rock and roll and the demise of parents who had the guts, backbone, and character to set limits.

    The 1950s was also the era when many once Bible- believing denominations dropped the Gospel of Salvation for the “social gospel”.

    Thank you for the book tip, Ingrid. What a commentary! I’ve ordered 3 more (in paperback) to share out.

  15. Margaret L. Been says:

    An affirmative reply to Lisa K’s comments: Yes, I can’t believe the birthday party productions I’m hearing about these days–overnights at motels with a swimming pool, professional clowns, trips to Great America!

    I guess our kids were deprived. We played “Doggie, Doggie your Bone is Gone and Hide the Thimble. Then the birthday child opened his or her reasonably priced gifts. We had balloons, cake (my amateurish cakes, not deluxe bakery models), ice cream and lemonade, and the guests went home! Whew!

    Well, now our children range between 55 and 33 and hey! They turned out great! 🙂

  16. Marilyn says:

    Ingrid-I have never thought of what you talked about above. It really is true, depressing and awful. The link is totally disgraceful, what she said and the responses–horrifying. It is very scary how people think today.

    One thing I have noticed and have complained to my family about is how people dress to go shopping. Many, I am not kidding, look like they just rolled out of bed. It seems to be getting worse with all ages not just teenagers.

    Thanks for helping me see the problem.

  17. Pastor Frank says:

    Thanks for the timely article. I too cringe at the immaturity of many “adults.” As the previous church I pastored, I worked part time at Walmart so my wife could be home with our then 3 year old. I was often struck by customers in the Electronics department where I worked. Often, I watched as parents would quiet down their restless toddler or 5 year old so the parents could shop for video games for themselves…not their children. What’s wrong with this picture. “Quiet down junior, mommy and daddy are shopping for toys for themselves.” Unbelievable. I think Evangelicalism is actually WORSE than the world. I am presently working on a book I am calling “Unholy Ground- Evangelicalism is Harming The Cause of Christ.” Long title, I know. But during the writing, I frequently have to stop as I am addressing certain issues because I sometimes can’t believe I even NEED to point out the foolishness that I point out!

  18. Jane says:

    Ingrid, I don’t always agree with your views (although I’m glad you put them out there) but I loved this post. I will put the book on my reading list. I am often struck when watching movies from the first half of the 20th century by just how “adult” people were back then. The aspirations of the young people were to dress like an adult and to take on adult responsibilities. By the 1960s, all that had ended and the “adults” of the Western world had begun to demand more playtime.

    I’m a child of that era and used to find my elders old-fashioned. Now I have nothing but respect for their achievements and their low-key dignity. I work at a Christian school that has many international students, and I have noticed how much more grownup many of the African students in particular seem compared to Americans of similar age. We desperately need to learn from cultures where age is not despised.

    I sat in a high school workshop a couple of days ago listening to a group of social workers tell us how our aim in life should be to help our daughters “find themselves” and “establish their self-esteem”. My children’s self-esteem is nothing short of monstrous! The next day I told the youngest (who is just emerging from a nightmare adolescence) that I’m not surprised that we’ve had so much trouble with her, given that these are the people she listens to six hours a day. We are older parents who do not try to be our kids’ best friends, but attempt to instill some values and sense of responsibility in them (please pray that something gets through.)

    I almost welcome the current economic crisis as an end to this half century of playtime. My generation (boomers and gen-xers) have gone so disastrously wrong. Our parents were right. God help us.

  19. Jean says:

    Ingrid,

    This is not only sad, but very true. A young adult friend of my daughter just returned from a visit to Palm Desert, CA to visit some 60 something ‘Christian’ friends. She was appalled at the childlike behavior of the retirement community she was visiting. She said it seemed like they were children all out for a continuous party. She couldn’t find a mature one in the bunch. I’m just glad that she was bothered by it.

    Jean

  20. Jen says:

    Well, well, well:

    Don’t you think that all of this is a result of rebellion against God? I mean seriously. I am in my early 30’s and originally from another country and live in the US. I am so tired of the incessant need for immaturity here. I thought that being a parent would mature people but it doesn’t. I am not married, I don’t have children and yet it is just odd to see immature parents.

    Don’t you know that the more rich and greedy a nation is, the more foolish the inhabitants of that nation becomes?

    Now, about the rant of the woman. First of all, she needs to be prayed for her salvation. Secondly, maybe the Lord might actually bless her with a child. At least I hope so.

    Self-centeredness is part of our depravity as sinners. That part is never hidden. We are living in more evil times, so the ugliness is going to get worse. Not better.

    The media will not be intune with God’s Word. It will reflect the greed of the culture. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are in full bloom. It is the world’s song and it will not change for us. We are to fight against it.

    The problem is the worldliness being accepted into the church. I thought we were not supposed to love the world, that if we loved the world, then the love of the Father is not in us.

    Rebellion, defiance of authority, sounds like people just being lovers of themselves. It’s an epidemic because we are seeing the fruit of disobedience toward God’s law. Love of self, boasters and braggers.

    If these people’s lives are not submitting to God at all, you think they care? They don’t. They are God in their minds and since they don’t think they have to give account for their actions before a holy and righteous God, they don’t care, period.

    And let’s even start with the notion of entitlement. Always wants one’s rights and not wanting to give up one’s rights for the sake of the gospel. Do Christians in the US really want to suffer like thier brothers and sisters in other countires. Let’s be honest.

    Alot of the foolishness is also due to a lack of reverence for the Lord, period. If they were truly taught about this, the nonsense in the so called churches would cease. But of course, people in the US, still want comfort. No pain, no suffering, no difficulty, just ease and a back pocket Jesus to bring out when need be.

    And also, I like simple birthdays. I grew up with simple birthdays. Just a simple cake and a gift (or not) and that’s it. These kids have too much stuff. They need to be deprived of the stuff.

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