This is a response to the CNN article on Teens Becoming Fake Christians, and the multitude of folks who shared the link to such on FB. I looked at a number of comments, and while there was not a ton of angry finger pointing, pretty much the common thread was… its other folks problem. I think the answer is different… kids have been set up to crash and burn, and its everyones problem. Its also everyones problem, as it doesn’t just affect kids, but whole families and congregations.
The difficulty is so many in US society want MTD(moral therapeutic deism) in a huge way and likely they dont even know it. It parallels the sin management approaches of many churches. It doesn’t require thought or a whole lot of action, its denominationally neutral. No sacrifice is needed, nor is their any financial cost. It can easily become a 24/7 deal, unlike just a Sunday morning thing. As its a darkness masquerading as an angel of light, few if any are going to see it as a problem… and by the same token, there likely will be no evil darts thrown towards its practitioners.
So, what is it? Christian Smith and his fellow researchers with the National Study of Youth and Religion describe its attributes as the following.
- “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.”
- “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”
- “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”
- “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”
- “Good people go to heaven when they die.”
Dr Al Mohler Jr of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote a good article on it some years back as well. I think its an exceedingly well done piece… and Dr Mohler and I are about as theologically opposed as can be on many issues, but I’m nearly 100% behind him on this one.
Here are some symptons I’ve been able to gather.
Pastors are frustrated, as they have the meat, and the congregation only wants milk, and perhaps milk diluted with a good dose of MTD as well.
Parents are frustrated, when their teen embraces any number of offshoots of MTD. The kids see a direct connection of numerous ABCDEF belief systems with MTD, they dont see a connection between Christ and MTD.
Kids then are frustrated, that parents dont see the disconnect between MTD and what the church teaches… and more so that parents dont see the same direct connection between alternative belief system ABCDEF and MTD.
Young adults are frustrated, as they want to pursue Christ, and yet MTD keeps rearing its ugly head to serve as a distraction.
So, whats the answer? Kid’s and others passion needs to be gently guided, and then the fan flamed… no program, church deal of the month, or hard core parenting can replace passion from the heart. It can start out with small steps too… simply not killing the passion of youth is a good starting point. Discernment as to when MTD shows up and discussions surrounding such is another… and it doesnt take a whole lot to see examples daily. Gently guide the kids, they will uncover more and more, and likely a lot of it is going to be pretty uncomfortable. Simply not killing their passion can go a very long way.
Some selected quotes from the CNN articles make for some good counters to MTD as well.
“If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation,” wrote Dean, a professor of youth and church culture at Princeton Theological Seminary.
Teens want to be challenged; they want their tough questions taken on, she says.
“We think that they want cake, but they actually want steak and potatoes, and we keep giving them cake,” Corrie says.
“If you don’t say you’re doing it because of your faith, kids are going to say my parents are really nice people,” Dean says. “It doesn’t register that faith is supposed to make you live differently unless parents help their kids connect the dots.”