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How Will the Hero Generation Respond to the Crisis?

As explained in the book The Fourth Turning, generations look like four basic archetypes. This current generation of young people is known as “the Hero Generation.” And you have to look at young people and ask, will that happen? Can they be heroes? According to the book, before a generation can …
By Seth Barnes

As explained in the book The Fourth Turning, generations look like four basic archetypes. This current generation of young people is known as “the Hero Generation.” And you have to look at young people and ask, will that happen? Can they be heroes?

According to the book, before a generation can be known for its heroism, two things need to occur:

1. An unraveling of authority

This is an era where “institutions are weak and distrusted, while individualism is strong and flourishing. Unravellings follow Awakenings.” 

It’s fair to say that the last decade or so, this has been happening in America.

2. A crisis

“This is an era in which America’s institutional life is torn down and rebuilt from the ground up—always in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s very survival. Civic authority revives, cultural expression finds a community purpose, and people begin to locate themselves as members of a larger group.”

How big a crisis?

Are we in such a crisis? It is too early to say. In terms of the virus, death rates are lower than many had forecasted. While unemployment has shot up, many of those who lost their jobs have received payments and are not desperate yet.

It’s not like a war, where a generation of young people might respond with action by enlisting or protesting. We are at present beginning to ask how to re-engage as a society.

Still, if it’s not a crisis that demands a heroic response, it’s a pretty good start to one. It reminds me of the exchange between the sheriff and the deputy in the film No Country for Old Men, as they look at the remains of drug runners who had killed each other:

Deputy: “It’s a mess, ain’t it sheriff?”

Sheriff: “If it ain’t, it’ll do till the mess gets here!”

Yes, we look pretty messy right now. But a lot of people seem to expect that things will soon go back to normal. You have to wonder if that’s so or if what is coming our way is really an order of magnitude beyond anything we’ve ever experienced.

Already food supplies in many developing countries are drying up. There is talk of famine in parts of Africa and Asia. And around the world you can sense people looking for hope in ways that they haven’t.

I believe that it may take a few years, but if we are indeed in for a long, rough ride, we will need heroes to rise up. And if that happens, typically it is our young people who are most willing to take the kind of risks that we associate with heroes.

The Bible is a book of heroic stories. You see in it people risking life and limb to bring hope.

Jesus asked us to risk ourselves to bring hope to others. During the time of Unravelling, we watched as many of our young people had wondered if their faith was relevant anymore. Maybe that is starting to change. Maybe they are beginning to hear the call to be someone’s hero.

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