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More Teens Becoming 'Fake' Christians


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http://articles.cnn.com/2010-08-27/living/almost.christian_1_teens-share-moralistic-therapeutic-deism-dean-talks?_s=PM:LIVING

If you're the parent of a Christian teenager, Kenda Creasy Dean has this warning:

Your child is following a "mutant" form of Christianity, and you may be responsible.

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.

She says this "imposter'' faith is one reason teenagers abandon churches.

"If this is the God they're seeing in church, they are right to leave us in the dust," Dean says. "Churches don't give them enough to be passionate about."

What traits passionate teens share

Dean drew her conclusions from what she calls one of the most depressing summers of her life. She interviewed teens about their faith after helping conduct research for a controversial study called the National Study of Youth and Religion.

The study, which included in-depth interviews with at least 3,300 American teenagers between 13 and 17, found that most American teens who called themselves Christian were indifferent and inarticulate about their faith.

The study included Christians of all stripes -- from Catholics to Protestants of both conservative and liberal denominations. 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.

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.

Thought this was interesting and kind of sad, in a way, that most teens who consider themselves Christian, do not really know what they believe. Mormons and Evangelicals seem to be the exception....(but I was wondering which denominations the author was considering evangelical?) Anyway, interesting findings.

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I can understand for the most part where you're coming from, but who are you or anyone else to decide whether or not someone else's beliefs are "fake"?

I didn't decide that. The author of this book did. Not sure how she made that determination, but it appears to be based on knowledge of faith, as well as lifestyle. Are those good indicators? (Not always, IMO).

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Interesting artilce.

I can understand for the most part where you're coming from, but who are you or anyone else to decide whether or not someone else's beliefs are "fake"?

I think there are ways to do it. Generally life style I think would be a great indicator of, at the very least, how serious some one was about the gospel.

If there is a real problem out there, what would be the identifers of that problem?

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I didn't decide that. The author of this book did. Not sure how she made that determination, but it appears to be based on knowledge of faith, as well as lifestyle. Are those good indicators? (Not always, IMO).

I see your point. Knowledge of faith and lifestyle are good indicators when it comes to one's own opinions, I think, but don't necessarily apply to others. I also think it's a sad thing when people, not even just teenagers believe in something while not really knowing anything about it.

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I also think it's a sad thing when people, not even just teenagers believe in something while not really knowing anything about it.

To me, that is the most interesting aspect of the article.

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Almost Christian is excellent. Elder Christofferson actually quoted from it in Conference:

Sadly, much of modern Christianity does not acknowledge that God makes any real demands on those who believe in Him, seeing Him rather as a butler “who meets their needs when summoned” or a therapist whose role is to help people “feel good about themselves.” It is a religious outlook that “makes no pretense at changing lives.” “By contrast,” as one author declares, “the God portrayed in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures asks, not just for commitment, but for our very lives. The God of the Bible traffics in life and death, not niceness, and calls for sacrificial love, not benign whatever-ism.”

I have a blog post on the book.

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If they're not articulate when it comes to discussing their "faith," that's a good indication that they haven't thought seriously about it. That's not good. Not a surprise, in the slightest, that LDS teens are articulate about their faith.

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I can understand for the most part where you're coming from, but who are you or anyone else to decide whether or not someone else's beliefs are "fake"?

I don't think the author was saying the beliefs themselves were "fake" but rather they were not real Christian beliefs, but a faith that was 'masquerading' as Christian. She states that "moralistic therapeutic deism" is an "imposter" of Christianity and that this is what the teenagers actually believe, not true Christianity.

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I don't think the author was saying the beliefs themselves were "fake" but rather they were not real Christian beliefs, but a faith that was 'masquerading' as Christian. She states that "moralistic therapeutic deism" is an "imposter" of Christianity and that this is what the teenagers actually believe, not true Christianity.

Funny, this is the same argument that a large proportion of the "Christian" community makes against the LDS faith.....that mormons do not practice "real Christian beliefs, but a faith that was 'masquerading' as Christian."

