Strauss And Howe’s Generational Theory: Some Implications For Theology And Church -- By: Kenneth C. Harper
Strauss And Howe’s Generational Theory:
Some Implications For Theology And Church1
It seemed as though the presbytery committee meeting would never end. From my “forty-something” perspective, the issue had been thrashed out and talked to death. But the other committee members (including the moderator) were mostly “fifty-something,” and the meeting droned on. Weeks later, a light bulb went on when I began to delve into the book Generations by William Strauss and Neil Howe.2 The book’s thesis was summarized in the December, 1992 issue of Atlantic Monthly,3 and its terminology is creeping into the popular press4 . Neil Howe spoke to a group of Presbyterian Church National fund-raising staffers in New Orleans recently.5
Generations is breathtaking in its scope, ambitious in its purpose and provocative in its thesis. Strauss and Howe look back to 1584 and forward to 2069, seeing a pattern of generational cycles, each lasting 89-90 years. Each generation, while unique, has features which divide it from the previous-born and the next-born. It also has features which divide it from the previous-born and the next-born. It also has features which parallel those of four generations back. The generations which currently make up most of American society are four: G.I.’s, Silent, Boomers, and 13ers.
The G.I. Generation, with birth years of 1901 to 1924, came of age in time to wage World War II. It is civic-minded, successful, competent, and produced every U.S. president from Kennedy to Bush. It believes in, and invests itself in institutions—the family, schools, government, the church. For this generation, the preferred way of meeting its goals is to organize itself for action. Now seventy to ninety-three years old, this generation (as a group) is the wealthiest older generation in the history of humanity. The AARP lobbies hard for seniors funding and maintenance of social security’s inflation-adjusted index.6 G.I. belief in institutions is evident even in the existence of the Evangelical Theological Society. When a movement of Evangelical scholarship emerged following the modernist-fundamentalist controversy and World War II, what form did it take? An institution, with annual meetings, a journal, and regional gatherings.
The Silent Generation, with birth years of 1925 to 1942, has been compliant, process-oriented, and especially attuned to “fair play,” toleration, and...
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