In less than two months I will turn 61. I am a product of the demographic known as the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964). There are approximately 75 million boomers in America today, which accounts for 29% of the total population (source here). Just for fun, I’m including a link to a list of 300 famous boomers, like Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Stephen King, Princess Diana, Madonna, Farrah Fawcett, and Sally Ride (see list at this link). And, of course, that includes two former U.S. Presidents–Bill Clinton and George W. Bush–and our current President Barack Obama.
According to Wikipedia.com, “Boomers are often associated with counterculture, the civil rights movement and the feminist cause in the 1970s.” Some of the most memorable events that boomers remember from the past 50+ years include “the Cuban Missile Crisis, assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., political unrest, walk on the moon, risk of the draft into the Vietnam War, anti-war protests, social experimentation, sexual freedom, drug experimentation, civil rights movement, environmental movement, women’s movement, protests and riots, Woodstock, Watergate, Nixon resigning, the Cold War, lowered drinking age in many states 1970–1976 (followed by raising), the oil embargo, raging inflation, gasoline shortages, Jimmy Carter’s imposition of registration for the draft, Ronald Reagan, and Live Aid.”
One of the more significant impacts boomers have had on society is in the realm of religion. “The boomers relied on love and peace and rebelled against their parents’ values, but many lost their faith somewhere down the road to adulthood” (quote source here). “Turn on, tune in, drop out,” a counterculture phrase popularized by Timothy Leary in 1967 (source here), became the clarion call for the boomer generation. In 1968 The Beatles took their famous trip to India to meet with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to attend an advanced Transcendental Meditation (TM) training session (source here) and the interest in Indian, Eastern and New Age spirituality took off like a rocket and replaced Christianity as a spiritual focus for many boomers. And in many cases, that spiritual search continues right up through today.
Baby boomers have been known for a lot of things, but religious observance is not especially one of them. As they began to come of age in the tumult that was the 60s, many boomers were more likely to have a copy of “Steal This Book” shoved into the ripped back pocket of their jeans than the Good Book. “Just as the boomers’ parents had been largely responsible for the postwar surge on religiosity, the boomers themselves were largely responsible for the collapse in religiosity two decades later,” notes “American Grace,” a book about American religious practices.
The “collapse in religiosity two decades later” has had a huge effect on their children’s and in some cases, their grandchildren’s generations (Gen X–born between 1965-1979, and Millennials–born between 1980-2000; source here). While boomers were busy “turning on, tuning in, and dropping out” in their younger years and throwing out many of the old “anchors” that held the fabric of society together in previous generations, they eventually turned into the most money-oriented and materialistic generation in all of American society. Talk about a 180-degree turnaround. The “counterculture” has turned into “greed on steroids.” Just look at Wall Street as one of the many examples out there today. With none of that “religious” stuff getting in the way many boomers gave into lifestyles of excess, materialism, and hedonism. The divorce rate alone in the boomer generation speaks volumes about the lack of any type of anchor beyond ourselves and what we want. “If it feels good, do it” is the boomers’ motto and disposable relationships are the result. And 56 million abortions later after Roe v. Wade (1973) and we still don’t have a clue about the value of life except for our own.
The fallout from all of this has landed on the younger generation–the Gen Xers and millennials. And the millennials (born between 1980-2000) are 80 million strong in this country today. Not only have most of them been raised without any real kind of moral anchor or religious belief system, they are also facing the worst economic situation since The Great Depression. In an article titled, “Are the Millennials a Lost Generation?” published in Yahoo! Finance on February 27, 2013, the author, Nicole Goodkind, states:
It’s hard out there for a Millennial. While the national unemployment rate has kept firm at 7.9%, the jobless rate for Millennials (or the 80 million Americans born between 1980 and 2000) continues to increase, reaching the alarming rate of 13.1% in January. Millennials now have the highest generational unemployment in the United States.
