One more thing: we're responsible." (3)
"We have successfully convinced teenagers that religious participation is important for moral formation and for making nice people, which may explain why American adolescents harbor no ill will toward religion... what we have ben less able to convey to young people is faith." (6)
"The faith most teenagers exhibit is a loveless version that the NSYR calls Christianity's misbegotten stepcousin, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, which is supplanting Christianity as the dominant religion in American churches." (7)
"The problem does not seem to be that churches are teaching young people badly, but that we are doing an exceedingly good job of teaching youth what we really believe; namely, that Christianity is not a big deal, that God requires little, and the church is a helpful social institution filled with nice people focused primarily on "folks like us"--which, of course, begs the question of whether we are really the church at all. What if the blasé religiosity of most American teenagers is not the result of poor communication but the result of excellent communication of a watered-down gospel so devoid of God's self-giving love in Jesus Christ, so immune to the sending love of the Holy Spirit that it might not be Christianity at all? What if the church models a way of life that asks, not passionate surrender but ho-hum assent? What if we are preaching moral affirmation, a feel-better faith, and a hands-off God instead of the decisively involved, impossibly loving, radically sending God of Abraham and Mary, who desired us enough to enter creation in Jesus Christ and whose Spirit is active in the church and in the world today? " (12)
"In the course of conducting interviews for the NSYR, I spent hours talking to young people in malls, bookstores, and neighborhood pizza parlors as they told me about--well, about almost everything but faith, as it turned out. Remarkably articulate young people stammered and groped for words when the conversation turned to religion, as if no one had ever asked them these questions before, or as if we were asking questions in another language. Many youth said religion was important, thought when pressed they generally could not say how; almost all of them thought religion was a good thing, though most could not describe the difference it made to them personally" (16)
Guiding Beliefs of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism
1. A god exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth.
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. God is not involved in my life except when I need God to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.
Primary findings of the National Study of Religion and Youth (2002 to 2005)
1. Most American teenagers have a positive view of religion but otherwise don't give it much thought
2. Most U.S. teenagers mirror their parents' religious faith
3. Teenagers lack a theological language with which to express their faith or interpret their experience of the world
4. A minority of teenagers--but a significant minority--say religious faith is important, and that it makes a difference in their lives. These teenagers are doing better in life on a number of scales, compared to their less religious peers
5. Many teenagers enact and espouse a religious outlook that is distinct from traditional teachings of most world religions--an outlook called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism
Dominant question: How can the twenty-first century church better prepare young people steeped in Moralistic Therapeutic Deism for the trust-walk of Christian faith?