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Article 2 (July 2019): The generation that rejected society moves toward church
July 30, 2019Baby Boomers, the generation that rejected formal social institutions and norms, may be moving toward one as they age.
A 2010 Gallup poll noted the trend finding that 53 percent of people aged 65 and older, say they frequently go to church or temple.
But the Boomers didn't teach their children to attend, with just over a third of people up to age 29 saying they were likely to attend church. And that trend toward secularism is continuing, according to the authors of American Grace.
What attracts older people to church that doesn't hold the same sway for the young?
American Grace co-author David E. Campbell, a Notre Dame professor, told the New York Times what many already know. Marriage, children, homeownership, grandchildren -- all these social landmarks guide people back to church. A life lived, well or not, prompts people to reflect on what is missing in their lives, whether it is morality, companionship or a sense of belonging. And church tends to provide all of those.
And, Boomers are at the age to reflect on the thing they thought would never happen: Their own mortality. Churches and synagogues at least address the question.
Churches are responding to the back-to-religion of older parishioners with programs and facilities designed for them.
Of course, Boomers and churches are facing something they didn't expect. The Boomers, whose parents likely belonged to a church and attended regularly, remember it in a different way than the younger, long-time church attenders.
Boomers may want to hear pipe organs and old hymns, the ones they hated as youths who didn't trust anyone over 30. Yet churches have moved on, playing lots of videos older people might find cheesy and singing now-popular chant-like songs.
Some churches are creating separate services for seniors that re-create this experience.
Many churches are reaching out to seniors as the one group that has needs under-served by government. They are trying to provide a place of companionship and community.
Nonetheless, Gallup pollsters do not think Boomers will return to the church in the numbers that they left it in the 1960s.
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