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Generations and the Church: Part 3

People 70 and over are Traditionalists. So, there’s a famous painting called “American Gothic”, and it shows this farmer with his daughter looking very unhappy.  Well, the very next year and right upstairs in the Chicago Art Institute, is a Picasso picture where you can’t tell where the woman is and where the chair is.  They are both flat, and it looks like she is a fish with both eyes on the front of her face. The Traditionalists are rebelious; because while most people will have the American Gothic view of life, there were all these ideas especially in the urban centers beginning to bubble up, and there were these two worlds going on simultaneously. So, Traditionalists, many of them were very conservative and keeping the traditions alive, and yet all of the challenges we face today intellectually, and challenges to the faith, and challenges in terms of reaching and keeping our children, all those ideas got their start in the oldest of the generations.

Picasso was active from the 1910’s through the 60’s, maybe even a little bit later, and that’s where deconstructionism, Tueco, Derrida and others, that whole sort of Existentialism, that started in the 19th century became nihilism in its extreme form. Our grandparents and great grandparents really were the brokers of all of that, because they look so traditionalist, but they are actually rebellious. That’s where the seeds of the sexual revolution were sown, long before the Boomers came along and grabbed that.

There were some challenges going on in terms of the way people thought.  Now in the rural areas or outside of urban areas or academic university communities they had less of an impact, but those ideas began to get talked about and all bore fruit with the Baby Boomers.  And, it looked like there was a huge generation gap.

Well, instead of a huge generation gap what we had was this coming of life to these very different ideas, and the Baby Boomers where actually less rebellious because they were simply carrying on the values that they were taught, which was faith in psychology.  You can’t trust theology to tell you how to live, but psychology has the answers for how to live your life. So, I would suggest that as one of the strengths of the Baby Boomers; a willingness to talk about problems that used to be hidden in attics or basements.  When they researched Baby Boomers, they were found to be nine times more likely to go to a therapist and get help than previous generations.  At the same time, a lot of confidence in psychology; many Boomers know the ins and outs of psychological theories, but don’t know much about scripture.

Psychologically driven, scriptural literacy dropped, sexually was a very promiscuous generation and when you look at it, they were the ones at Woodstock, they were the ones in all of that. Ironically the Boomers talked about pot, but it was the X’ers that actually smoked it, but didn’t talk about pot. Yes, so the X’ers smoked pot much more than the Baby Boomers ever did. As the greatest expert on Boomers has said, only two percent of the Boomers ever protested.  Because television was this new medium it made it look much bigger than previous rebellions looked because it was in your face all the time.

Boomers were actually more conservative than we give them credit for. What was going on was a shift in values from sacrifice to self.  When the Boomers are called the “Me” generation, it is actually quite accurate because as a society we shifted from trying to survive to exploring. We don’t have to worry about lunch, so we went to exploring inner space.  That’s a great thing, but it can lead to “hyper-individualism”, where it is about me and what I want.  And even spiritual life gets wrapped around that and church shopping and church hopping is just one example of hyper-individualism.

Because as Yankelovich, Inc notes, there was major shift from sacrifice to self.  In that major shift a lot of things get explained.  A different focus in spiritual life, no longer do we sing songs of historical hymns, kind of the greatest hits of the church. The song we sang the most as I was growing up was “That’s how it feels with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it.  You want to sing, it’s fresh like spring, you want to pass it on.” It’s not a bad song, it’s corny, it’s not a bad song, but it won’t make the top 100 of all time songs. But it does capture that idea of me and Jesus, and rock and roll.  You know the rock and roll love songs, the kind of light FM that works in churches.  It carries lyrics of love and relationships.  You know Jesus, if we could just get seven minutes alone soon it’s going to be so great. They are love songs.  If anything, I’m not a fan of rap music, but rap music does theology a whole lot better than rock and roll does.  So the music we selected made a certain kind of, reinforced a certain kind of focus on our relationship with God.


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