The Most Selfish Generation?

In the budget impass, Republicans blame the president or each other. Democrats blame Republicans. Talk show hosts inflame emotions. Angry voters flood DC switchboards. Conservative freshmen congressmen have become a popular target.

Behind this is a warning that anyone trying to include Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid in a solution will be removed from office if not shot first. In this crisis but also in life in general, NIMBY – “not in my back yard,” has become NOMB – “not on my back.” Why? Answer — the rich have money to spare and I don’t.

Now, this post is not about politics. It’s about what underlies these attitudes. That is personal self-centeredness on a scale never before seen in America.

We have become a nation of self-proclaimed victims who feel someone ought to pay to better our lot. News often focuses on tragedy, anger and weeping. Why? — because we are fixated on emotion. Its like never-ending group therapy in which everyone just gets worse.

We have become a thoroughly existential nation, that is, we live for the moment, we live for emotion, we live for pleasure — agnosticism and Darwinism having taken our hope. There is a reason why skepticism and despair are such a feature of today’s youth culture.

Tom Brokaw called those who suffered the Depression and fought WWII the greatest generation, partly due to their willingness to sacrifice for the common good in doing what needed to be done.

Today it is all about us, our material prosperity and our feelings. Well did Paul prophesy, “In the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money . . . unloving, irreconcilable . . . without self-control . . . haters of good . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (1 Timothy 3:2). Is there a better short description of America today?

Some might quarrel with unloving but love is “willing and acting toward the highest good of another” (Thomas Aquinas). Love is inherently unselfish and that’s rare indeed.

Jesus’ return is truly at hand. As his followers let’s be known as those who seek to do the will of God even if it varies from our own interests. Let’s be known for self-sacrifice in the service of others. Let’s be known as examples of love, filled with the fruit of the Spirit — “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:23).

A lit candle in daylight is a curiosity but a candle in the darkness is riveting. These are dark days. Let’s shine, not whine. Live like we have Christ in us, the light of the world.