The Pew Center calls Millennials the “boomerang generation,” because nearly 40% of all Americans between the ages of 18-34 still live at home with their parents; numbers this high haven’t been seen in over 70 years. And the boomerang trend is expected to continue or even worsen. The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that those who graduate during a recession will earn 10% less over a decade of work. Unfortunately for Millennials, research shows that 70% of overall wage growth occurs in the first 10 years of one’s career.
But those who do manage to find jobs are also struggling. Young people with high school degrees have seen their inflation-adjusted wages decline by 11.1%; college graduates have seen a smaller, yet significant, decline of 5.4%, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
While the immediate future looks bleak for millennials, they are also the most tech-saavy folks in our society today. They came out of the womb with a cell phone in their hands, yet they have been raised for the most part with no clear moral values or anchors beyond what they get from technology and their boomer parents. In the meantime, their parents (the boomers) are now facing mortality issues that may or may not be bringing them back to church as stated in the following quote from the article, “Why Am I Back in Church?”:
What may explain why a boomer would become more religious? Part of it may be simply a function of maturation. “Marriage, having children, home-ownership, and simply having roots in a community are all factors that nudge people toward religion,” David E. Campbell, the Notre Dame professor who wrote “American Grace” with Robert D. Putnam, said in an e-mail.
Then there is that other little matter: mortality, said Wade Clark Roof, a professor of religion and society at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has written extensively about baby boomers.
“They have all been through it, or are in the middle of it,” he said. “Their parents are dying off. So the reality of mortality has hit them. When they were young, they thought they would live forever. But they know better now.”
Okay, so now they know better (maybe) . . . but what about their kids who are now struggling to make a life for themselves?
There’s a line in the movie, “The American President” (1995) by Presidential aide Lewis Rothchild (played by Michael J. Fox) that states, “People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.” That statement relates not only to leaders and leadership in government, but also in businesses, churches, and all other organizations and settings including the home.
There are at least 80 million of our citizens who wonder what the future holds for them. The leadership they have seen and experienced so far has failed them, and they have been raised, for the most part, with no other anchor to guide them by parents who have little or no other anchor then a materialistic lifestyle. Any type of “religion,” at best, is often relegated to Sunday morning with little impact on how we should live our lives for the rest of the week with any kind of real meaning beyond what we can personally get out of life.
In Psalm 78, the psalmist was aware of the possibility of God’s mighty works being forgotten and a generation being lost, so he called God’s people to never tire of telling the old story of His redemptive acts to future generations (v. 4). The goal of this perpetual rehearsing of their history wasn’t just for memorizing historical data; it was to inspire faith, obedience, and hope in the Lord (v. 7) and to keep future generations from groping in the darkness of unbelief and rebellion like the generations before them (v. 8).
Because of God’s mighty power and grace in our lives we desire to be faithful to tell His stories that we might inspire faith and obedience in future generations.
“A generation being lost . . . .” Those of us who are Christian should never tire of telling this world and future generations about Jesus Christ–not if He has truly changed our own lives. If the only time we mention Jesus’ name is in a church setting or around other Christians, what good is that to the rest of the world who doesn’t even know Him? And if our lives are focused on ourselves and what we want all the time what kind of witness is that to others? No, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
For every generation there is hope and life through Jesus Christ, regardless of the circumstances going on in our society at any given time. But if we don’t tell them, how will they know? And if the reality of knowing Jesus Christ isn’t apparent by how we live our own lives, how can they see the truth in action? They won’t.
In Christian circles today we hear a lot about telling our own story, but our own story means nothing if it isn’t anchored in His story. And it’s His story that matters. There’s a whole generation out there now that hasn’t heard it except maybe on a very superficial level. They haven’t witnessed changed lives–they’ve witnessed indulgent lives. Only Jesus Christ can change a life–yours and mine. And they are watching to see if it is true. So let’s show them it is true by the way we live our own lives . . .
And tell His Story instead of our own . . . .
YouTube Video: “I Love To Tell The Story” sung by Emmylou Harris & Robert Duvall: