While we very much missed a few people who needed to be away on Saturday, our discussion of chapter five of Miller’s excellent book proved to be one of our liveliest to date. In a frightening way, it was also very timely.
As the world looks with increasing alarm at the rising tensions between North Korea and the U.S., whose leaders have both shown themselves to be pathological liars given to bluster and bellicosity, we boomers now find ourselves facing, for the second time in our lives, the very real danger of a nuclear war, a fear that was certainly part of our childhood. It’s scary to think how well Miller’s comment on page 114 describes the terror that many of us feel today: “…all it takes is one mistake, one crazy person, or one fouled-up government decision by either side of the nuclear equation and the world could be blown up.”
For boomers who were the first generation to grow up in the nuclear age, this has led to four prominent attitudes which Miller outlines in this chapter. First, boomers have always questioned whether the future promised to previous generations will be there for themselves or their grandchildren. Indeed, some boomers believe that they may well be the last generation on earth. Secondly, there is the fear that technology, far from being the promised saviour of the world, will be our destruction. Thirdly, if we have no future, many boomers argue that there is no point in saving for or investing in the future. Fourthly, as Miller writes, “the dominant view of the future is apocalyptic: the end of the world is at hand.” (p. 115)
In the seventies, a large number of boomers found solace and courage in an intensely personal, and often emotional, relationship with Jesus Christ. While this flew in the face of what many of their more mainline church parents understood to be logical, rational, intellectual and progressive, for many boomers this new Jesus gave them, for the first time ever, friendship, understanding and, most of all, unconditional love and acceptance. Moreover, musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell made Jesus accessible in a way they had never experienced in their traditional church upbringing. As Miller writes on page 118, these musicals “scratched the core of what many boomers had been seeking, a religious experience that dug beneath the ritual and rationality of their parents’ religion and challenged the technological materialism that dominated so much of their lives.”
Others of course turned to eastern mysticism and the New Age Movement to find the spiritual meaning they were seeking and which the traditional church seemed to be so inept at providing. We turn to this topic in our discussion of chapter six next Saturday.