Free to be Guilty

Alexis Bloomer is impressive. She’s had her own shows on Sirius XM radio and television. She […]

Eric Dorman / 5.9.16

Alexis Bloomer is impressive. She’s had her own shows on Sirius XM radio and television. She interned under the direct supervision of Dan Rather, and in her “About” section on Facebook, there’s even a quote from his recommendation letter. She’s a go-getter and a God-and-country Texan.

Now, she can add another achievement to her résumé: a viral video. In the video, she says that she took it upon herself to evaluate what’s so wrong with her own millennial generation. Her top-line observation is that “[millennials are] just existing; we’re not really contributing anything to society.”

According to Bloomer, millennials are crass, ill-mannered, lazy, entitled, internet-obsessed, unpatriotic, libertine, valueless, underperforming ingrates.

Worst. People. Ever.

And she, for one, wants to change it. “To all of our elders, I’m sorry,” she says. “Thank you – from this Millennial – for putting up with…those who do not see the wrong in their actions.”

The video has 43 million views.

millennial cartoon

Aside from the fact that constantly hearing about millennial defects is uninteresting at this point, her analysis isn’t actually supported by some of the evidence.

First, new generations are always disparaged. Throughout history, the perception of youth has been that they’re basically arrogant, entitled drunkards.

In the 8th century BC, Hesiod summarized the problem:

“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words…When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful and impatient of restraint.”

As did Plato in the 4th:

“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”

And Peter the Hermit in the 13th AD (at least, it’s attributed to him):

“The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age…They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them.”

Even St. Paul recognized that some folks were looking down on Timothy’s youthfulness. Trashing the younger generation – even from the inside – is a fairly traditional move.


Second, there’s plenty of data suggesting that the usual accusations against millennials are false.

More than 80 percent of millennials make charitable donations every year (despite massively increased student loan debt), and they’re more likely than any other generation to donate their time and skills. Millennials are more optimistic about the future than previous generations, too, even though – as David Brooks points out – they’ve been through a financial crisis, family instability and political dysfunction.

Though you’ve heard otherwise, millennials change jobs and location less often than earlier generations. They’re having less casual sex and getting more degrees. They’re the least likely to think unfavorably of either of the major political parties, and the most likely to say that politicians should reach across the aisle in order to get the job done.

No one would deny that there are trends worth examining. Millennial marriage rates are almost half what they were when the boomers were that age. Less than half plan to have children. They’re less likely to religiously affiliate. And they have a low view of human nature, with only 19 percent saying that most people can be trusted, compared to 40 percent of boomers.

Those trends are no doubt a mixture of good, bad, and benign, but the allegations against millennials don’t usually include these more interesting observations anyway. Rather, they’re either the grumpy complaints of Plato, or the claims contradicted by the evidence.

None of it really matters, though. Do millennials suck the most? Maybe, but if so, who raised them? Are millennials actually awesome? Perhaps, but if so, who made their awesomeness possible?

Really, people accuse millennials of poking the last holes in the societal boat because we’re all hard-wired to transfer blame. It’s one of our primal defense mechanisms.

The woman you gave me made me do it. No, the serpent ruined everything.

wooden bikeIt’s hard to come face to face with the reality that you bear some responsibility for the state of things. We have an irresistible impulse to deflect; to shirk responsibility. If things are bad, it’s because someone else messed them up. So our instinct after sensing our guilt is to quickly push it on others. Scapegoating is an attempt to protect ourselves from the truth. But scapegoating our neighbor or our spouse or the youth doesn’t actually solve the problem.

Jesus solves the problem. While we wander around in the wilderness of guilt, desperately searching for someone to unburden us, God guides us to a place of rest. He takes our guilt away and gives us perfect freedom in return.

That freedom lets us see ourselves for what we what we truly are: guilty. We don’t have to keep shifting the blame onto others. We can look our guilt in the eye and rest in the truth that Jesus took it off our hands. We’re also free to see ourselves for what God has truly made us: blameless. We are totally guilty, but in Christ, totally innocent. At the same time, sinful and justified.

When we scapegoat our neighbors, we’re transferring guilt onto people who can’t possibly bear it. Christ is the only one who can take all of it and come out on the other side.