by Amos Smith
The entire Christian tradition can be seen in terms of eldering. The witnesses in the Bible are our ancient elders, whose words mentor disciples through the ages. The early Christian community deferred to its elders, preserved their writings, learned and grew from their example.
When I attended Quaker Meetings for Worship during college days, the community clearly identified its elders. Quaker elders were also known as “Seasoned Friends.” The elders, who had been in the community a long time, had gathered around many crackling beach fires. They knew the life-giving stories. They’d been pummeled by life and survived to speak carefully chosen words of truth, sometimes as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel. Elders were sought for council. The most wizened engaged in the delicate and humble art of puncturing peoples’ inflated egos in order to restore their souls.
A tragedy of America that is echoed throughout Hollywood and mass media is the supremacy of the teenager and young adult. Our culture reveres teens. We celebrate their vitality, enthusiasm, and beauty. There are many praiseworthy qualities of young adulthood, yet for a society to revere teens is backward. Teen role models would never go over in traditional societies found in Asia, South America, and elsewhere. In these societies the wizened elders are appropriately revered.
The sage, not the teen heartthrob, deserves the highest honor.