In chapter two, Kenda focuses on what is “Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism,” the reigning religion of American teenagers, and on how we got here.
I found it interesting that in the comments under the last post, the criticism was immediately turned on parents — parents are the problem, was the common refrain. But I didn’t mention parents. I wrote that “churches suck,” not that parents suck. In fact, it is in this chapter, on page 39, that Kenda first mentions parents, and then only briefly,
The National Study of Youth and religion’s more incontrovertible finding is that parents generally “get what they are,” in religion as in most things.
Otherwise, Kenda is again implicating the church: it’s the church’s fault that American teenage religion is basically “benign whatever-ism,” or “benign positive regard.” You see, American teenagers lead the world in the amount of church they’re exposed to — worship, church-based youth ministry, parachurch youth ministry, yet
They do not seem to be spending much time in communities where a language of faith is spoken, or where historically orthodox Christian doctrines and practices are talked about and taught…Apart from “being nice,” teenagers do not think religion influences their decisions, choice of friends, or behaviors. It does not help them obey God, work toward a common good, compose and identity, or belong to a distinctive community. (28-29)
And Kenda does not wait till the end of the book to diagnose this problem. She gets downright theological here in chapter two, proclaiming that the American church has a “muddled ecclesiology” and preaches a “‘god’ who is too limp to take hold of.” What’s missing, she says, is a Christianity that teaches “radical particularity” and is based in the “missio dei — God’s sending of God’s own self into the world in human form.”
I couldn’t agree more with Kenda up to this point. This is the church’s problem — not parents’, and not teens’, but the church’s. It falls right in the church’s lap. But I can’t help but wonder, will Kenda turn up the heat on the true source of the cancer: church leadership? The very people that she has given her life to serve — those in seminary and going into ordained ministry — seem to be the ones who are standing up every Sunday and presiding over worship at the Church of Benign Whatever-ism.