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Sacred Tribes Journal

Volume 7 Number 1 (2012): 84-87 ISSN: 1941-8167

BOOK REVIEW Finding Faith: The Spiritual Quest of the Post-Boomer Generation, by Flory, Ronald and Donald E. Miller. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008. 193pp. Paper. $19.95. Why are certain religious movements and spiritualities attractive to individuals and others are not? How does one’s culture and how does one’s response to culture inform a person’s decisions about religion? Richard Flory and Donald E. Miller in Finding Faith: The Spiritual Quest of the Post-Boomer Generation engage the above the questions in their purposed alternative to Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture paradigm for understanding the interplay between Christianity and culture. Floyd and Miller’s alternative is significantly more in tune with the pluralistic context of North America and though they address the Evangelical Protestant world, their model is easily transferable to other religions and spiritualities as a tool for understanding the different postures of emerging adults within a particular religion. The focus of this work is the post-boomer generation. This generation was raised by parents who went through the 1960s and raised their children accordingly, including “the importance of pursuing one’s personal journey, often without the benefits of any institutional affiliations” (8). This generation was also exposed to a wide array of worldviews due to globalization. They also witnessed religious leaders and organizations, political parties and corporations acting out of selfinterest at the expense of others. Thus, this post-boomer generation un-

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derstands legitimate authority differently, which dramatically informs their understanding of religious authority and commitment. The paradigm offered by Flory and Miller is a tool for understanding the post-boomers’ engagement with Protestant Christianity. As a tool it has limitations, which the authors readily acknowledge, and it helps one to appreciate what is taking place within Protestant Christianity. The typology – the tool – offered by Flory and Miller provides a helpful means to understanding post-boomers’ engagement with other religions and spiritualities as they seek to make sense and orient their lives in a rapidly changing world. The typology offered is composed of four types: Innovators, Appropriators, Resisters and Reclaimers. Innovators provide an innovating approach to religious and spiritual beliefs and practices. This approach is a reaction to institutionalized Christianity. It seeks a more holistic and experiential approach to worship by seeking to engage the five-senses. Their services integrate ancient practices and avant-garde technology. Their focus on the spiritual life of the individual and communities leads to engagement with the communities in which they are located. Inspired by the writings of Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren, et al they seek to redefine Christianity for the postmodern context. Their focus on community supports their skepticism towards institutions. One example of this type is the emerging church movement, which seeks to redefine ministry for the postmodern context. This redefining is an ongoing process as is the act of innovation. Appropriators seek to attract people to the gospel through the use of popular, relevant, forms of engagement. In the words of the authors, “The primary pattern that characterizes Appropriators, and appropriating activity is that it is all oriented around the individual and her or his personal spiritual experience and identity, whether that be personal salvation or deliverance from personal problems, or just an enjoyable or moving experience in a worship service or Christian motocross show” (69). With this in mind, the appropriator focuses on the needs of the individual and

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Sacred Tribes Journal

Volume 7 Number 1 (2012): 84-87 ISSN: 1941-8167

thus the church becomes a destination – a place where all of one’s personal needs can be met. This focus fosters a programmatic approach to ministry designed to satisfy the religious “consumer.” Resisters are committed to re-establishing the primacy of reason and the written text in post-boomer spirituality. Resisters believe that right belief will lead to right action. They are committed to the idea of a Christian worldview, believing that this is the ointment that will heal all that ails the church and postmodern society. As a group they appear committed to intelligent design, which is their thin part of the wedge for reintroducing a Christian worldview into our cultural discussions and returning us to the time of the Enlightenment, when it was thought that reason reigned supreme. Resistors host academic conferences, youth conferences, and academic meetings, organize professional societies and centers, and make through use of the media to promote the need to develop or return to a Christian worldview. Reclaimers desire to return to something more original. They are generally committed to a more formal liturgical style of worship and life expressed through, for example, Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Through their participation in these communities they seek to connect to the broader Christian church, its history, its symbols and rituals, and its authority. Reclaimers value these connections as a means of navigating their own spiritual journeys and fostering change through their spiritual, rather than political, pursuits. Flory and Miller’s types provide a helpful lens through which to view Protestant Christianity. They note in their conclusions that there is a general commitment to the local community and service that obscures the boundaries between the four types. These types are not pure; they often reflect the emphases of a particular personality or group. The four

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types identified by Flory and Miller are also often found within other religions and can serve as an aid in understanding not only the internal tensions that may be present but also their attractiveness to the postboomer generation. As a tool Flory and Miller’s typology could be visually portrayed as follows and based on their descriptions serve as a means for plotting the character of a religion or movement or within it.

Diagrams such as this provide a lens for understanding the character of new religious movements and why people are attracted to them. They help us not only to understand the movements but also to discern an appropriate biblical response to the needs of the individual being met by the religious movement. Flory and Miller provide us with a typology that helps us better understand ourselves and others. Their typology aids one in understanding religious movements in order to foster constructive engagement with them. Finding Faith is an engaging and well-illustrated read that invites one to ponder the gospel, the attractiveness and repulsiveness of contemporary Christianity, and the attractiveness of the broad range of religious movements within North America. Darwin K. Glassford Calvin Theological Seminary

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