Saturday, December 20, 2008

Come On, We Know This: You Can Lead A Teen To NewAge (But You Can't Make Them Think)

"When Christian Smith and his fellow researchers with the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took a close look at the religious beliefs held by American teenagers, they found that the faith held and described by most adolescents came down to something the researchers identified as 'Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.'

As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these: 1. 'A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.' 2. 'God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.' 3. 'The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.' 4. 'God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.' 5. 'Good people go to heaven when they die.'

That, in sum, is the creed to which much adolescent faith can be reduced. After conducting more than 3,000 interviews with American adolescents, the researchers reported that, when it came to the most crucial questions of faith and beliefs, many adolescents responded with a shrug and 'whatever.'

As a matter of fact, the researchers, whose report is summarized in Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers by Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton, found that American teenagers are incredibly inarticulate about their religious beliefs, and most are virtually unable to offer any serious theological understanding. As Smith reports, 'To the extent that the teens we interviewed did manage to articulate what they understood and believed religiously, it became clear that most religious teenagers either do not really comprehend what their own religious traditions say they are supposed to believe, or they do understand it and simply do not care to believe it. Either way, it is apparent that most religiously affiliated U.S. teens are not particularly interested in espousing and upholding the beliefs of their faith traditions, or that their communities of faith are failing in attempts to educate their youth, or both.'

As the researchers explained, 'For most teens, nobody has to do anything in life, including anything to do with religion. 'Whatever' is just fine, if that's what a person wants.'

The casual 'whatever' that marks so much of the American moral and theological landscapes--adolescent and otherwise--is a substitute for serious and responsible thinking. More importantly, it is a verbal cover for an embrace of relativism."


-- R. Albert Mohler, Jr., who doesn't recognize a version of NewAge when he sees it, on The Christian Post.