I read an observation today that resonated with my take on things. Lance Witt noted, “In this election year, the amount of vicious attack and trash talking has reached a new high (or low). No matter what your political persuasion, I think you would agree that the political environment has become increasingly toxic.” I then saw the date Witt published his piece: March 11, 2016. The author’s observation was almost three and a half years ago!

Obviously it is not a new concern, but I continue to be concerned about and discouraged by the continued degradation of today’s discourse at pretty much every level. Politicians and those deeply captivated by politics seem to be leading the way, but it certainly isn’t limited to them. Verbal attack and trash talking is widespread.

There is nothing wrong with having strong beliefs and opinions, but how they are held and discussed is important. An arrogant and demeaning attitude towards others can do more damage than good.

When I was fresh out of college I had that ugly disease of thinking I knew it all. Given the opportunity to continue my education in three different graduate schools, I was exposed to a lot of religion, theology, and biblical interpretation that was far different from what I had learned and believed. I wasn’t there, however, to change anyone’s mind, but to learn – and I learned a lot.

I’m not a politician, but in my many years of being a pastor and teaching in a variety of venues, I have been involved often in controversial discussions. When it comes to Christianity, religion, the Bible, faith, doctrine, and theology there are many strong beliefs and opinions.

I wish I could say I have always been gracious and understanding, but that would not be true. In the last several years, however, I’m confident I’ve made significant progress in how I deal with those who come from a different background and have a different understanding or interpretation of the Bible and its meaning.

How are you doing when it comes to discussing controversial issues and matters? Are you respectful or demeaning? Do you listen or dominate? Do you discuss or argue? Do you bloviate? Do you give the impression that you think you know more than you do?

I wish people could say about me what one reviewer said about the author of a book dealing with controversial Christian material: “he means to speak as a friend to friends and he never comes close to being harsh or offensive.” As trite as it may seem, it is true that we can agree to disagree without destroying one another.

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I read an online article from Christianity Today last week that left me somewhat unsettled and a little irritated. The premise of what author and Professor Kutter Calloway suggested is that it is time for baby boomers to pass the torch to the next generation.

I think what surprised me the most about the article was that in the opening sentence the author addresses baby boomers: “If there were ever a time to pay attention to what’s coming out of Hollywood, it would be now.” He then points to a couple of this summer’s blockbusters featuring Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Woody (of Toy Story 4) as examples of passing the torch to the next generation.

In the interest of full disclosure, I confess I am a baby boomer (age 68) who stepped down after 30 years at my last church at the age of 63. Concluding my ministry, however, was my idea. No one suggested that it was time for me to go or that our church needed a change in leadership. Yet I felt like it was time to begin thinking, talking, and planning for a transition.

I’m uneasy with the idea that boomers should be put out to pasture just because they have reached a certain age. Many boomers still have a lot in the tank and much to offer in the role they have been filling.

It does seem reasonable to me that some boomers have passed their prime and do not realize it. Addressing the situation may be needed, but those who initiate such a discussion should carefully think through how to proceed.

I agree with most of what Professor Calloway notes in his observation “that boomers really do want younger generations to take the reins . . . but they just can’t seem to let go.” But why not be more precise and say some boomers just can’t seem to let go?

I also agree with Calloway’s assessment that “mentorship doesn’t happen by accident.” Then he notes “it doesn’t happen when each generation is pointing fingers over who’s to blame.” Ironically, in his article he seems to be pointing a finger at boomers.

I haven’t researched or studied the matter, but my experience and sense is that the professor is overstating a general resistance from baby boomers to train millennials and Gen Xers and pass on the torch. Nor do I believe those who passed the torch on to us boomers were any better at it that we are.

My sense is that every generation coming into their own have faced similar circumstances as today’s Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers. I remember well the 60s and early 70s and the disagreements, conflict, and upheaval between the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers.

In the article Professor Calloway quotes the well know challenge from the Apostle Paul to his protégé Timothy not to “let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers . . .” (I Timothy 4:12). I think it is appropriate to encourage baby boomers today not to “let anyone look down on us because we are older, but set an example for the believers.” And that example we set includes wisely and carefully passing the torch.

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For those who are interested here is the link to the article: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/july-web-only/boomers-summer-movies-marvel-iron-man-toy-story-4-yesterday.html?utm_source=ctdirect-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=15819991&utm_content=663619272&utm_campaign=email

For those who may be interested here is the link to an article I wrote about our transition when I stepped down after 30 years and passed on the torch: https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2015/february-online-only/handing-off-pastorate.html