Service is not just a Catholic thing!

by Anonymous (b. 1982)
I have read a lot of posts about religion on this site. One in particular struck me because I felt so much in common with the author. Kate likens herself to others in her generation by virtue of the following: she feels “personally responsible for making a difference in the world.” In the same paragraph, she attributes this feeling of social responsibility to her Catholic upbringing and describes this feeling, this “calling,” as inseparable from her faith. 
As Kate points out, this feeling is something that is common to many members of our generation (at least common to those with whom I regularly interact, which I must admit is a very specific liberal-minded, highly educated, and predominantly coastal/urban subset). It is even something that feel defines “us” as GenY. If so many of us feel this sense of responsibility regardless of our religious upbringing or personal faith, how can that feeling be tied so tightly to Catholicism?
I am Jewish, and I spent a long time attributing my sense of social responsibility to my identity as a Jew. More than to the tenets of Judaism or to my personal faith, I attributed it to the culture of Judaism, a culture that every year on Passover implores every Jew to say out loud that he/she was personally spared from a lifetime of slavery under an Egyptian Pharaoh some 3000 years ago. I also attributed it to some sort of survivor syndrome based on the fact that I grew up with a very acute awareness of the Holocaust as something that could just as easily have happened to me. This led me to identify very personally with victims of injustice. It inspired me, drove me, and on occasion consumed me, with public service projects and to the pursuit of a Medical Degree. I even made the choice to be a orthopedic surgeon in part because that is how I feel that I personally am most capable of contributing.
If Kate attributes her sense of social responsibility to Catholicism and I attribute mine to Judaism, then maybe something else entirely is happening. Maybe rather than looking to our respective religions for moral and ethical guidance, we are bringing our own moral and ethical perspectives to our religions. For as long as religion has been practiced, it has been used by its followers as those followers see fit. So why is Kate’s sense of social responsibility so inseparable from Catholicism? Maybe it's only because she happened to be born Catholic. Maybe, she would feel that way no matter which religion or culture she was born into.
I believe, and I hope, that we are entering an era of post-religious moral and ethical codes in this country. I believe this is possible because we are each exposed to so many different religions and cultures. As a result, we are developing a collective consciousness that supersedes our religious upbringings. The influences on our personal ethics and morality have perhaps increased in number as compared with previous generations due to diversification of individual regions and due to the exposure to different lifestyles and value systems provided to us by the media. For example, my parents grew up in Jewish neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn and interacted primarily with Jewish classmates at local colleges whereas I and the majority of everyone I know grew up in diverse towns and did not associate primarily with peers of their own religious upbringing in college.
After roughly 18-25 years of all this external input, I chose what I consider to be the “best” of Judaism (at least for me) and made it my own. Kate seems to me to have done the same with Catholicism. We also both dismissed, or at least tried to dismiss, those aspects of our respective religions which did not suit our belief systems. The specifics of how this came to be is better suited for a political scientist than a surgeon-in-training, but the result to me seems to be this: we are bringing moral and ethical codes to our understanding of what it means to have religion rather than the other way around.

Yale: The decline of the bluebloods...

by Keith Stagg (b. 1983)

I am a graduate student at Yale. When people learn this for the first time, they assume one of two things. First they might look up to my intellectual stature, treating me as one would William Shakespeare or Isaac Newton upon first acquaintance: an archetypical broad-shouldered giant. The second reaction is to see me as a privileged Yankee, a robber baron member of the Ivy League. My old friends from Oregon and New Mexico would be amused by these caricatures, as am I.

Knowing that I do not fit these stereotypes often leads those friends to assume that I do not fit in here, but that too is a logical fallacy. I fit in well, for neither stereotype describes more than a very few in the student body. The students here are generally intelligent, but certainly not giants. Anyone from my obscure undergraduate school in eastern Washington State would feel comfortable in classroom discussions at Yale. That is not surprising, but the extent to which the second stereotype is wrong, is mindblowing.

This past fall I attended a research seminar for the thirty students pursuing Masters of Science degrees at the Yale School of Forestry. The culmination of the class was a “grant panel” in which we evaluated and ranked each person’s proposed thesis research. The top five projects were denoted with names in dark black marker on yellow sticky notes placed above the others.
Anna Pickett. Francisco Espinosa. Fauziah Fakhrunnisa Rochman. Caitlin O’Brady.
Not a single white male. And the top pick, the most distinguished of our Privileged Yankee Elite? That honor went to Fauziah, a soft spoken Muslim woman from Indonesia.
A generation before ours, this might have made the paper. Yet among our generation, no one seemed to notice that the most blue blood of schools was an institution that has grown beyond its ignoble beginnings.

