Preaching from the Choir

By Marc Lamont Hill

In a desperate attempt to fend off boredom, I found myself at home on a recent Saturday afternoon flipping through television channels in search of a diversion. After a few minutes, I stopped at one of the local public access stations, which was re-broadcasting a Sunday service from one of the area's largest and most popular churches. By the time I tuned in, a middle-aged preacher was nearing the climax of his sermon entitled "The Lost Generation." "Kids growing up today don't care about nothin' and nobody," he insisted while dabbing a silk handkerchief against his chin to save his Armani suit from his own sweat, "All they want to do is party and have fun." In spite of my instincts, I continued to listen as he enumerated the faults of the current generation of "hip-hoppers" who have apparently cornered the market on sin. "Hedonistic," "selfish," "materialistic," and "lazy" were just a few of the labels that the preacher assigned to my generational cohorts. After a few minutes, I could no longer suffer his rhetorical assault and changed the channel. Still, I continued to replay the comments in my mind throughout the ensuing week, struggling to figure out why I was so unsettled. After all, everyone from Harold Bloom to George Will to Cornel West to my own momma has publicly lamented the moral status of youth culture. Why would I care so much about a random preacher? After a few days of reflection, the answer hit me. According to much of America's ostensible moral leadership -- both religious and secular -- the hip-hop generation (those born between 1965 and 1984) is no longer in possession of the values, beliefs, and traditions that have sustained our predecessors. In its place, it is argued, stands a selfish and hedonistic individualism that prevents our moral and social development.