Signs of the Times: Young Adult Fiction

There is an interesting conversation in the New York Times “Room for Debate” section of the Opinion pages under the title, “The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction.”  The conversation is among several authors of young adult-literature and professors related to young adult development and culture concerning the trend in young-adult literature toward dark and dystopian themes.

Here are the two questions up for conversation:

  1. Why do bestselling young adult novels seem darker in theme now than in
    past years?
  2. What’s behind this dystopian trend, and why is there so much
    demand for it?

Several people contribute their opinions.  I particularly like Paolo Bacigalupi’s essay on “Craving Truth-Telling” and Maggie Stiefvater’s “Pure Escapism.”

A different religion?

“We have come with some confidence to believe that a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that it is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition… It is not so much that U.S. Christianity is being secularized.  Rather, more subtly, Christianity is either degenerating into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, Christianity is actively being colonized and displaced by quite a different religious faith.”

-Christian Smith with Melinda Denten; quote from: Almost Christian: what the faith of our teenagers is telling the American Church, by Kendra Creasy Dean (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010; p.3)

I’m very interested in reading this book.  The quote above fits very well with what I have been observing and experiencing over the last decade, at least.  Much of the “Christianity” I witness from both the supposed “Left” and “Right” are combining into something that is only vaguely recognizable as Christianity when couched within the historic tradition of the Faith.

I believe this is one of many reasons, albeit a more prominent reason, for the distrust and poor image the U.S. Church in general has among younger people.  I believe this is one reason for the decline in the success of the Church in the U.S. to truthfully engage the emerging culture and emerging generations in ways that resonate with them – ways that actually smack of Jesus’ example and his teachings.

Here are excerpts from the opening page from Kendra Dean, the author:

“Let me save you some trouble.  Here is the gist of what you are about to read: American young people are, theoretically, fine with religious faith – but it does not concern them very much, and it is not durable enough to survive long after they graduate from high school.

“One more thing: we’re responsible.

“…the religiosity of American teenagers must be read as a reflection of their parents’ religious devotion (or lack thereof) and, by extension, that of their congregations. Teenagers themselves consistently demonstrate an openness to religion, but few of them are deeply committed to one.”

What in the world are we doing with this ancient faith in these days that makes this faith that has endured 2,000 years of trial, persecution, within a multitude of cultures and languages, so “not durable” among our young? 

I agree with Dean, but we have to face squarely that we (those who are currently leading or moving into leadership) are failing the One-Who-Came-to-Gives-Us-Life-to-the-Full among the young.  I don’t blame them; the fault is ours – “by our fault, by our own fault, by our most grievous fault.”

Is it really the case that we would rather justify our own selves (all of our pet and “insightful” theories) while our actions speak volumes of faithlessness, neglect, polarization, hubris, greed, hypocrisy?  I think so.  Read the results of Barna’s research in their book, “unChristian.”

We’ve got to end this. Lord, make speed to help us!

Motivations of the Day (of the Christianist kind)

Regrettably, Newsweek (which I’ve subscribed to since high school – I’m a news geek) isn’t posting online its most recent edition (which I received by mail on Tuesday). If it did, I would link the most recent “Scope” article by Lisa Miller. She writes about what is motivating the Religious Right leading up to the 2012 elections (already?).

Miller suggests that what is motivating Evangelical Christians in the USA of the Religious Right stripe is not the culture-war issues as in the last general election, like abortion or gay-marriage, but what is motivating them for the upcoming election “is a vision of America as God’s own special country and a belief that free-market capitalism is crucial to its flourishing,” according to Tony Campolo.

A quote by Tony Compolo from the article:

“The marriage between evangelicalism and patriotic nationalism is so strong… that anybody who is raising questions about loyalty to the old laissez-faire capitalist system – by, say, supporting bailouts – is unpatriotic, un-American, and, by association, non-Christian.” This is a shame for the cause of Christ in the USA!”

This is a sad day for Christianity and the Cause of Christ in the United States.  We reduce the enduring and life-giving Gospel of to political and/or economic ideologies that are nothing more than the creations of Man, not God!  The Church and the Gospel are defamed and trivialized to the point of being nothing more than a reflection of the latest cultural trend. 

With respect to the Gospel and an eternal perspective there is no such thing as “American Exceptionalism.”  There may well be exceptional things that have come out of the United States during its history, but that does not mean there is such a thing as a divinely established “American Exceptionalism.”  A word for those who believe such a thing may be hubris or perhaps vainglory. 

We wouldn’t be what we are today if it were not for the exceptional nature of the English contribution to world history.  Yet, I don’t hear of an English Exceptionalism (of course, the colonized peoples of the world would certainly make exception to such a claim).

A little humility, please, and the acknowledgment that this culture is anything but Christian – as least as Scripture and the authors of it describe this thing called the life in Christ.  (All of this coming from a person, me, who truly believes that many very positive and creative things coming out of the United States have been valuable contributions to the world’s well being, reflected in such things as American ingenuity and out of the Protestant Work Ethic, and from one who tends to be more philosophically conservative – which is different than the present neo-Conservative idiocy.)

So, there you go.

The Elephant

There is always an elephant in the room.  Sometimes we are better at admitting it than not. Its seems only common sense that to solve a problem it is best to recognize the elephant and deal with it.  Common sense. Common. Sense.

Sometimes I think I am too intent on identifying the problems that have caused and still cause so many of our problems, whether individual, within the Church common, or within our national psyche.  Sometimes, I think that identifying those big old elephants even when others would rather focus on the positive stuff that skirts the invisible thing in the room just may not make me all that popular, but I just can’t seem to let it go.

I don’t know… I do think that if we want to solve our problems and resolve our issues we must have everything out in the open and public and recognized and admitted.  If we don’t, I just don’t know how we will really solve anything.  Reading through some of my previous posts – so negative as I attempt to discover and identify the elephants.  Will this get me to where I want to go?  Perhaps not, but I’m simply processing out loud.  I suppose.