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Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X [Paperback]

By Tom Beaudoin (Author) & Beaudoin (Author)
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Item description for Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X by Tom Beaudoin & Beaudoin...

Provocative, controversial, and groundbreaking, this guide discusses what music videos, fashion, and cyberspace reveal about the genuine spiritual hunger of GenX, and what religious leaders--and all of us--can learn from it.

Publishers Description
Reveals the deep and pervasive search for meaning that haunts Generation X. This book is must reading for anyone who would understand the spirituality of young people at the turn of a new millennium.--Robert A. Ludwig, author of Reconstructing Catholicism for a New Generation

In Virtual Faith, Beaudoin explores fashion, music videos, and cyberspace concluding that his generation has fashioned a theology radically different from, but no less potent or valid than, that of their elders.

Beaudoin's investigation of popular culture uncovers four themes that underpin his generation?s theology. First, all institutions are suspect -- especially organized religion. Second, personal experience is everything, and every form of intense personal experience is potentially spiritual. Third, suffering is also spiritual. Finally, this generation sees ambiguity as a central element of faith.

This book opens a long overdue conversation about where and how we find meaning, and how we all can encourage each other in this central human searching.

Tom Beaudoin earned his Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University School of Divinity in 1996 and is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Religion and Education at Boston College.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Jossey-Bass
Pages   240
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.02" Width: 6.03" Height: 0.69"
Weight:   0.68 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 14, 2000
Publisher   Jossey-Bass
ISBN  0787955272  
ISBN13  9780787955274  

Availability  0 units.

More About Tom Beaudoin & Beaudoin

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! TOM BEAUDOIN Raised on television and video games, Tom Beaudoin began to notice in the mid-80s that the popular culture so familiar to him was infused with religious iconography and meaning. He earned his Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University School of Divinity in 1996 and is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Religion and Education at Boston College. A former altar boy and presently a bass player in a Boston area rock band, he survived Woodstock '94.

Tom Beaudoin currently resides in Atlanta, in the state of Georgia. Tom Beaudoin was born in 1969 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Harvard Univ. School of Divinity and Boston College Harvard University.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Bible & Other Sacred Texts
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4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > General
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality

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Reviews - What do customers think about Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X?

Informative -- With Blind Spots  Feb 18, 2006
This book describes the spiritual profile of "Generation X", which has loosely been defined as "those born from the early 1960s to the late 1970s". That is, it is the generation who are currently in their mid-20s to mid-40s.

Generation Xers have two key characteristics:

Firstly, they make heavy use of symbolism, and this is evident throughout the culture -- in tattoos, pop videos, fashion accessories, and many other ways. When carefully interpreted, this reveals a "constant yearning, both implicit and explicit, for the almost mystical encounter of the human and divine", and should be understood as being part of a genuine spiritual search.

Secondly, they "are experts in superficiality and posing", and are constantly querying others as to their fidelity. It is partly for this reason that they "see right through" the mere "religious institutionalism" of many Churches. Nevertheless, "they still retain a striking fascination with Jesus", and one of their "specific marks" is "reclaiming Jesus against Christian Churches".

The author's answer to Generation X comes as something of a surprise. He suggests that they should "reappropriate tradition, which is one of my primary challenges to Xers themselves". However, bearing in mind the special characteristics of the generation, he further advises "a return to humility in ministry, a willingness to 'go virtual', and a renewal of mystical practices and spiritual disciplines".