And now for something completely different: A profile of a Gen Y Driving Vigilante

by Zach Blattner (b. 1982)

There are legitimate reasons for using your horn. Most often, rational human beings reserve their honking for situations of imminent peril – a car is about to move into their lane or someone is about to back into them. In these cases, instinct – by way of a honk – takes over. We honk because we have no other choice.

There are other moments when the horn is used without a clear safety purpose. Say, for instance, someone hasn't realized the light has changed from red to green. This is a honk of awareness with ensured understanding on both sides; the honker is communicating to the honkee that he needs to drive. Another good reason for honking is to say "goodbye" to a group of people close by or to a car that was leading you onto the freeway in a new neighborhood. I'm sure there are other appropriate honking situations as well. In fact, it seems rather simple to delineate between well-intentioned, helpful honks and useless, mean-spirited ones. Or so it would seem.

I only realized recently that a close friend of mine (a bright friend) struggles with this dichotomy. He honks at cars who he believes have committed any sort of driving misconduct. His reason is simple: education through shame.

These unfortunate drivers may be unfamiliar with an area and are therefore driving slower than his acceptable traffic flow. They may have left their blinker on longer than he deems appropriate. They may find themselves in an only left hand turn lane. They may be the old, the sick or the young. He does not discriminate nor contemplate the effectiveness of even a short, quick beep. Instead, he "really slams the horn – that's what it's made for". When asked about his long term objective, he responds that "maybe next time they won't stall in traffic or try to nudge into a shorter toll line."

So I've labeled him a driving vigilante, a man on a mission to right the wrongs of the road with no regard for his own appearance. Like any conflicted super-hero, he isn't overly concerned with public opinion, or the conventional wisdom that honking probably doesn't teach those drivers anything, other than that he is an ass. His vision is a world with better drivers who continually improve – through tragedy and suffering – until they eventually become the Nietzschean ubermensch.

I think I might start honking more.

A Gen Yer argues AGAINST change

As a whole, older generations know Generation-Y as the "ME" generation. In the eyes of many Millennials, if something isn't suitable for us, we change it to be more suitable to our own personal preferences. Millennials have been raised this way. Our parents told us, "Do whatever makes you happy," or, "You can do anything you want." These are both stellar ideals, even in a less than ideal world.

There are things that some of us can't do. People with serious physical limitations can't perform the duties of a firefighter. Becoming an EMT may not be a good choice for someone with an aversion to blood. Women can not become Catholic priests.

I, like probably most young, politically liberal Catholics, am asked by my non-Catholic and Catholic friends alike for my opinion on the last scenario. Why shouldn't there be women priests? I don't know the entire theological argument for this point, but I am a firm believer in the Church's position: I don't ever want to see female priests.

Society has changed for the better in the past forty years. Women are a major part of the workforce. Men are increasingly staying at home. But even with these changes in society, men and women remain different.

Women received an incredible gift in the beginning with the ability to carry children in the womb. It takes incredible mental and physical strength to see a pregnancy to completion. Though it may seem sexist, I think women are stronger than men and better suited for childbirth. I know I couldn't handle the pain inherent in childbirth.

I believe that pregnancy is a gift because of a difficult personal loss my wife and I experienced two years ago. We lost our son, Joseph Michael Koutsoufis, stillborn at full term.

I envy the woman's role in pregnancy because my wife spent forty quality weeks with Joseph, nurturing his growth inside her. She carried and protected him until the last week. Other than feeling him kick occasionally, my only contact with Joseph was after he passed. I cradled Joseph's lifeless body in my arms. I ran my fingers through his rust colored hair. I swabbed blood from his lips because his skin started to decompose in the womb. I sat in the front pew for his funeral Mass trying unsuccessfully to be a rock for my family. I knelt at Joseph's casket graveside and said good bye.
by Daniel Koutsoufis (b. 1982)

I often wish that I had that nine months with Joseph, but I'm happy that my wife did instead. She deserved that personal experience. As Far Eastern traditions teach us, life is about balance; Yin and Yang. As Catholicism teaches us, women can choose to sacrifice their bodies for the life of a child, while men can sacrifice having children for the privilege of becoming a Catholic priest. Balance.

Catholic society has existed in roughly its current form for two millennia, emerging from the contemporaries of Christ. Gen-Y is an incredible group of people. But, who are we to think that we should be able to change apostolic tradition just because we don't agree with it? When did our opinions become more important than those of Saint Peter and Saint Paul? The Catholic Church changed enough as a result of the Second Vatican Council. Let's leave well enough alone.