Began reading this morning Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church by Kenda Creasy Dean. I’m finding Dean’s analysis spot on and a much-needed wake up call for the church in America. An excerpt:
Churches seem to have offered teenagers a kind of “diner theology”: a bargain religion, cheap but satisfying, whose gods require little in the way of fidelity or sacrifice….Diner theology is much easier to digest…and it is far safer, especially for malleable youth. So who can blame churches, really, for earnestly ladling this stew into teenagers, filling them with an agreeable porridge about the importance of being nice, feeling good about yourself, and saving God for emergencies? We have convinced ourselves that this is gospel, but in fact it is much closer to another mess of pottage, an unacknowledged but widely held religious outlook among American teenagers that is primarily dedicated, not to loving God, but to avoiding interpersonal friction. There are inspiring exceptions, of course, but for the most part we have traded the kind of faith confessed and embodied in the church’s most long-standing traditions for the savory stew of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. And, for the most part, young people have followed suit (10).
The solution? Not better youth programs, but stronger churches filled with adults modeling vibrant faith. As Dean concludes, “we’re responsible.” Ouch. But true.