my son and daughter-in-law sent me to the rightnow conference last week as an early christmas present. as a result, i find myself spiritually devastated. in a good way. i won’t “review” the experience per se, but i am sure that much of what i heard will seep into my thinking/writing/speaking for months, perhaps years, to come.
i’ve been reading (in various and sundry places) about the reasons why young adults are staying away from church in droves. here is an interesting item from john blake at cnn.com entitled, “more teens becoming ‘fake’ christians.” blake writes:
If you’re the parent of a Christian teenager, Kenda Creasy Dean has this warning:
Your child is following a “mutant” form of Christianity, and you may be responsible.
Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Translation: It’s a watered-down faith that portrays God as a “divine therapist” whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem.
Dean is a minister, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and the author of “Almost Christian,” a new book that argues that many parents and pastors are unwittingly passing on this self-serving strain of Christianity.
She says this “imposter” faith is one reason teenagers abandon churches.
“If this is the God they’re seeing in church, they are right to leave us in the dust,” Dean says. “Churches don’t give them enough to be passionate about.”
i wanted to learn more about m.t.d. so i went to the ultimate authority: wikipedia.
The term, introduced in the book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (2005) by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, is used to describe what they consider to be the common religious beliefs among American youth.
The authors find that many young people believed in several moral statutes not exclusive to any of the major world religions. It is this combination of beliefs that they label Moralistic Therapeutic Deism:
- A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
- God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
- God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
The authors say the system is “moralistic” because it “is about inculcating a moralistic approach to life. It teaches that central to living a good and happy life is being a good, moral person.” The authors describe the system as being “about providing therapeutic benefits to its adherent” as opposed to being about things like “repentance from sin, of keeping the Sabbath, of living as a servant of a sovereign divine, of steadfastly saying one’s prayers, of faithfully observing high holy days, of building character through suffering…” and further as “belief in a particular kind of God: one who exists, created the world, and defines our general moral order, but not one who is particularly personally involved in one’s affairs–especially affairs in which one would prefer not to have God involved.”
the mass youth exodus from the church is a symptom of a systemic problem that has been fomenting for a long, long time. kids are not passionate about church because those those responsible for training them (parents/church leaders) are not passionate about the gospel. some, in fact many, are passionate about “church as we know it” (and all the activities that accompany “church as we know it”), but they simply do not exemplify the life of abandonment jesus lived. they (or should i say “we”) seek to retain their lives (the “american dream”) and add jesus to it. kids see that half-heartedness as synthetic and they refuse to sign up.
so they leave. can you blame them?
somebody needs to represent faith. real faith. a faith worth laying down one’s life for.
god, let it be me.