The Spiritual Journeys of the Baby Boomers

Three Pillars of Boomer Spirituality

Handout 2

There are three themes that seem to be common to many Boomer’s spirituality–a distrust of institutions, a tendency toward a mystical spirituality, and a search for authenticity.

  1. The first of these, a distrust of institutions, comes from our adolescent rebellion (done en masse–huge impact on the culture), as well as our post-war, post-modernity identification.
    1. Universalism. The concept that all religious traditions can lead to the truth, or that no one religion can claim to be the only truth. Generally claims of truth are suspect, or all religious traditions are seen as expressions of a greater truth.
    2. Voluntarism–Boomers’ tend to search for a religion that ‘fits"–that is grounded in one’s own story and experience. This voluntarism can be seen as narcissistic or egocentric, but perhaps this is a pragmatic approach.
    3. Polarity in the generation. Quote from Dave Broder, talking about civil rights, Vietnam, the Women’s movement: "Everyone of those experiences polarized Americans–most of all the young men and women who were at the forefront of those battles. To a significant degree, the sides they chose back then–pro-choice or pro-life, feminist, or traditionalist–continue to determine their political alignments now. . . I have this picture in my head that when all of you (Boomers) reach the nursing homes, you are going to be beating on each other with your canes, because you still won’t have resolved those arguments from the 1960s."
  1. Mysticism. Definition from Wayne Teasdale’s The Mystic Heart: "Mysticism means direct, immediate experience of ultimate reality. For Christians, it is union and communion with God. For Buddhists, it is realization of enlightenment." This mysticism leads to:
    1. A longing for an experience of God.
    2. An emphasis on consciousness. Which can be understood as an awareness that encompasses and transcends the self. Similar to an experience of God–the unitive moment–but also relational.
    3. A sense of divine immanence rather than transcendence. Finding God in nature–a sense of God as more in nature and individuals rather than out there over everything.
  1. Search for Authenticity. Comes in part from the therapeutic energy and language of the 70s and 80s. Merged into spirituality in the 90s.

 Teasdale, Wayne. The Mystic Heart. Novato, California: New World Library, 1999.

The Spiritual Journeys of the Baby Boomers

Homework (Optional):

  1. Write about the impact of one of the following on your spirituality in your childhood/adolescence: Civil Rights struggles, women’s movement, Vietnam War, Cold War.
  2. (From Dan Wakefield, The Story of Your Life): Draw a picture of a friend or mentor or guide–someone you’d like to write about–someone who helped you at a sensitive time in your life and helped you to move on.
  3. Write about the friend, mentor, guide described (and perhaps drawn) in the previous assignment.
  4. In class: Discuss how the themes of distrust of institutions, mysticism, and a search for authenticity are part of your spirituality.