Almost Christian: Final Thoughts and Links

I’m blogging through Kenda Creasy Dean’s new book, Almost Christian, a theological follow up to Christian Smith’s Soul Searching. I hope you’ll join me. Find all the posts here.

To end the series on Kenda’s book, a few links for further reading.  First, CNN posted an article with the title, “Author: More Teens Becoming ‘Fake’ Christians“:

No matter their background, Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.

“There are countless studies that show that religious teenagers do better in school, have better relationships with their parents and engage in less high-risk behavior,” she says. “They do a lot of things that parents pray for.”

Dean, a United Methodist Church minister who says parents are the most important influence on their children’s faith, places the ultimate blame for teens’ religious apathy on adults.

[Read more...]

Almost Christian: Make No Small Plans

I’m blogging through Kenda Creasy Dean’s new book, Almost Christian, a theological follow up to Christian Smith’s Soul Searching. I hope you’ll join me. Find all the posts here.

Kenda’s final chapter and conclusion is called, “Make No Small Plans: A Case for Hope,” and in it she attempts to find the good news in the otherwise rather dreary conclusions of the NSYR and the finding that most American teens practice a version of Christianity called, “Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism.”

She recounts the five years of reflecting on the findings as full of sleepless nights.  And she told CNN that her time on the NSYR interview team was “one of the most depressing summers of her life.”  Five years later, she has drawn two conclusions:

  1. When it comes to vapid Christianity, teenagers are not the problem — the church is.
  2. The church is also the solution.

Kenda is tough on the church in this chapter, and throughout the book, arguing that “the contemporary church has strayed, often badly, from the course set before us by the earliest followers of Jesus…”  But, she hasn’t lost hope, and she round out the book with these five encouragements/challenges:

  1. [Read more...]

Almost Christian: Hanging Loose

I’m blogging through Kenda Creasy Dean’s new book, Almost Christian, a theological follow up to Christian Smith’s Soul Searching. I hope you’ll join me. Find all the posts here.

In chapter 8, “Hanging Loose: The Art of Detachment,” Kenda uses the youth group short-term mission trips as the backbone of chapter.  She writes,

Every year, youth ministers immerse teenagers in cross-cultural encounters, cajole them into unasked for leadership roles, and confront them with Bible studies on cultural and theological sticking points.  In doing the daily work of ministry, these church leaders eject young people from their comfort zones and catapult them into disorienting dilemmas–thereby introducing them to a larger story in which God has given them a part to play.

She primarily relies upon the journal of a just-returned teenager to exemplify just how discombobulating a short-term mission experience can be.

It all reminds me of a story that was popular among Southern California youth pastors when I was one, in the early 1990s.  A girl steps out of the church van, having just arrived back in the church parking lot from a week in Tijuana, when she sees her dad drive up in a BMW.  Upon experiencing the dramatic juxtaposition, she pukes.

[Read more...]

Almost Christian: Going Viral for Jesus

I’m blogging through Kenda Creasy Dean’s new book, Almost Christian, a theological follow up to Christian Smith’s Soul Searching. I hope you’ll join me. Find all the posts here.

In chapter 7, “Going Viral for Jesus: The Art of Testimony,” Kenda begins by tackling three of the questions that I heard voiced after Soul Searching came out.

First: Maybe the teens interviewed by the NYSR were just uncomfortable talking to adults about their faith.

Second: Maybe teens are deeply religious but just talk about it differently than the adult researchers wanted them to.

And third: Maybe teens are just generally inarticulate, but still deeply religious.

Kenda acknowledges that any of these is potentially valid (even devastating) criticism of the NSYR.  However, she counters that there were, in fact, many teens in the NSYR who could clearly articulate what they believed and why.  So, she writes, it is possible for a teen to be deeply religious and articulate about religious matters.

[Read more...]


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