July 1, 2019

Millennials and Vulnerability

I’ve often wondered why we, as millennials, are known for our insistence upon radical authenticity and our lack of tolerance for facades. The bulk of our generation grew up in the years surrounding and following the Columbine High School shooting. Many of us grew up doing “code red drills” where we hid under our desks and inside closets, knowing that in the instance that a shooter wrought havoc on our school, only a windowed classroom door stood between the shooter and our demise. Whenever I student-taught in college and entered a new classroom for the first time, my first instinct was to get a full visual layout of the room and see how I could best protect my students if there were to be a shooter. If there was a closet in the classroom, was it locked or unlocked? Was it big enough to hold students? Was there a window that students could safely use to exit the building? All of these questions went through my mind. These questions were harrowing questions to ask, but not at all out of the ordinary.

I’m sure there are many reasons why millennials are so insistent on authenticity, vulnerability, and at times, are prone to overshare. I don’t claim to speak for all millennials, and I don’t care to make sweeping generalizations about why we are the way we are. But I know this: when you grow up in a world where shootings are live-streamed on the internet and first-person accounts from people in the midst of their own tragedies are just a couple of clicks away, you tend to have a very low tolerance for nonsense.

When you realize at an early age that hiding under desks, shielded only by a windowed classroom door, is a futile effort to prevent pain and injury, you also realize that hiding one’s self behind societal niceties and illusions of privacy are no more protective.

Not talking about things like mental illness, gun violence, legislation, inequality, and the many other factors that affect our daily lives in the Church because "we just shouldn't go there", is not an acceptable excuse. There’s a time to speak passionately and there’s a time to speak with discretion, but how can we expect millennials to be an integral part of the Church when there’s still so much pushback from those who buy into the “vulnerability is a display of weakness” narrative and continue to parrot the words: “we just shouldn’t go there.”

Many of us would love, and feel called, to take on lay and ordained leadership roles in the Church, but have experienced pushback when we’ve made ourselves vulnerable. Some of us have shared our personal experiences, with the hope of our stories being a redeeming force for others and been told to “maybe not disclose that” until we are more established.

Though I was not raised in the Episcopal Church, my upbringing in the Southern Baptist Church and my eventual journeying into the charismatic evangelical world has shaped me into who I am today. I am a Christian mutt who calls the Episcopal Church home. I am here because of my love for the liturgy, because it is here that I am given permission to think for myself, and because the people of this Church are the ones I want to walk with side by side as we follow Jesus.

The longer I’ve been an Episcopalian, the more stories I hear from millennials that are similar to my own. We are willing to jump in with both feet and immerse ourselves in the joys and complexities of life in the Episcopal Church, so long as we have reason to believe that we will be honored for who we are, not who we could be if we just “didn’t go there” or took it down a few notches.