After the Baby Boomers: Preface
Today we begin a series that will take us through Robert Wuthnow’s book After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings are Shaping the Future of American Religion (2007, Princeton University Press).
Wuthnow’s book provides meticulous research that helps us understand the religious beliefs and practices of this (my own) generation. I look forward to summarizing each chapter and providing a few thoughts along the way.
Wuthnow’s preface lays out the three main reasons why people conduct research about religion.
Contemporary History - a historical description and interpretation of the time one lives in. This type of analysis provides documentation for upcoming generations.
Deep journalism – “useful not only for future readers, but also for individuals and groups seeking to make sense of their times.”
Policy Analysis – seeks “to help decision makers by providing information that bears directly on the decisions they face.”
After the Baby Boomers falls into category #3.
Wuthnow reiterates the importance of understanding the post-boomer generation. The young 20 and 30-somethings cannot be defined by historical connections such as the civil rights movement or the Vietnam war. Though much attention still goes to the baby boomers who are now becoming elderly, it is the younger generation that makes up more than 1/3 of the U.S. population.
Regarding the religious beliefs and practices of this younger generation, Wuthnow turns to words like “uncertainty, diversity, fluidity, searching, tinkering.” He then says,
“The evidence from young adults points to a future in which some will be more committed than ever to rigid interpretations of faith traditions while others will not be involved in religion at all.”
Next, he issues a puzzling statement I hope he will elaborate on later:
“The future that already exists among young adults is one of growing complexity, too, where it is possible not only for some people to be orthodox and others to be heterodox, but also for the same person to be both.”
Wuthnow sees young adults as being even more divided than those of the previous generation.
Tomorrow, we look at Chapter 1: American Religion – An Uncertain Future.