This book is well written. However, I feel that there was a certain superficiality about it. With its heavy emphasis on symbolism, it would seem to sanitise the generation of many of the profound spiritual deadlocks that one encounters in ministry. Further, with its emphasis on the genuineness of Generation X's search, it may overlook a good deal of genuine hopelessness and evil.
Seek and Ye Shall Find  Jun 30, 2004
I was born in 1977 and I don't go to church and can thus be seen as an example of the stereotype that labels Gen Xers as irreligious. True, the generation of the unknown quantity "X" may not be flooding the pews like my Catholic grandmother would want to see, but, as Tim Beaudoin suggests in his book "Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X," we ARE worshipping in our own way.
The cover of the book features the face of Jesus tattooed on somebody's bicep, and although some may perceive this image as part of the joke that seems to be Gen X spirituality, Beaudoin takes it seriously. He is a pioneer in his explorations of "theological interpretations of Gen X pop culture," which means in his book he puts a whole new spin on such things as music videos, fashion, and cyberspace.
The book's academic style makes it a bit tedious at points, but still Beaudoin's message is clear and worth reading: there is a spiritual revolution happening in my generation. If you listen closely and set aside stigmas about piercings and tattoos, you can see that old rituals, symbols, traditions, and icons have fertilized new philosophies and ideas. Gen Xers have internalized, reworked, and attempted-sometimes subconsciously-to apply spirituality to the culture of the everyday life they face. Beaudoin, who holds a master's degree in Theological Studies from the Harvard University School of Divinity, argues that this movement has been neither seen nor reported on. "The media's simplistic caricatures of Generation X have yet to relate something substantial about this generation to its elders, particularly in regard to Gen X's unique religiousness." In the media's defense, this subtle, sometimes twisted sense of spirituality is not easily expressed, but Beaudoin is able to give this movement a voice.
In the beginning of his book, for example, he describes his most recent religious experience, which occurred as he sat in the audience of "Rent." Attending the award-winning play-he saw it four times-had become a ritual for him. Throughout each performance, he and the people around him cried and "raised their hands in the air as if at an evangelical revival," acknowledging that what they were experiencing was both about and beyond them. That same sound that my parents call "trash," he claims is "just as important to my own sense of spirituality as any commitment to an institutional church." Beaudoin, in fact, plays in a rock band and says when he feels the deep rhythm of playing tightly with a drummer and feels the way his body and soul harmonize with the low tones of his base guitar "something happens." Ultimately, for Beaudoin and most Gen Xers, any place can be a church, any song a prayer, and any person, a priest. While Beaudoin acknowledges that his message may not sit well with many people, he explains that "impropriety has been a theme in my life and of the life of Generation X."
Religious mixing and matching is also a theme in Gen Xers' unique spiritual style. For example, someone might believe in the teachings of Jesus, but not in the Catholic Church's attitude toward women, abortion, or gays. It is in ways like this that Beaudoin says, my generation "can recycle and recombine not only the present pop culture and religious landscape but also the rich past of religious tradition," a process of "active preservation, not mindless repetition."
The Gen Xers described in Beaudoins book are acutely aware of the boredom generated by empty rituals, meaningless language, and the growing gap between institutional preaching and practice, which is a sentiment expressed in music videos such as Tori Amos's "Crucify" and R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion." Therefore, one positive result of the Gen X rebellion is that it serves as "a call to humanity within religious institutions." Facing the very real prospect that they may lose their younger worshippers, religious institutions have been forced to make some changes.
Because of the barrage of unfiltered information we Gen Xers experienced growing up in a techno-world of televisions and computers, we have become cynical. The cynicism we have developed is in direct proportion to the mighty idealism of the baby boomers. As Beaudoin points out: "My generation inherited not free love but AIDS, not peace but nuclear anxiety, not cheap communal lifestyles but crushing costs of living, not free teach-ins but colleges priced for aristocracy." Thus, many of us came to the conclusion long ago that unless a serious shift occurs in our world today, the safest and most genuine place to go for spiritual guidance is within ourselves.
