While well over half of all Baby Boomers still find comfort in their lives through religious affiliations, Boomers spirituality is a little different. It’s beyond just going to church or synagogue or mosque. And it may or may not include being a formal member of one of those.
Our spirituality is part of the adventurous spirit that has driven us most of our lives. Religion professor Wade Clark Roof at the University of California, Santa Barbara, rightly characterized Boomers as a “generation of seekers” decades ago. He later described how Boomers had created a market of diverse religious and spiritual practices in America.
He and other academicians have acknowledged that Boomers gave new meaning to the distinction “spirituality” back in the 60s as we were coming of age. We were rejecting or challenging authority during the tumultuous times of social change and organized religion was right up there in the mix.
We were not interested in being told what to do or how we should live. We wanted to create our own values and lifestyles, not just mirror what our parents did. We wanted to forge our own way.
And that doesn’t mean we all left the religion of our parents as we reached young adulthood, although many of us did, at least for a time while we sorted out what path we wanted to take.
We were the ones who figured out that spirituality didn’t necessarily encompass religious dogma. They weren’t the same. We realized that spirituality was more about our personal connection with God and could be found in many places outside what we were taught.
Boomers spirituality includes our search for meaning and purpose in our lives. Who hasn’t asked that question over and over, particularly now that us leading edge Boomers are well into our 70s? Or who among us are not curious about how we fit in the overall cosmos or what happens when we die?
And we definitely want to know that we matter, that our lives counted for something beyond our material accumulations. We want to connect with whatever that power is that creates such beauty in the world around us, the delicate parts of a budding flower or breathtaking view of the sun setting behind the mountains.
Boomers spirituality is found deep in nature and within ourselves and it’s our way of being in touch with the goodness in those around us. It’s our way of being in touch with God.
Some experts are predicting that those of us who have moved away from organized religion on our spiritual journeys will start drifting back as we get older. Researchers claim it’s inevitable and it’s not only because we have more time. As we age and start facing mortality issues, we’re more likely to look for answers in religious services.
In fact, many churches are actually counting on Boomers doing just that and thereby reversing their declining memberships. They’re making plans for how to reach us and minister to us and keep us in their folds.
If you were inclined to be a part of a religious community after years of being out, how would you go about it? What would you look for in a church or other religious institution?
It for sure would have to be a place that authentically welcomed us as individuals, not just warm bodies that could swell the rolls. It also would need to be a place that practiced more than it preached about servant leadership – feeding the hungry, caring for those in need, loving our neighbors as ourselves, ending violence in our communities and empowering the disadvantaged.
It would have to be a place where political and power squabbles were put aside as well as exclusionary doctrines. And it would have to be a place where we could still be and feel spiritual, personally connected to God.
The good news about Boomers spirituality, however it looks, is it’s apparently good for our health. A 2007 study by the University of Chicago found that 56 percent of doctors believe it has a positive influence on our health. It helps us live with gusto.
Where do you feel the most spiritual?