“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!