Wait Til You're Older

The other night in our "Christianity for Dummies" class, a five week series I'm teaching for the general congregation at our church, I was playfully spreading a little Amillennial mischief and a sweet (well...) old lady in the crowd wasn't diggin it. In fact, she's made it obvious that she's not diggin much of what I'm teaching. But the class isn't really for her anyway... I'm just trying to get people started in a healthy direction.

After the study was over, she pulled me aside and politely said, "you and I should get together and talk sometime." in good humor I responded, "what about? Are you concerned for my salvation?" She smiled and just said, "we just need to talk... about all of this." It wasn't long before she was telling me how she didn't think that a certain passage I had talked about should be read as a metaphor (it was the infamous "white throne of judgement" from Revelation). "I tend to just read things literally," she said, which was honest enough aside from the twinkle in her eye which seemed to imply that her way was the right way. I responded, "I guess I usually lean toward the metaphorical until I have a reason to take things literally" (like genre, perhaps). But then she said it...

"I used to think like you... wait until you get older..."

Perhaps the least creative cop-out in the book, "wait til you're older" is a frustrating phrase for me. The implication is that I think the way I do just because I'm young and that, apparently, old people all agree and there are no old people who think like me.

The fact is, there is a great diversity in thought that transcends age and experience. There are social conservatives, neo-reformers, mainline liberals, progressive evangelicals, fundamentalist evangelicals, democrats and republicans in every age bracket under the sun. To infer that I'll think like you when I'm older, by default, is a trump card that reflects only ignorance and arrogance. True arrogance is assuming that if people knew the information you do, they'd all think like you. The truth is, if we read the same books, watch the same movies, perceive the same scenery, and enjoy the same art, we will likely still have different positions on things.

And besides, some of my deepest theological and social influences include the likes of N.T. Wright, Tony Campolo, Desmond Tutu, Juergen Moltmann, Walter Brueggemann, and Stanley Hauerwas... and lemme tell you, they're no spring chickens.

So old people,... I love you. I admire your wisdom, I glean from your experience, I respect and appreciate your perspective. But please stop using the "wait til you're older" trump card. I'm tired of it and it makes you sound ignorant to me. My age is not an automatic excuse to dismiss my opinion. My thoughts are not the product of some adolescent irresponsibility. Yes, I will grow. Yes, I will learn. And yes, I hope that I will think differently when I'm older. But I won't necessarily think like you. Please take me seriously. After all, 26 years is long enough to learn at least a few things.


Good thoughts, Wes! Singer-songwriter Dar Williams had a great tune in the mid-90's called "Teenagers, Kick Our Butts." Age isn't necessarily a guarantor of wisdom.

Of course, the flip side is when people (like medical professionals) start a conversation with "well, for your age..." which is where I am these days.