by Owen Olbricht
Names and dates of the various present living generations are usually classed as follows according to the range of years in which they were born:
Lost Generation 1883-1900 G. I. Generation 1901-1924 Silent Generation 1925-1942 Boom Generation 1943-1960 Thirteenth Generation 1961-1981 Millennial Generation 1982-?
The 13th Generation is now gaining prominence. Is the church prepared for Generation X? Already TV has a program "Generation X," which seems to be stacked with seamy, rank, and suggestive language. Some see this as only one side, one small element of Generation X that is not representative of the majority.
In an article in the January, 1995, Reader's Digest, "Exposing the Myth of the Generation X," (page 49-54), the author, Everett C. Ladd presented the results of an "exclusive Reader's Digest poll" from which he concluded, "Americans young and old believe in God, pray often and continue the religious heritage that has always marked this nation" (page 50). He pointed out that there was little difference across all present living generations from the 88 percent of the total who believe in God.
Prayer was important to all generations. "Across the board, 44 percent said they attend religious services at least once a week or almost every week. The older group was at the high end, with 55 percent, Xers at 35 percent and Boomers at 39 percent were at the low end, a youthful pattern that has remained much the same as long as data have been gathered" (page 53,54).
The difference between the Boomers and Busters may not be so much in their beliefs as in their fervor to bring about change. The Boomers as described by Tony Mecia in the editorial is the generation that brought in "...a welfare system that bred a cycle of dependence; a dramatic increase of crime, crack babies and gang violence; sexual 'freedom' that has led to an explosion of single mothers, one million abortions each year, and AIDS; and the imposition of a more enlightened curriculum that has resulted in a steady decline of academic performance and cultural literacy" (Campus, Vol. 5, No. 3, p. 1).
The Boomers felt they could right every wrong, correct the mistakes of the past, and change the world to their concept of a better place. Everything seemed possible to them. Their dreams included the grand, idealistic schemes of the "Great Society" to reshape America. This attitude colored their attitude toward the church, which drove them to attempt to change it into their grand image for it.
Generation X is made of a different fiber. They are not caught up so much into grand causes. They are more concerned with their own survival, existence, and perhaps their own pleasures, with more of a "live and let live" attitude.
David DiSalvo reported in Campus, Vol. 5, No. 3, p. 3, the results of an interview with Bill Strauss, author of 13th Gen and Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584-2069. Strauss replied to DiSalvo's question concerning the moral beliefs of the Xers, "They are pragmatic. They are interested in what works. They are not as absolutists as Boomers. An ethical code has to work. Religion has to have a certain function to be useful."
The Busters are the result of a TV diet that gave them usually in a most vivid fashion almost every side of life. Perhaps because of this nothing can shock them or stir them into a fervor for causes. What they have seen in the movies and also on TV are bigger and more impressive than life scenes. Translated into religion, services without emotion-packed moments are felt to be drab and without meaning.
Many of the Xers are more easily stirred by emotions and sensations than by intellect. They are more comfortable with the status quo than with change so long as they themselves are not affected by the results.
The challenge for the church and family today is to help the Busters realize that the teaching of Jesus is important to their lives. Jesus can give them the abundant life ( John 10:10). By moving the world to follow Jesus their lives can be benefited.
The way to get hurt is to violate the principles of Jesus. All the ills of the world are brought about by generations that do not have the Christ in their hearts ( 1 Peter 3:15). Whether or not Generation X changes the church for better or worse depends on whether or not the church can help that generation realize that meaning can come only through Jesus and His teachings.
The family will have more influence over the Xers than will the church; however, the church can give meaning to them.
This will be more easily caught by their seeing a church that has relevance than by observing a church that is not in touch with their needs. As a spectator generation they are more easily shown than told. Come to think about it, isn't this true of all generations?
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, May/Jun97.