Sunday, September 5, 2010

Youth And Fake Christianity

As if we didn't know, the nation's most popular religion is indifferentism. And it's spread, per this recent CNN article. Yes, believe it or not, there is someone in the nation who still reads stuff from CNN.

Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls "moralistic therapeutic deism." Translation: It's a watered-down faith that portrays God as a "divine therapist" whose chief goal is to boost people's self-esteem.

Dean is a minister, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and the author of "Almost Christian," a new book that argues that many parents and pastors are unwittingly passing on this self-serving strain of Christianity.

This should be shocking to a grand total of nobody. How many teens do you know? How many are in any way interesting in stuff beyond themselves? I know that such an attitude is common among teens, but I have never seen it to the degree it's exhibited these days.

Before you chide me about telling young people to get off my lawn and such, check some of the other items from the article:

Though three out of four American teenagers claim to be Christian, fewer than half practice their faith, only half deem it important, and most can't talk coherently about their beliefs, the study found.

This is nothing more than an outgrowth of the whole "Theology is dead" movement.

Many teenagers thought that God simply wanted them to feel good and do good -- what the study's researchers called "moralistic therapeutic deism."

I guess my question to this is how it's limited to just young folks. This sounds like about 85% of adults I know, including Catholics, by the way. It's largely ignored by folks that this popular indifferentism is really just a symptom. Pelagianism is the disease, and it's encouraged by all of your more popular TV preachers.

Others practice a "gospel of niceness," where faith is simply doing good and not ruffling feathers. The Christian call to take risks, witness and sacrifice for others is muted, she says.

Straight up Pelagian from top to bottom.

So what do these folks suggest as a remedy?

Churches, not just parents, share some of the blame for teens' religious apathy as well, says Corrie, the Emory professor.

She says pastors often preach a safe message that can bring in the largest number of congregants. The result: more people and yawning in the pews.

"If your church can't survive without a certain number of members pledging, you might not want to preach a message that might make people mad," Corrie says. "We can all agree that we should all be good and that God rewards those who are nice."

Corrie, echoing the author of "Almost Christian," says the gospel of niceness can't teach teens how to confront tragedy.

In other words, give them a reality check. Here's what I don't get, though. Catholics are enormously guilty for the sort of suger-coated stuff mentioned here. This is in spite of the fact that we should be doing the opposite because Catholicism is uniquely capable of dealing with suffering. Pelagian TV preachers really don't deal with suffering well. In so many words, it always winds up being the victim's fault. Catholicism embraces hardship because that was The Master's way. So why aren't we proclaiming it?

Because we are too busy feeding the image of God as The Divine Therapist.

The other thing they suggest is "getting radical."

She says parents who perform one act of radical faith in front of their children convey more than a multitude of sermons and mission trips.

A parent's radical act of faith could involve something as simple as spending a summer in Bolivia working on an agricultural renewal project or turning down a more lucrative job offer to stay at a struggling church, Dean says.

I do have a minor problem with this. First of all, the bar for radicalism is pretty low these days. For Catholics, going to a TLM, participating in Adoration, or just praying the Rosary might count. Second, there is a desire to equate radical acts of faith with service projects. Atheists do service projects. The UN does service projects on a massive scale. That doesn't make it a Christian endeavor. Boniface has a great take on this over at Unam Sanctam that nails the problem 100% dead-on.

If you want to be radical, get them to go on a real retreat or some other contemplative activity. Break them out of the world's noise and give them silence for a while. That means way better odds of an encounter with God, I think.


Turgonian said...

How many are in any way interesting in stuff beyond themselves?

"Interested". Of course we all agree that teens are hugely interesting. ;)

Throwback said...

So they got that going for them then.