Three books geared for millennials wrestling with cultural questions
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In The Road Trip That Changed the World (Moody), Australian author Mark Sayers looks at the wandering, experience-based attitudes of millennials (those who became adults around the year 2000). He traces them back to the novel Jack Kerouac wrote in 1951, On the Road, and chronicles how American culture shifted as automobiles allowed escape from family responsibilities. He writes that finding “kicks” was key, with even Christianity seen as just one stop on the journey to personal fulfillment.
Sayers points out how today’s media continue to preach that the journey is more important than the destination. But he counters that the destination gives the journey value, and that destination is the cross. Sayers looks at Kerouac’s later life, when the despairing writer denounced the movement he helped start, and contends that Kerouac found what he was searching for in Christ. The Road Trip then traces the Bible’s Abraham-to-Jesus journey of self-denial and commitment, examines why many churches seem to stress entertainment rather than worship, and proposes a return to serving Someone greater than ourselves.
The Good Life (Moody), Christian rapper Trip Lee’s first book, lays out the basics of the gospel in a way that’s accessible for young people in the hip-hop culture. Lee contrasts the rapper’s idea of the good life—money, women, partying—with the true good life laid out in the Bible. He shies away from Christian jargon, explains theological truths in a conversational tone (lies about the good life include all-you-can-be-ism and it’s-all-about-me-ism) and ends every chapter with lyrics from his music.
Despite his references to tweets, YOLO, and LeBron James, Lee gives a sound old-school message. He tells readers the good life isn’t getting what you want, but living the way God created you to live: The prosperity gospel rests on false promises to bring wealth and blessings, but the good life rests on the gospel, reading the Bible, and getting connected to a church community. While The Good Life is good for unbelievers, it also helps Christians return to the basics: Its chapter on reading the Bible caused me to stop, put down the book, and open up my Bible app.
In Brett McCracken’s Gray Matters (Baker), due out in August, the author of Hipster Christianity digs into how Christian millennials engage in culture. With many 20-somethings running from their parents’ legalism and embracing all of culture, McCracken asks readers to think deeply about the gray areas of culture and to seek to glorify God through good gifts of sustenance and culture.
The book is broken up into four sections—food, music, movies, and alcohol. Each section looks at Christianity’s history with these matters before delving into questions Christians should consider as they decide what to consume. Will pursuing this activity lead fellow believers to stumble? Is it edifying? Are you using it to fulfill a desire in an unhealthy way, or does it point you to Christ? McCracken, pointing out that the answers are different for each Christian, sprinkles the book with his own personal experiences and memories: The movie section is the book’s strongest.
Gray Matters’ target audience seems to be Christian hipsters, and some readers will not be interested in McCracken’s discussion of artisanal cheeses and indie music. But his analysis of cultural issues is something all serious Christians of this generation need to think about, rather than just mindlessly consuming whatever is placed in front of them.
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