Nov 08, 2000
The violence between Israelis and Palestinians is once again in the forefront of the news. Those who support Israel see themselves defending it against the prophesied destruction of the nation and the Jewish people. Palestinian supporters witness for a people who have been denied the basic human need for dignity and statehood. The dualism is stark. To be for one side is to be against the other, and from the perspective of Israel’s defenders, to speak on behalf of Palestinians is to desire the annihilation of the state of Israel.
A statistic: only about 30 percent of people born between 1964 and 1978— that is, 30 percent of so-called Gen Xers—belong to a church. Ubiquitous media reports say that’s not because we aren’t spiritually inclined. We are.
We’re seekers. We meditate. We go to Sufi dancing on Tuesday nights. We read books like Finding Your Religion: When the Faith You Grew Up with Has Lost Its Meaning. But we’re famously hostile to institutions.
Willow Creek Community Church, originator of the famous “seeker service” model of outreach, has been fabulously successful at wooing members of the baby-boom generation. But it never reached too many people born after 1968. So in 1994 Willow charged Dieter Zander with the task of reaching out to Gen Xers. Zander says that Bill Hybels, Willow’s founder, and other church leaders realized that there was “a growing gap” between the time people graduated from high school and when they got connected to the church.
All the lonely people, where do they all come from? That question from “Eleanor Rigby” might serve as the epigraph for the works of Douglas Coupland. Coupland is the Canadian writer who burst on the scene in 1991 with Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, thereby coining the term for his generation. His books have been translated into 22 languages and have sold more than a million copies in the U.S. alone.
Part of the fabric of public life in America during the post–World War II years, perhaps the cross-stitch that held the symbolic boundaries in place, was anticommunism. Most mainline church editors were part of it. The launching of Sputnik in 1957 provoked a “crisis” and, explained a Century editorial, exploded the “assumption of a kind of general, built-in American superiority” (January 1, 1958). Over the next few years, the editors became certain there existed an absolute incompatibility between Christianity and communism.