After the Baby Boomers – McLaren’s Review in The Christian Century

kinnon —  January 2, 2008 — 2 Comments

I’m busy cutting Al Roxburgh’s interview with Sally Morgenthaler which I shot earlier in December (it will be up @ Allelon tomorrow) but saw Len pointing to this book review of After the Baby Boomers by Brian McLaren. I think it’s an interesting piece in light of the Pagan Starfish Consuming Jesus conversation.

The data (from Wuthnow’s book, After the Baby Boomers) confirm that those of us who have been focusing on the spiritual needs of unchurched people have been doing work that is increasingly important. “The most notable of all these figures,” Wuthnow writes, “is the large increase in the proportion of younger adults who are nonaffiliated. That proportion has risen in the space of a generation from one person in eleven to one person in five.”

But beyond the one in five who are unaffiliated, many of the affiliated are not attending church as often. For example, while 46 percent of people in their early 40s attend church weekly; only 29 percent of people in their 20s do. As a result, even though 80 percent have some kind of affiliation with a church or religious community, 55 percent are unchurched in the sense of being uninvolved in a church.

On the other hand, “the proportion who talk about religion with their friends is highest among young adults in their twenties,” which tells us that their lack of church involvement is not a sign that they are oblivious of spiritual concerns. Although younger adults tend to engage in cognitive bargaining and tinkering—piecing together bits and fragments from different theological resources—Wuthnow reports that “core beliefs . . . have remained remarkably pervasive and stable” over the past 30 years. Some will be surprised to learn that rates of orthodoxy are higher for those with a college education than for those without.

So younger adults, it turns out, are surprisingly interested in spirituality and are sympathetic to essential Christian doctrine. About 38 percent lean conservative religiously (with 20 percent being staunchly conservative), but a hefty 56 percent lean liberal religiously. The challenge for liberals in the mainline is to turn a generalized liberal leaning into a passion for a broader religious mission and active engagement with the church: while 56 percent of religious conservatives attend church weekly, only 14 percent of liberals do.

Again, if evangelicals begin congratulating themselves at this point, they should pay attention to one other way that they excel in Wuthnow’s data: in being unwelcoming toward Asians and Hispanics. The odds of being unwelcoming “are about 1.7 times greater among evangelicals than among nonevangelicals,” Wuthnow reports, and “evangelicals are a more likely source of mobilized resistance against newcomers than any other religious group.”

Please read the entire review @ Christian Week.

As we continue with the Pagan Starfish Consuming Jesus conversation, let me also point to this amusing riff from the iMonk, Proverbs for Christianity’s Angry Young (and Old) Men. And the BHT’s Jason Blair is wondering how close Brother Barna is to Jumping the Shark. Also check out Trevin Wax’s short take on Pagan Christianity. And Triple D continues his review with A Wrong (or at least Insufficient) Solution.

I’m struggling with my own review of Pagan Christianity – as I want to really like the book but have huge misgivings about it. I still think it’s an important book – but it must be read and engaged with as a polemic. I hope to have the review up by tomorrow, along with further thoughts on The Starfish Manifesto and Consuming Jesus. Read Ed Brenegar, as he interacts with The Starfish Manifesto.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

2 responses to After the Baby Boomers – McLaren’s Review in The Christian Century

  1. hey mate, sorry you’re ill. We’ve been going thru the round of winter bugs here also. Seems they cross the border without a passport.

    I wonder about the usefulness of polemic in these days. Frankly, I think it works against the creative commons we need.

  2. I would suggest polemics are as useful as ever. From my perspective of lying in bed, of course, sick as a…


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