The Booming Interest in Spiritual Life

The Booming Interest in Spiritual Life

Although news about some groundbreaking religion research appeared in April, I only learned about it recently while editing a blog.

The 45-year-old Longitudinal Study of Generations found that baby boomers are increasingly turning to religion in their later years.

One in five of nearly 600 boomers surveyed reported increasing their religious or spiritual activities in recent years.

Valid Research

The Booming Interest in Spiritual Life | Ken Walker WriterHad this data originated with a Christian research firm, I can imagine scoffers ignoring it.

However, Vern Bengtson originally designed it while an assistant professor at the University of Southern California (USC).

Today he is a research professor of social work at the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging and the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

Funded by the John Templeton Foundation, the research uncovered three factors behind this rising religious interest.

As a card-carrying boomer myself, I found them relevant and quite interesting:

  • People have more time in retirement years and aren’t as preoccupied by full-time work

As someone who is still working, this may not seem to have much application.

That is, until you consider that I see how I spend my days as a calling, not work.

Still, it has changed dramatically in recent years; I no longer handle many intense article deadlines. Book projects still have them, but they are fewer and more relaxed.

This reflects my affinity for living at a less-hectic pace.

  • A growing sense of impermanence that comes with age

I can especially relate to this one. I am now older than my mother when she died, and within 11 years of my father’s age when he passed.

In addition, time seems to speed up as the years go by.

I remember the first time I saw Billy Graham in person. In his talk, he mentioned someone asking him how he felt about reaching his age; he replied, “How fast I got here.”

I am now about the same age as Graham when he made that statement. He was telling the truth.

  • Direct experience with the fragility of life

“Many people experience a health crisis that actually brings them closer to death,” Bengtson said on this point. “It causes them to reassess what is truly important.”

My serious health issues originated 13 years ago when I went to Baptist Hospital in Louisville for a stress test and wound up staying for two heart stents.

That would be followed by a double bypass in 2008 and two more stents over the next three years.

There have been other episodes, most notably a concussion last November that I am just getting over.

Lasting Value of Service

Lasting Value of Service | Ken Walker WriterI also see another factor at work in the trend revealed by this study: boomers appreciating the spiritual truth that making a lasting contribution won’t come from how much you own or fame you achieve, but how many people you serve.

Thanks to the popularity of the film (and it was a good movie) that took the term for its title, “bucket list” has worked its way into the national lexicon.

Too often, though, that translates to what personal thrills one can find in life.

As an alternative view, I recall the spiritual retreat I went on once. During personal introductions, men related who had made a major impact on their life.

Practically every one of them mentioned their mother and the giving and service she offered to their family.

“Wow,” I thought. “We spend all this time trying to be famous and the way to be remembered is to serve others.”

Or, as Jesus put it: “Therefore, everything you would like men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12 MEV).

There’s a reason they call it the Golden Rule.

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