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Virtual Faith
The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X
by Tom Beaudoin
Published by Jossey-Bass ©1998






For all those who look at the younger generation as a lost cause, for all those who are concerned about reaching today’s youth with the gospel, for all those young people who feel dissatisfied with the religious traditions passed down to us, Virtual Faith offers an insightful and redemptive discussion of Generation X’s religious condition. The irreverent simulation of religious piety in popular culture serves to point out just how “virtual” much of current religious practice actually is. But while Generation X critiques religious institutions, Virtual Faith offers ways for those institutions to not only benefit from the criticism, but also to begin to minister to today’s youth in ways that can bring them into relationships with the community of faith.

Generation X, my generation, exhibits certain general characteristics with regard to their view of religion. These include a suspicion of religious institutions, an emphasis on personal spiritual experience, a sense of a spiritual connection to suffering, and a respect for ambiguity which recognizes that things aren’t clear-cut and that portraying as if they were tends to diminish their impact in our lives. Often our questioning of every tradition, practice, and authority seems heretical or disrespectful to the orthodox. But where orthodoxies have become too restrictive and narrow, such questioning is essential. Virtual Faith examines the questions as exhibited by modern popular culture in music videos, fashion trends, and cyberspace and offers institutions advice on how to recover some of the lost traditions from church history that will allow them to relate to Generation X.

This book has the potential of opening up lines of communication between religious institutions and the X generation. It calls the institutional authorities to humble themselves and understand that the challenges presented by our generation do not have to be challenges to their authority, but rather can be prophetic challenges to break free of the restrictions of human ordinances and cultural practices. At the same time, it calls Xers to challenge themselves to recognize their place within their own religious traditions.