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Boomers Graze From Salad Bar of Spirituality

December 13, 1990|BOB SIPCHEN

Get-yer church life! Get it here! Rappin' gospel choirs; suburban aerobics and altar combos; touchy-feely fundamentalism! Step right up for red hot religion!

The Dec. 17 Newsweek takes a long look at America's spiritual landscape, and what it sees resembles a vast car lot of creeds, crowded with eager baby boomers browsing for just the right model.

"This," the Newsweek cover story states, "is the 1990s, an age of mix 'em, match 'em salad-bar spirituality--Quaker-palians, charismatic Catholics, New Age Jews--where brand loyalty is a doctrine of the past and the customer is king."

According to Newsweek's stats, about two-thirds of the baby boom generation gave up organized religion at one time, but recently more than a third of those have returned.

The charge back to the pews is led by married couples with children. Married couples without kids are still staying away in droves.

The reasons boomers are getting religion again include a simple desire for meaning amid the materialism and a desire to raise children within a moral context and community. This flock, however, returns with different demands than the generations before it.

The article states: "They don't convert, they choose."

As one Texas preacher says of his congregation, "If we use the words redemption or conversion, they think we're talking about bonds."

So he has modified the gospel to meet his booming church's marketing needs.

Written by Kenneth L. Woodward, with the help of eight regional correspondents, the piece in places reads more like a stump sermon than pure reportage.

And this Newsweek preacher has little patience with either the simpering yuppies who hope to pick out a set of religious convictions the way they select a BMW or the holy hypsters standing on their heads to make a deal.

Newsweek's preacher does foresee salvation, though.

"As the generation ages, a deeper religious faith may take hold. Celebration of the self, after all, is a game young people play; it is no way to deal with decline and death. Spiritual development takes time, also discipline and hard work--virtues many churches themselves no longer seem to encourage."

REQUIRED READING

* Five years ago, when the world discovered that artist Andrew Wyeth had spent 15 years painting Helga Testorf in secret--and sometimes in the nude--a scandal followed. The December Connoisseur features 23 of Wyeth's works since 1985 and an interview on the paintings with editor Thomas Hoving. Perhaps the most intriguing painting, titled "Snow Hill," depicts a pole with an evergreen tree atop it. Clinging to colored ribbons draped from the pole dances a group of people from Wyeth's standard, real-life stable of characters--including Helga, fully clothed.

* It probably won't break the hearts of a struggling family in Watts, but "The Death of Paradise" in the December Los Angeles magazine may bring tears to the eyes of Zsa Zsa, Art Linkletter, Ron and Nancy Reagan, and other current or former residents of Los Angeles' most prestigious neighborhood. "In the last half-decade or so," the article states, "Bel-Air--in some ways, like Los Angeles itself--has been slowly changing from a community into a huge outdoor showroom, a living stage on which to build monuments to the multimillion-dollar egos who may or may not reside within." Now, the article asserts, helicopters filled with tourists and omnipresent construction crews have turned the showroom into a chaotic mess.

* Has Thanksgiving gluttony put you on a Christmas fast? Cooking Light's Nov./Dec. issue, as usual, offers a smorgasbord of articles on how to eat well without clogging arteries in the process, including recipes for roasting chestnuts over an open fire--or in a microwave. And a special December holiday issue offers recipes for everything from a healthy holiday feast to Christmas brunch.

* Speaking of stemming your holiday Bacchanalia: The February, 1991, Men's Health, soon on the newsstands, rates 21 of the two dozen nonalcoholic beers (NABS) that have appeared in the marketplace in the last few years. The magazine quotes humorist Philander Johnson, who once said: "The man who called it 'near beer' was a bad judge of distance." But it goes on to rate the ersatz suds on bouquet, appearance, flavor, body and drinkability, and concludes that some of the nonalcoholic beers are pretty good.

* Why anyone would think of putting boxer Mike Tyson and rapper L.L. Cool J together as subjects of a joint interview is puzzling. But their conversation, in Spin magazine's January issue, is a great read. Tyson, for instance, explains why getting hassled by the police his whole life has made him a lover of rap. "People say, 'Why are you pro-rap when you have so much? That's violent music.' I tell them, 'We grew up on rap for one reason. The only way you can understand the message is if you live it.' "

SHREDDER FODDER

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