Boomer challenges

Most of us who are Baby Boomers are all too aware of the major challenges facing our generation. (Some Boomers are insulated from these challenges, particularly among the socio-economic elites — but that’s always been true for most of the challenges facing humanity, and the elites constitute a small percentage of Boomers anyway, so we can ignore them.)

I’d like to look at three areas where we face major challenges: finances, jobs, and spiritual matters.

Financial challenges first. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, as part of the wave of economic conservatism that swept the United States, employer-managed pensions disappeared and were replaced with 401(k) plans. The Boomer generation, particularly the tail-end Boomers like me, are the ones who are the guinea pigs for this radical experiment in economics. And the experiment, to be quite frank, is going badly.

Younger generations, you will want to pay attention to what happens to the Boomers, because you’re stuck in the same flawed retirement system.

I’ve been reading Fifty-Five, Unemployed, and Faking Normal: Your Guide to a Better Retirement Life, a 2016 book by Elizabeth White that describes in some detail how badly off the Boomer generation is. Continue reading “Boomer challenges”

Boomers and privilege

I’m critical of using the language of privilege in public discourse; what can be a useful tool for analysis among like-minded persons does not always translate well to a wider context. For example, when white people of the professional and upper middle classes gain awareness of how they have personally benefited from structural racism, they may find it helpful when speaking with others who are challenging structural racism to use the phrase “white privilege”; in that context, “white privilege” becomes a useful shorthand way of referring to the specific benefits professional and upper middle class white people get from structural racism. However, when professional and upper middle class white people use the term “white privilege” in public discourse, working class whites can rightfully challenge them on at least two counts: first, the experience of white working class people in accessing the fruits of structural racism is different from that of white people of the professional and upper middle classes; second, white working class people have themselves been the targets of discrimination by white professional and upper middle class people (for one example, see Nancy Isenberg’s analysis of why upper middles class whites embraced eugenics, in her book White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America).

A big part of the problem here, I think, is that the nuances of intersectional analysis get lost in public discourse — “white privilege” is a short-hand phrase that sums up a good deal of thoughtful analysis, and short-hand phrases often do not translate well to the public arena. Obviously, the same applies to the phrase “male privilege,” another phrase that is sometimes used in public discourse. Nevertheless, just because I’m critical of using the language of privilege in public discourse, I do find that talking about privilege is helpful when I’m trying to analyze structural inequalities; with the caveat that when you’re dealing with individual people, one individual can experience more than one kind of structural inequality. So it’s important not to reify specific kinds of privilege, e.g., “white privilege” is an abstraction, not an actual thing.

With all that in mind, I’d like to explore the notion that here in the U.S. Baby Boomers have some kind of privilege. “Boomer privilege,” if it exists, arose for a couple of demographic reasons. First, there are large numbers of Boomers, and so it is easy for them to find many others who share a set of life-shaping experiences; because of this, it’s easy for Boomers to assume that their experiences are normative, and then to extend what they perceive as normative to other generations who may have a quite different set of experiences. This perception of what is normative is similar to one of the generating causes of white privilege, dating from when whites comprised the vast majority of the U.S. population: “whiteness” came to be seen by many white people as normative. Continue reading “Boomers and privilege”

Boomers, step away from the power structure so no one gets hurt

Sorry, folks, but the discussion got out of hand on this post. If you need to read any of this, it should be easy to find them archived somewhere on the Interwebs. But not here. I’ve never had to do this on my blog before, and I’ve written far more controversial posts (e.g., about clergy misconduct), but my health still isn’t 100%, I’m dealing with Sunday school start-up, and I need to focus on what’s going on in my congregation. I’m sorry.

How you can change three negative trends in 2012, pt. 1

In my last post, I made three safe predictions for 2012:

1. Baby Boomers will continue to run most liberal religious congregations to suit themselves.
2. Liberal congregations will continue to focus more on short-term financial goals than on long term ministry and mission goals.
3. Fewer kids will be part of liberal religious congregations.

Each of these three trends, if left unchecked, will lead to continued decline of liberal religion. I’ll take these on in separate posts. Here are my thoughts on fighting the first of these trends:

Liberal congregations can learn basic volunteer management and leadership development skills.

The way you move entrenched leadership out of positions of power is by training up new leaders to take their place. The way you train up new leaders is to revamp your volunteer management system. Continue reading “How you can change three negative trends in 2012, pt. 1”

Three safe predictions for 2012

Allow me to make three safe predictions for liberal religion in 2012. Here’s a summary of my three predictions:

1. Baby Boomers will continue to run most liberal religious congregations to suit themselves.
2. Liberal congregations will continue to focus more on short-term financial goals than on long term ministry and mission goals.
3. Fewer kids will be part of liberal religious congregations.

Now on to my reasons for making these predictions: Continue reading “Three safe predictions for 2012”

Top ten best things about liberal religion in 2011, pt. 3

8. You know how people keep saying that young adults don’t want to go to church any more? You know those surveys that say young adults are drifting away from religion? Maybe that’s true considered across the vast mass of population of the United States, but I’m seeing something else going on. In spite of what the Baby Boomers are saying, I’m seeing twenty-somethings coming to our Unitarian Universalist church and liking it.

However, the twenty-somethings are doing church a little differently than the Baby Boomers and older generations. They don’t necessarily come every single week (though quite a few do). They like to use social media to relate to church, and to each other. Since many of them grew up without much or any religion, they don’t all have the same desperate angst about religion that many older Unitarian Universalists do. They seem a lot more relaxed about religion than older folks.

I admit I’m biased: I really like the current twenty-something generation. Taken as a whole, they’re pleasant, quite interested in exploring religion and spirituality, and very committed to social justice work. I hope they come into our churches and droves and take over.

Reasons for decline

In yesterday’s post, I talked about the numerical decline of Unitarian Universalism, and asked why we are declining. Readers left thoughtful and interesting comments giving their ideas of why we’re declining. In tomorrow’s post, In Thursday’s post, I’ll suggest some ways we might reverse our numerical decline. Now are some of my thoughts about why the numbers of certified members of Unitarian Universalist congregations are declining:

(1) During the Great Recession, congregations have been facing budget shortfalls, and one obvious way to cut costs is to reduce the number of certified members. Congregations pay dues to the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and to their local district for each certified member; fewer members means less dues to pay.

(2) UUA salary guidelines are pegged to congregation size, so a congregation that is hiring a new staffer may have motivation to have fewer certified members in order to drop down to a lower salary range in the guidelines.

(3) People who come from no previous religious background may see no benefit in becoming members of a congregation, or may not understand membership.

(4) Membership is declining because there are fewer people in our congregations — more on this in this next set of comments. Continue reading “Reasons for decline”

This week’s protest sign

According to today’s San Mateo County Times, a group of students at Hillsdale High School held a rally to protest statewide cuts to public education funding. The Times shows a photo of a group of students marching behind a banner that reads:

You Don’t Pay For Our Education
We Won’t Pay For Your Social Security!

Perhaps this is the beginning of a new generation gap, the start of a widening rift between the Millennials and the Baby Boomers?