What are the necessary, non-negotiable changes one must undergo to be considered a responsible, functioning adult? Everyone (including Christopher Noxon) agrees that no one should stay a naive, temper-tantrum throwing, un-potty trained child forever. Most people can detect immaturity in someone quite quickly and will display various levels of irritation based on the age appropriate stages that many intuitively expect from all people. But are these age appropriate expectations universal for every time, age, and society? Are there re-definable aspects of adulthood that people must embrace as simply a part of constantly changing cultures? In light of the Industrial Revolution, the explosion of technology, the absence of economic hardship, and the increase in life expectancy among American adults, is there a legitimate (and therefore, acceptable) challenge to the modern definition of the term "adult?" Good question. In Rejuvenile, (a term coined and used by Noxon himself to describe those who have life interests of those younger than themselves) one is forced to wrestle with these tough issues as one cannot deny the ubiquitous emergence of new, non-traditional adult norms. For Christians, this area must be addressed. We must know how the Bible defines "adult," and what we are to expect from our young brothers and sisters in regards to true aging and maturity. Pastors must recognize that confusion about issues of gender, sexuality, and adulthood abound in our secular culture, and the average church attender is no exception to being subtly influenced by this confusion.
Noxon, who is not writing from a Christian worldview, writes:
Evidences of the presence and influence of rejuveniles is all around. The Cartoon Network boasts bigger overall ratings among viewers aged eighteen to thirty-four than CNN, Fox News, or any cable news channel. Half of the visitors to Disney World are childless adults, making the Magic Kingdom the number-one adult vacation destination in the world. Department stores stock fuzzy pajamas with attached feet in adult sizes. . . . The Entertainment Software Association reports that the average age of video game players is twenty nine, up from eighteen in 1990. (3)
Also, from the back cover:
Once upon a time, boys and girls grew up and set aside childish things. Nowadays, moms and dads skateboard alongside their kids, captains of industry pose for Business Week holding Super Soakers, and young people delay marriage and childbirth longer than ever--in part to keep family obligations from interfering from their fun.
Noxon also makes a distinction between "childlike and childish" (223), with the former being the acceptable alternative to traditional adulthood. For him, even amidst a lifestyle characterized by late night hours of video gaming, moving back in with parents after college, and remaining deliberately single or childless, one may still be considered an adult. He argues that because they are able to maintain complex relationships and display responsibility (even if it is to manage a mass tournaments of adult dodge ball), rejuveniles are qualified adults who have indeed grown up, just not in the way our parents and grandparents did. In his most defining statement, he writes:
[Rejuveniles] might not be married, they might not have kids, they might build their life around values older people find self-serving, but they're still adults--they're just a different sort, less mature in some ways, but, it must be said, far more in others. Yes, they're less self-sufficient, but they're also more self-aware. Yes, they're less dependable, but they're also more adaptable. And yes, their crisscrossing career paths can look like proof of indecisiveness or all-around flakiness. But these same qualities can also be seen as evidence of an open and adventurous spirit, one that would rather explore and experiment that settle down, stick to it, and hope for the best. (162-163)
As I read this book I thought of a lot of people by name, many of whom are Christians. Whenever I get that cringe feeling in my soul when I hear of directionless believers spending their money selfishly and who are celebrating a whimsical, "adventurous" life, should I just pass it off as a cultural difference? Should I just come to terms with the fact that my age appropriate expectations are a relative product of the place I was raised? Or, are there certain mindsets and behaviors that we can truly urge young adults to change their minds about? There is nothing intrinsically childish about taking a lengthy trip to another country or playing video games, but defined by the individual in context, they can be.
I do think we can say that adulthood universally boils down to two non-negotiable characteristics: Gospel-marriage (for those who are not called to gospel celibacy) and Gospel-parenthood. Now, I realize that being married, per se, and having children, per se, does not make one an adult any more than being unmarried makes one childish. But, there is a clear Scriptural distinction between childhood and adulthood (e.g., 1 Cor. 13:11) and, it is sinful to not grow out of the former. Thus, it is crucial to recognize the things that keep one in childhood and prevent one from becoming a respectable adult in the eyes of Jesus.
Noxon is right when he points out that the widespread presence things like divorce and the ability to travel anywhere in the world at a relatively cheap price all contribute to the molding of a culture. He is quite helpful for my thinking on some of the things he says. I think there are some changes taking place in our minds regarding what it means to grow up, and not all are sinful. But, in the end, I think adulthood belongs to and is defined by God. There are non-negotiables, namely, marriage and parenthood, and the reality of selfishness is not something to be taken lightly, especially for Christians. Youth pastors need to know how their young people are growing up, and they need to have an understanding of what promotes true maturity and what keeps it from flourishing.
I enjoyed this book. Blake, I know you will get to it soon. I can't wait to talk about it with you.
Peace. Comments? Questions? Differing viewpoints?
(Sculpture found at Rednose Studios)