(Photo: Shavon Gardner, 17, sings with the Redeemed Christian Church of God youth choir at Redemption Camp in Floyd, Texas June 17, 2009/Jessica Rinaldi)
The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Elizabeth E. Evans is a freelance writer, columnist and priest-in-charge at St. Marks Episcopal Church, Honey Brook, Pennsylvania.
By Elizabeth E. Evans
A large-scale study charting the religious habits of American teenagers has quietly been underway for almost a decade but has received relatively little media attention until now. As the data from the longitudinal analysis performed by the National Study of Youth & Religion is released, (NSYR) it could and should stimulate unsettling questions for Christian parents and churches alike.
Featuring phone interviews with 3,300 teens and their parents and three-hour interviews with close to 300 of them, the NSYR research random sampled feedback by kids from any tradition – or none.
Impassioned and articulate, NSYR research team member Kenda Creasy Dean has distilled her reflections on the findings into a volume that is both a critique of “status quo” Christian practice and encouragement to take faith more seriously.
In Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, the Princeton Theological Seminary professor mines the NSYR information to examine a virus she believes is currently wreaking havoc with American denominations — “moral therapeutic deism.” Coined by NYSR chief investigator Christian Smith, a Notre Dame professor, the term symbolizes the view that “religion is about being nice, feeling good about themselves, and that otherwise God pretty much stays out of the way — unless you need to call upon God to serve your needs,” says Dean.