John clipped a few articles from the Wall Street journal for me to read. One of those articles, “Christian Teens? Not Very” penned by Dale Buss appeared in the July 9, 2004 column, “Houses of Worship.”
Buss runs through a number of statistics that convey a confusing picture when it comes to teens and faith. The Barana Research Group, dubbed the “gold standard in data about the U.S. Protestant church by Buss, exposes a disparity between what is said to be beleived by teens and other positions they hold to be apparently mutually exclusive.For example,
“Some commentators produce even more startling statistics on the doctrinal drift of America’s youth. Ninety-one percent of born-again teenagers surveyed a few years ago proclaimed that there is no such thing as absolute truth, says the Rev. Josh MdDowell, a Dallas-based evangelist and author. More alarmingly, that number had risen quickly and steadily from just 52% of committed Christian kids in 1992 who denied the existence of absolute truth. A slight majority of professing Christian kids, Mr. McDowell says, aslo now say that the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ never occurred.”
An inset quote from articles suggests, “Many hold mushy beliefs antithetical to the creed.” Does something happen the minute a young person reaches adolescence that prompts them to jettison “the faith once for all delivered to the saints”? By all means, we pour truth claims down our children as though they are vitamins to help keep them healthy and stave off heresy. We have for many years sat them in a room and preached to them the ills of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. We have painted a bleak picture of the world so as to give them absolutely no hope of things getting better. If they were to believe the Kingdom could make a difference then our “Rapture” boat would not be near as full and our books would not sell near as many copies.
Ivy Beckwith may be on to something when she suggests the pendulum extremes of ignoring the ways in which children learn, and so giving them nothing but propostional truth claims necessary though they may be, and the other extreme of playing so severely to their learning styles that we have melted down the gospel and created of it a “golden calf” of fun and entertainment, and so creating an experience a bit disconnected from reality, has only served to craete the very environment we decry.
Have we lived our beliefs in a mushy ways so as to demonstrate antithesis to the creed? Do we fail to seize authentic means to help provide the proper spiritual formation for our children. Dallas Willard suggests that everyone undergoes spiritual formation. The question remains then, what is spiritually forming our young people? If we determine it is our culture then one of two things must happen. We either must “transform” culture or we must take a more active role in the spiritual formation of our young people who will then in turn live to be Neibuhr’s “Christ transforming culture.”
The disconnect may well be in our own understanding of spiritual formation. Buss concludes, “The kids in my Sunday School class really do undestand that. It’s their peers I’m worried about.” I then wonder, what is being done for the class that could be done for their peers?