IMO, there are about as many interpretations of "true Christianity" as there are Christian denominations....each one claims it's own version of Christianity. Heck, even the LDS church makes the argument that those outside of their fold are not practicing "true Christianity", since the LDS faith is the only faith with the rightful keys (priesthood, temple ordinances, etc.) and thus the only "true" church.

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Heck, even the LDS church makes the argument that those outside of their fold are not practicing "true Christianity", since the LDS faith is the only faith with the rightful keys (priesthood, temple ordinances, etc.) and thus the only "true" church.

Where does the LDS church make that arguement?

The LDS church recognizes that nonmembers can be 'members of the church of the lamb' in their hearts, so i would be interested in finding out where they have made a contradictory claim-that no one can be a 'true christian' outside of the church.

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Guilty here, I do use God's comfort to make me feel better sometimes... moral therapeutics, I guess =/.

I do know quite a bit about my religion though... so I guess that puts me somewhere in the middle =P.

Yah... it's balancing God's love and commandments... difficult to do, but he does it, all the same =). I love him for it =D.

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Almost Christian is excellent. Elder Christofferson actually quoted from it in Conference:

Sadly, much of modern Christianity does not acknowledge that God makes any real demands on those who believe in Him, seeing Him rather as a butler “who meets their needs when summoned” or a therapist whose role is to help people “feel good about themselves.” It is a religious outlook that “makes no pretense at changing lives.” “By contrast,” as one author declares, “the God portrayed in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures asks, not just for commitment, but for our very lives. The God of the Bible traffics in life and death, not niceness, and calls for sacrificial love, not benign whatever-ism.”

I have a blog post on the book.

Thanks for pointing to that, Walker. I just read it, and Dr. Peterson's article, as well.

Just pondering this question about what makes a "true Christian". Is it what we believe or what we do...or some combination of both? Or neither?

In my latter days, I am finding that true religion is experiential. One can learn many things "about" their religion and various other religions, and still not have the experience of truly knowing God. That experience is over and above head knowledge and even "doing", IMO.

So, from that perspective, I believe it's possible that teens who don't have a lot of "Christian learning" could still be having a real experience of God.

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In my latter days, I am finding that true religion is experiential. One can learn many things "about" their religion and various other religions, and still not have the experience of truly knowing God. That experience is over and above head knowledge and even "doing", IMO.

I would say that this accords to LDS practice quite well and is one of the reasons we are a 'narrative' faith in that we tend to identify more with our experiences in our faith and this is what we generally share with each other when speaking of our testimonies and not doctrinal issues and such.

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Funny, this is the same argument that a large proportion of the "Christian" community makes against the LDS faith.....that mormons do not practice "real Christian beliefs, but a faith that was 'masquerading' as Christian."

IMO, there are about as many interpretations of "true Christianity" as there are Christian denominations....each one claims it's own version of Christianity. Heck, even the LDS church makes the argument that those outside of their fold are not practicing "true Christianity", since the LDS faith is the only faith with the rightful keys (priesthood, temple ordinances, etc.) and thus the only "true" church.

Now Walden. You're shooting at the wrong target there.

The author's observation was neither an instance of unjustified sectarian elitism (as in the anti-Mormon example you mentioned) nor a serious exclusive truth claim. Rather, it was something else: an observed phenomenon wherein certain young people self-identify as Christian, and then describe their Christian beliefs -- which they evidently suppose they were taught in Church -- in terms that their churches would not recognise as their doctrine. IOW, they evidently believe those things because they unaware of what their flavour of Christianity actually teaches, not because they've embraced them out of genuine conviction.

If "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" was a bona fide religion, and the youth in question had knowingly chosen to embrace it, you might have a point.

But it isn't, and they didn't.

Regards,

Pahoran

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I would say that this accords to LDS practice quite well and is one of the reasons we are a 'narrative' faith in that we tend to identify more with our experiences in our faith and this is what we generally share with each other when speaking of our testimonies and not doctrinal issues and such.

Yes, I know. I was active in the church for seven years. :)

I agree with you that LDS put more emphasis on spiritual experiences. Most charismatic churches do, as well.

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