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The Lost Generation

The phrase, "The Lost Generation," has been used more than several times to describe those out of touch with their roots. Gertrude Stein branded the young American expatriate writers in Paris like Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald with that definition. Later the label was applied in America to the generation living between the world wars that had lost touch with their heritage and traditional values, drifting along while projecting on society their rejection of standards that give meaning to existence. Faith, family and government all fall under the scrutiny of doubt leading to rejection. It's the nourishment of our fiction, television and motion pictures. Call it clichÎ and you are attacked as hypocrite, traditionalist or simply out of touch with reality.

We have our own version of the type, and they are all too prevalent among our spiritual families. I know how St. Paul feels in the above verse from Romans. So many of the generation of my parents, children of immigrants, have fallen away from Christ. Following the post-funeral meal, and as I am about to leave, somebody will approach with a comment such as: "You ought to have known my mother. She was always praying. She never missed church. And Pap? He was a founder of the parish." "How interesting," I say, but what about you, I think. Yet I understand. The Church is for him something left behind long ago, in his childhood. He may visit the parents for the paschal foods, but not share the lent that went before the feast. Blessings have no meaning for one more acquainted with curses. Like so many, he or she has become the Orthodox Christian version of the lost generation.

Press them as to why they abandoned the Church of their parents, and we know before they speak we will hear the same response: "The services were too long. I never understood a word in the foreign language, and my parents were forcing me to pray. I didn't see that it helped them or made them better."

Truth is, they long ago chose to worship another deity. Christ warned us not to try serving God and mammon simultaneously - but that is an enormous temptation in a capitalist society such as ours. Mammon is a jealous, rapacious god. He is never satisfied. He never leaves his followers alone. He demands constant attention, and he never promises anything other than instantaneous gratification. And there is no hope for a life beyond the grave. This is not hidden. All the above is spelled out in TV commercials and bumper stickers: You only go around once. It doesn't get any better than this. He who dies with the most toys wins. Mammon's devotees laugh, but with a macabre, hollow tone.

Some try hanging onto the Church like a button on its last thread. They may bring a basket of food to be blessed for Pascha, but they don't really believe in the power of blessings. They attend baptisms and weddings, but always behind a pectoral camera on view to show they're there for a photo op, not to worship. They pay their respects at funerals and wakes, but looking at them while preaching one notices that their eyes glaze over.

They are obsessed with acquiring money. They are told that money doesn't buy happiness, yet they don't believe it. They will not officially become Church members, because they cannot afford to belong. They will not sing in the choir or offer to serve in some parish endeavor because - to use the motto of the Mammonians, the defining phrase that should be set up between the goalposts along with John 3:16 - Time is Money, a ridiculous phrase, but they actually believe it. They feel that the Church will be there when they need it, like the public library. The difference, however, is that at least their taxes support the library.

Very Rev. Vladimir Berzonsky    10/22/2005


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