A Generation Of Prodigals

A Generation of Seekers: The Spiritual Journeys of the Baby Boom Generation,by Wade Clark Roof (HarperSanFrancisco, 262 pp.; $20, hardcover). Reviewed by Steve Rabey, religion editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph.

Baby boomers make a firm distinction between spirituality (which conveys life) and religion (which signifies death).

They are young (born between 1946 and 1964). They are numerous (at 76 million strong, they make up nearly a third of the U.S. population). And now the generation we call the baby boomers, who were uniquely shaped by the tumultuous decade of the sixties, is transforming the nineties in its own image—a transformation that includes America’s religious landscape, says Wade Clark Roof, author of this provocative landmark study on the spiritual lives of baby boomers.

Roof, one of the preeminent sociologists of American religion, conducted an extensive study, surveying hundreds of boomers in California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Ohio. His findings are telling for the church. “Members of this generation are asking questions about the meaning of their lives, about what they want for themselves and their children,” he writes. At the same time, few members of this generation look to churches for answers to their questions. “Boomers still feel some ‘distance’ from almost every institution, whether military, banks, public schools, Congress, or organized religion. For many, having any kind of relationship with a religious institution is problematic.”

Inside the boomer mind

Not all baby boomers “tuned in, turned on, and dropped out” of America’s traditions, institutions, and churches. In fact, Roof says boomers are deeply divided between “traditionalists” (54 percent) and ...

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