“The millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome; they don’t ever want to grow up.”
To which Millennials and Gen Zers reply, “OK, boomer.”
Welcome to the new standard retort to the problem of older people who just don’t get it, coming from those fed up with them not getting it.
“The older generations grew up with a certain mindset, and we have a different perspective,” said 19-year-old Shannon O’Connor, who designed a T-shirt and hoodie with the phrase. “A lot of them don’t believe in climate change or don’t believe people can get jobs with dyed hair, and a lot of them are stubborn in that view. Teenagers just respond, ‘OK, boomer.’ It’s like, we’ll prove you wrong, we’re still going to be successful because the world is changing.”
Nina Kasman, an 18-year-old college student who is also selling “OK, Boomer” merchandise, said that while older generations have always looked down on younger kids or talked about things “back in their day,” she and other teens believe older people are actively hurting young people. “Everybody in Gen Z is affected by the choices of the boomers, that they made and are still making,” she said. “Those choices are hurting us and our future. Everyone in my generation can relate to that experience and we’re all really frustrated by it.”
What’s fueling the anti-boomer sentiment? “Rising inequality, unaffordable college tuition, political polarization exacerbated by the internet, and the climate crisis.”
What is most telling about the phrase is the deep indictment it holds against a reluctance to change or to embrace what are perceived to be the real issues of the day. Twenty-year-old Jonathan Williams, who wrote, produced and recorded a trending song titled “OK Boomer,” puts his finger on this dynamic and how, in the end, boomer is just a state of mind. Williams says anyone can be a boomer—with the right attitude. “You don’t like change, you don’t understand new things especially related to technology…” he said. “Being a boomer is just having that attitude, it can apply to whoever is bitter toward change.”
Boomers are currently leading the vast majority of churches, yet I see few of those church leaders actively reaching out to younger generations for leadership roles or mentoring relationships (much less succession plans). Or if they do, it is met with voiced frustrations about their work style, the types of innovations they push for, their dependence on technology, and their desire to broaden out the church’s concerns to include racial reconciliation, sexism and creation care. There is a deep resistance to change, often bolstered by a dismissive attitude toward those younger as uninformed, whining, overly indulged snowflakes.
But get ready to watch them do it on their own.
James Emery White
Taylor Lorenz, “‘OK Boomer’ Marks the End of Friendly Generational Relations,” The New York Times, October 29, 2019, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is available for preorder on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.