“Big kids make bad citizens.”
Diana West is a nationally syndicated American journalist and author with a talent for cultural critique. She writes from a conservative standpoint, often on topics few are willing to touch. Her recent book, The Death of the Grown-up: How America’s Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization, explores the permanent adolescence that threatens the survival of Western society. The C-SPAN2 video of her recent appearance at the Heritage Foundation makes some important points.1
Resistance to adulthood is pervasive. As one bumper sticker declares, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” Forty-year–old mothers walk around in the same low-riding jeans as their fourteen-year–old daughters. The boundaries between adults and children blur. Adult concerns are forced onto children while “adults” occupy themselves with childishness.
Friendships between parents and children are more and more common, not because children have tastes and interests more and more in line with adulthood, but because parents are becoming less and less mature. Parents themselves are increasingly in need of parents. Dads are deadbeats and moms can’t say no. Children “boomerang.” Grandchildren are raised by their grandparents.
Adult qualities of patience, prudence, soberness, decorum, responsibility, dependability, respect, sacrifice, and independence are depreciated and even discouraged. Masculinity and males suffer the most. Anti-heroes are mainstreamed. Real heroes are marginalized. Pornography, profanity, narcissism, dependency, effeminacy, fecklessness, boorishness, and unrealistic demands abound. Powerful cultural, political, and economic forces foster extended adolescence and then profit from it to the detriment of individuals and communities at all levels. Every institution suffers. According to one Enron employee, “the trouble with Enron was that there weren’t any grown ups.”
Multiculturalism makes growing up difficult to do. According to the author, it is “juvenile,” “infantilizing” the mind by suppressing its powers of judgment. No culture is judged as superior to any other culture. Western civilization, with all its history of advancements in freedom, humaneness, and tolerance, is no better than other cultures that actually shrink those very same virtues. The West is embarrassed and incapable of defending its own interests– unable to identify its own enemies.
Although the author focuses on culture, her observations easily extend to the church. If big kids make bad citizens, how much more are they ill-suited for citizenship in the “kingdom”? The concern is not so much about immature converts per se. Rather, it’s about the offloading of personal and parental responsibilities onto the church– about resentment of authority and leadership– about aversion to sacrifice and lack of dependability– about the blunting of interest in spiritual maturity by a surrounding culture intent on having a “second childhood.”
Maturity as a virtue is associated with stereotypically masculine ways of thinking; e.g., hierarchy, distinctions, linear reasoning.
Society’s flight from maturity is but one manifestation of a cultural hostility toward God as Father in general and masculinity in particular.
Thus, the “death of God” …
- … leads to the “death of maturity” which …
… leads to the “death of the grown-up.”2