By: Dennis Bates
I grew up solidly in the middle of the Baby Boom generation. That doesn’t mean I was born in the middle because actually I was born near the very beginning in 1947, but I saw it all, experienced it all and now I am growing older with whatever ideals we have left from that era. People my age are neither Babies not Boomers any longer, and I’m not certain we’re handling it all that well, but that’s another story.
I was in the middle because my generation was really in the middle. The traditional values of our parents’ generation were gradually shifting to accommodate the new prosperity and American Dream that everyone said they were fighting for in WWII. That turned out to be both a good and a bad thing. The nation’s economy surged…almost exploded…and with major peaks and minor valleys the Middle Class became the well developed biceps of this nation ,supplying a good portion of its strength.
Today those biceps has atrophied to some degree, but again, that discussion is for another day.
Church and church activities were still important back then and churches were full for the most part. For some reason the spiritual training provided was still relevant and a necessary part of growing a strong nation. Like so many my age we attended services on Sunday mornings, youth activities on Sunday evenings and maybe even a midweek service or prayer group. It never dawned on us that there were other things to do at those times.
Most of us attended membership classes in our early teen years where we memorized the books of the Bible, the Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd Psalm and the Doxology. We also learned about the origins of our particular denominational preferences. I still remember struggling to memorize the first question and answer to the Westminster Shorter Catechism: What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Those days passed and a lot of churches don’t have membership classes anymore. Many of them don’t even have members. If I were to walk up to anyone under the age of 50 these days and ask them “What is the chief end of man?” I would get varying responses ranging from blank stares to shoulder shrugs followed by, “Beats me, dude.”
That’s sad to the max, as far as I’m concerned.
We Boomers weren’t/aren’t saints. Neither were our parents or their parents. I honestly don’t get people who never inhaled or who were never curious enough to try at least once. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.) I don’t understand people who haven’t struggled with all the enticing things the world has to offer. I have, and as my good friend Staci would say, I’m not bragging, I’m just saying. I heard a Baptist preacher say once in a sermon, “Nobody ever said sin wasn’t fun; it’s just wrong.” I think that might be one of the most profound things I ever heard from a pulpit.
That background and my generation put me right in the middle in so many ways. I’m in the middle of those who never inhaled and those that still do; I’m in the middle of those who still try to preserve some old values and those who think that multi tasking sins makes you modern; and I’m in the middle of those who make everything an acceptable alternative life style and those who value the sanctity of life until it’s old enough to go to war.
It’s a confusing place, or in my advancing years I have forgotten that my generations had all the answers to all the questions, even before they were asked. I suppose in that way we Boomers are like a lot of other generations. The difference, however, is at least some of us remember many of the values from church training that shaped our lives, albeit imperfectly.
Where are those values coming from now?