By Tom Ehrich

My youngest son graduates from college on Sunday and heads off into a strange, troubled and yet hope-filled world.

To him, leaving college is bittersweet, the summer ahead promises outdoor adventures such as hiking the Appalachian Trail and farming in Vermont, and life beyond that seems scary and yet filled with promise.

In a wonderful poem he wrote for next week's Fresh Day magazine, he describes himself *(taking) courage in the power of time passed Not brave but calm. * If straight-line projections had any value, we could look at current trends and predict the flooding of New York City, where he hopes to live; the total vanquishing of the middle-class by rapacious wealth; an ascendant Republican Party grinding all but the wealthy into the dirt; escalating warfare within the First World (men vs. women, heterosexuals vs. homosexuals, haves vs. have-nots, educated vs. uneducated, tech vs. non-tech) and conflict tending toward cataclysm between First and Third World societies.

But straight-line projections are for ideologues and fools. Humankind adapts, humankind resolves problems, humankind finds fresh ideas, humankind -- if left free -- will find better ways forward.

The great issue facing my son's so-called Millennial Generation will be freedom. Major forces are working hard to take away or to prevent freedom. Religious extremists lead the way, along with corrupt titans of commerce, the surveillance state, and self-serving political leaders.

Can a free people find the courage to remain free? Can the free extend the reach of freedom, even when that means letting go of some privilege? Can the advantaged tolerate a culture where the disadvantaged have as much freedom as they have?

I believe that God will be our "guardian, guide and stay." How God chooses to do that work remains to be seen. Organized religion, at least in the First World, seems weary and weak, weighted down by inherited facilities and traditions, trapped in internal conflict that it can't yet escape.

The future probably lies is dis-organized religion, or loosely-organized faith communities, or something new that is radically closer to what Jesus said and did.

I foresee all three of my sons eventually finding their way to that radically new thing God will do.

I wouldn't buy property along the Atlantic Coast. I think polluters and their toadies in Congress will win the battle long enough to guarantee ecological disaster. Beyond that, I am hopeful. I think great years lie ahead, and I am delighted that my sons will get to experience them.

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