He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments… (Psalm 78:5-7 /ESV)
We instinctively understand the differences among the generations passing through this time on earth. We generally mark these generations by birth years, but even more so by those shared and defining events during their formative years.
It’s challenging to know when a generation ends and the next begins, but we may just be seeing such a change now in the aftermath of the coronavirus global pandemic. Young children and those to be born after coronavirus will never know a world free from the concerns of a disease that potentially can disrupt and destroy millions of lives and shake global economies. They are the “Corona Baby” generation.
Baby Boomers were born after World War II, defined by the Vietnam War, the assassination of President Kennedy, his brother Robert, and civil rights leader, Rev. Martin Luther King. They gave their children freedom to think outside the box, to explore the world, and to become anything they want to be.
Gen-X is the “latch key” generation, born in the late 60s and 70s from early Baby Boomers. Double-digit inflation, television babysitters, and the Challenger explosion shaped their young world. They later became helicopter parents, not wanting their children to raise themselves in an increasingly dangerous post 9/11 world.
Millennials are children of the Baby Boomers, born between 1980 through the late 90s. They are the first global generation, never knowing a time without the internet or video games. Their world is shaped by globalization, the internet, video games, superhero movies, terrorism, two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the challenges of entering the workforce in the wake of late-retiring Baby Boomers.
The Gen-Z generation is the children of Gen-X parents. They were born in the late 1990s and are now attending college, high school, and middle school. They are natives to technology, never knowing life without a smartphone, Google, YouTube, Snap Chat, TikTok, Instagram, political angst, social injustice, and environmental destruction. They are the first to see little or no distinction between digital and physical realities and are at home with globalization and rapidly-changing technology. They live in a world customized to their tastes and preferences. They want to make a difference by healing the world’s wounds.
We may be seeing the defining barrier between the Gen-Z generation and the ones to come. The coronavirus pandemic will fundamentally realign how we interact with one another, how we see the role of government, the global supply-chain, science, technology, education, and faith. It will be a generation born in fear of a disease that no current vaccine can cure.
Baby Boomers learned to shelter under their school desks to protect them from atom bombs. Corona Babies will learn to shelter in place warding off unseen viral enemies — be they natural or genetically engineered in science labs. Possibly, the next viral pandemic could be computer-based. With the coronavirus pandemic, we retreated to our internet technology. What happens if our technology becomes unusable? These are significant uncertainties that will face the next generations.
CORONA BABIES AND CHANGE
Corona babies will grow up in a world of uncertainty, unprecedented danger, and enemies they cannot see (be they physical or computer viruses). They will learn and adapt to a world where uncertainty is the new norm.
We do not yet know all the ramifications of this coronavirus pandemic, but we can already see that it will fundamentally realign how we relate to one another. Before 2020, who practiced “social distancing?” Now it’s a term that will be forever in our language.
ZOOM teleconferencing may be the current model for the future seamless integration of our physical and virtual workplaces. Even architecture may need to change to minimize the deadly effects of crowd infection. Government may play a much more significant role as we willingly yield some individual liberties to gain protection from the next unseen enemy.
CORONA BABIES AND JESUS
It will be of paramount importance that the church both models and proclaims that which is unchangeable in this new rapidly changing society. Certain truths are bedrock — Jesus and His Word, God’s love, and the message of the Cross. Corona Babies will probably be less trusting and more savvy to that which is fake. We must demonstrate the words we speak with the lives we live.
It is impossible at this point to know all the changes that are ahead for the church after the current pandemic ebbs. As our relationships experience fundamental realignment, we may find that the next generations will not go to church, nor will they understand what it means to gather on Sundays in large buildings.
Instead, future generations may see “church” as their circle of close believing friends who connect themselves with other circles of believers. “Church” as they will know it will be small networks of networks— continually multiplying and making disciples, but not necessarily by going to church on Sunday morning. This kind of a decentralized network of networks is how internet technology already works, and it is one of the characteristics of the many globalized systems. Why would it be alien if the next generations applied the decentralization to the church?
We may be seeing the formation of the next generation after Gen-Z. Fundamentally, the Corona Baby generation will redefine how we relate to one another in a take-it-for-granted pandemic world. What is most important now is for the church to highlight what does not change while being open to allowing changes that are not fundamental to the Christian faith. It comes down to Jesus and His Word by His Spirit, proclaiming, and living God’s love through the Cross. The Corona Baby generation will inherit a brave new world. The church must help them enter the future grounded in their faith in Jesus.
Authored by Dr. David F. Ingrassia, Pastor at Charlotte Awake