The Religion of a Satirical Generation

By Kent Hayden, The Huffington Post

In a great post on the Rally to Restore Sanity, Alexandra Petri described it as the Woodstock of the “I generation.”  Millennials are Generation I, for whom life exists so we can put as many things as possible in quotes. And this “rally” is the closest millennials will ever get to a love-in. It’s a “like-in.”

I like this. I mean, officially. I “like” it on Facebook, where my “feelings” and “opinions” go to become real.

I was at the rally. And it was something hard to articulate. It was the right thing at the right time for a people who have never been offered the right thing at the right time. It was the first dose of Adderall to a generation with severe ADHD.

We gathered in costume carrying signs that read “legalize gay marijuana” and “God hates figs.” We crammed into a crowd tight enough to give Mr. Rogers fits of misanthropic rage. And then we sang together and we laughed together and we got goosebumps together. It was an exercise in what philosopher Herbert Marcuse called the “irrational nature of our rationality.”

And this, I think, is the point. We as a generation look around us and are horrified that no one else seems to notice how absurd everything is. Whether its Glenn Beck’s glasses or the Ragin’ Cajin’s head, or the inflammatory things that come out of them, we can’t get on board with that, and our only recourse is apathetic snickering.

That is, until someone calls us together to inject a little conscious absurdity into the unconscious absurdity that usually dominates Washington. And then, our hunger for sincere discourse emerges in an almost literally ground-breaking swell of enthusiasm.

As a “master of divinity,” my reflections on our generation’s penchant for ironic apathy led me to thinking about our religious engagement — our apathetic snickering in the back of the church. Is there hope for the same kind of movement in our religion as the Rally represented for our politics? Can the I Generation be incited to sing the Doxology with as much sincerity as we sang “America the Beautiful” with Tony Bennett on Saturday?

My first impulse is to say, obviously not. Religion is widely held to be the source of the ridiculous in our political discourse. It is with religion that conservative millennialists paint their apocalyptic caricatures of our future. It is with religion that even our more enlightened politicians pander to us to avoid making difficult ethical arguments. And it is in the name of religion that despotic autocrats justify their evil.

On the other side of the argument, religion is touted as an inescapable and wholesome reality from which our moral bedrock and communal identity have been formed. It is said to be that upon which our laws and constituting documents depend, and in whose purview those documents should remain. It is claimed as the primary source of order and decency in our society.

Read more of this article at The Huffington Post.

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