Ultimately, the fact that "Viritual Faith" articulates things I have kept to myself for years gives me a sense of hope. Perhaps Gen X's quest for the sacred nature of experience will eventually be honed instead of ridiculed. Informed by "Viritual Faith," the media, who depict Gen Xers as pathetic and confused, or parents, who lament the aimless rebellion of their children's generation, might reconsider their perspectives. Hopefully, they will be surprised-even better, deeply moved-by "The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X." And maybe soon a new Beaudoin will emerge and be able to explain to me what the hell is going on with Generation Y. Until then, however, I'll try to keep an open mind.
good premise, I have only two critiques  Sep 10, 2002
I read this book for a Youth and Culture class in seminary and it was by far my favorite book of the semester. Beaudoin does a good job in describing a generalized picture of Generation X's conception of Christianity, but there are two places where I feel he misses the mark somewhat.
I feel that Beaudoin could have made better choices in his selection of videos, and this is not about personal preference or taste. Soundgarden's "Outshined" or "Rusty Cage" were both more attuned, in my estimation, to the emotions, struggles, and general attitude of Generation X than "Black Hole Sun", generally speaking. Beaudoin could have also explored why a band like Pearl Jam, which is overwhelmingly non-imagistic, could still continue to have an impact despite Pearl Jam's lack of visual exposure beyond 1992. Another example: replace "Like a Prayer" with Tool's "Sober" or with Nine Inch Nails "Head Like a Hole", and you've got something. And one last musical point: where is hip-hop? Surely the amazing success of rap music in the ninties, especially gangsta rap, says something about Generation X theologically.
My second critique concerns Beaudoin's theological engagement. I simply feel that he could have gone a little deeper. I was also looking for some wrestling with the greats. I took Systematic Theology the semester before I read this book and was looking for Beaudoin to utilize Barth, Tillich, Bultmann, etc. An examination of Tillich's views of Christianity and culture would have been especially rewarding in the context of the book. It simply seemed to me that Beaudoin could have gone a tad deeper theologically.
Is tradition the answere?  Sep 1, 2002
Virtual Faith is a free flowing theological interpretation of the heart beat of modern culture. The question the author asks is "will you be there for me?" In the modern age, this question is paramount to Gen Xers. Those who grew up in one parent or no parent households. It seems that the alienation the Xer's feel is rooted in their abandonment an isolation by their elders! This is a generation without rites of passage as found in native cultures. Xer's mistrust modern forms of establishment. Tom suggests that Tradition may offer something to Xer's who in fact are quite spiritual. This is a great book! The older generation stands to learn much in its pages! My only criticism of the book is rooted in my own alienation from the tradition he speaks favorabley about. While there is a richness in traditonal forms of Christianity it is rarely exercised in modern forms of practice these days. Patriarchal forns are oppresive and mean spirited to the Souls of women and other minorities.The Pope speaks eloquently and correctly about injustice outside the Catholic Church. About injustice within the Church he is silent and culpably negligent. I give this book my highest recommendation!
A theological dissection of this group from one of its own  Jan 23, 2001
I'm a little bit older than this age group discussed. Okay, I'll admit it, I'm near the advance guard of the Boomer generation! However, as someone charged with developing educational offerings for my church, I found this to be compelling reading.

The age group of 18-30, no matter what generation in recent years, has typically been absent from our pews. What makes the Gen-Xers so different, Beaudoin says, is that they WANT to be in a spiritual place, and are hungry for it. He cites evidence from music, music videos and other sources of pop culture appealing to the Gen-Xers.

One of his arguments I found especially interesting was that which states that this generation has grown up not knowing war, hard times or any of the events that tend to galvanize previous generations. His theory is that this explains the rise in popularity of self mutilation, otherwise known as body piercing and tattooing, as visible signs of the theme of "suffering servant."

Whether one buys into his theories or not, there is much here to provide food for thought for mainstream churches wanting to reach out to the Gen-Xers. He looks at those aspects of Biblical stories that have appeal to this group; he speaks of styles of worship or study that would most attract them. I don't think anyone who has looked at shelves of bookstores can disagree that there is a great spiritual hunger in our world. Beaudoin's book will certainly enocurage us to think about how that hunger could be met for this demographic group.


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