The Jesus Year

Monday, May 14th, 2012


The ‘Jesus Year’ is age 33, the year that scholars generally believe Jesus of Nazareth was probably arrested and crucified in Jerusalem after starting a spiritual, political and intellectual revolution. The ‘Jesus Year’ is now also becoming the age in which young people – not necessarily only Christians, but everyone in this multicultural society – decide it’s time to get serious about life, time to accomplish something.

The term, Jesus Year, appears to be gaining traction among those trying to make the increasingly difficult transition from adolescence to adulthood. In a North American consumer culture that stretches out youth far longer than in the past (even of my generation’s late-blooming past), a Jesus Year seems like a worthwhile symbol and goal — a reminder it’s time to wake up to existence. As I interpret it, the Jesus Year beckons often over-protected young people — not to mention coddled older ones — to overcome their romanticism and sentimentality and really commit to life, with all its tragedy, beauty and potential. Its of course a life-long process.

The Globe published a recent feature on the Jesus Year phenomenon, which included some of the painful hipness associated with such a concept. (We hear, for instance, of the inner struggles of a fashionable, guilty Jewish woman, who is having trouble accepting that she’s adopted a Christian story for herself. For absolution, I suggest she could just go to the work of Leonard Cohen, a Jew, since he’s still intensely adopting Christian themes in his lyrics. Try Cohen’s new song, Show Me The Place, for hardcore Christian theology. It includes the lyric, “show me the place / where the Word became the man.”)

I appreciated, however, the way a Simon Fraser University professor in the Globe story took into account the frustrations faced by today’s thirtysomethings.

“The basic milestones that young people of previous generations could expect to complete by the age of 30 – graduating school, leaving home, becoming financial independent and forming their own families – aren’t necessarily occurring in that standard fashion,” says Barbara Mitchell, who teaches sociology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

“It’s unprecedented from a historical perspective. On the one hand, they have all these opportunities and options. On the other hand, I can imagine they’d start to feel somewhat anxious about trying to transition into complete adulthood in an economy that doesn’t allow them to do that.”

According to Prof. Mitchell, the Jesus Year phenomenon demonstrates how so-called emerging adults are trying to connect their own experience to something transcendental and more profound than mundane daily life. “They are trying to anchor themselves in something bigger than themselves.”

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