There are movie reviews about movies and then there are movie reviews about life. An example of the latter is Carl Trueman’s review of a movie based on Margaret Thatcher, The Iron Lady:
…the greatness of the film lies not in its depiction of Mrs Thatcher’s life; indeed, it is not really a conventional biopic at all. It lies rather in its portrait of the merciless cruelty of old age and the omnipresent tragedy of mortality that lies at the heart of the human condition. Cutting back and forth between Thatcher’s political career and her current state of semi-senile dependency, the story is a melancholy one, made more so by the fact that the viewer knows that life, lived long enough, will bring such impotence to us all.
Aging is surely one of our denials. We want to maintain the vibrancy of youth and, more than we care to admit, study the mirror to see if others see it – see us – slipping away. In so doing, we push away the reality of our days under the sun, which is largely the reality that we are profoundly human, with all the limitations of being human. Church is – or at least should be – a place where mortality denial stops. But sometimes it isn’t:
In this it reminded me once again of the danger of allowing the church to become preocuppied with youth. There is much in the developing church culture which plays directly into the hands of the young: the celebrity culture with its cool aesthetics and hip sensibilities is one obvious example. Ever noticed how many 40 plus preachers these days have untucked shirts? I have a sneaking suspicion that behind every untucked middle aged shirt lies an unchecked middle aged paunch. Yet there are more subtle ways that youth is exceptionally well-placed to hold inappropriate and disproportionate power. Technology is the most obvious. With a few exceptions, the masters of twitter, videocasts, and online marketing are the young and the hip.
This shouldn’t be surprising. Many confuse divine blessing with the size of a church, and it’s sound marketing strategy to be on the cutting edge, including, if necessary, an alternate worship service (read: letting the old folks have their separate service). Then there’s that mountaintop kind of religiosity that’s hard to distinguish from the quest for everlasting youth.
I’m tempted to call this de facto age discrimination in the church. But, if that’s too much like legalese, maybe we can just call it “worldly” to orient church to the young. And maybe we can better see the wisdom in psalms, hymns, a sermon, and the sacraments, adapted as they are to faith rather than age.