CNN.com isn’t usually the place you find thought provoking and fairly accurate analysis of Christianity and the culture, but I believe that to be the case today in “Author: More teens becoming ‘fake Christians’” by John Blake. Kenda Creasy Dean, author of Almost Christian, minister in the United Methodist Church, and professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, argues that more teens are being taught a “moral therapeutic deism” which amounts to “a watered-down faith that portrays God as a ‘divine therapist’ whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem.” This “imposter” faith, being purported by parents and pastors alike, is a leading cause of church abandonment by today’s adolescents.
Here is a snippet from the column:
Many teenagers thought that God simply wanted them to feel good and do good — what the study’s researchers called “moralistic therapeutic deism.”
Some critics told Dean that most teenagers can’t talk coherently about any deep subject, but Dean says abundant research shows that’s not true.
“They have a lot to say,” Dean says. “They can talk about money, sex and their family relationships with nuance. Most people who work with teenagers know that they are not naturally inarticulate.”
In “Almost Christian,” Dean talks to the teens who are articulate about their faith. Most come from Mormon and evangelical churches, which tend to do a better job of instilling religious passion in teens, she says.
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.
It is unsurprising, sadly, that Mormons were found in the study to be able to articulate their faith. They do a much better job of “discipling” their children than even most conservative, evangelical churches. Yet it is heartening that evangelicals were found to instill so much religious passion in their teens.
But the “feel good and do good” approach to ministry is still all too common amongst individuals and teachers who profess Christianity. One of the best-selling “Christian” books of the past decade was titled Your Best Life Now. The follow-up, by the same author, was Become a Better You. Joel Osteen’s preaching follows the tenor of his books, and his brand of “Christianity” and his “gospel,” which I’m pretty sure the apostle Paul would call “no gospel at all” (Gal 1:6-9), has run rampant amongst professing Christians. Continue reading