When I’m teaching Sunday school, I’m encouraged by what I hear from the teenagers at my evangelical Christian church in suburban Detroit. They seem to understand–and, more important, to believe–the bedrock tenets that will help them hew to orthodoxy throughout their lives and make them salt and light in the world.
So begins Rochester Hills, Michigan journalist and author Dale Buss in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed entitled “Christian Teens? Not Very”, a sure giveaway that the optimisim of the above paragraph will shortly wither to come into line with the essay’s title and it’s even more alarm-worthy subtitle: “Many hold mushy beliefs antithetical to the creed.”
Goodness, can things be that bad in a nation that has taken Mel Gibson’s NASCAR Jesus so much to heart?
But the hard numbers say otherwise. It turns out that, while they may profess the faith and indeed love Jesus, the vast majority of Christian teenagers in this country actually hold beliefs fundamentally antithetical to the creed.
Too much Buffy and Angel I’ll wager. Lucky for Buss they’ve both been cancelled.
The forces of moral relativism and “tolerance” have gotten to them in a big way. In fact, some leaders believe that mushy doctrine among the younger generation ranks as the No. 1 crisis facing American Christendom today.
Yes friends, re-runs are forever.
Satan is in syndication!
About one-third of American teenagers claim they’re “born again” believers, according to data gathered over the past few years by Barna Research Group, the gold standard in data about the U.S. Protestant church, and 88% of teens say they are Christians.
Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Jesus have some rather disparaging things to say about gold? Didn’t he make a big deal about throwing the money-changers out of the Temple? Then there’s that “eye of a camel” line? Remember Mr. Buss?
About 60% believe that “the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings.” And 56% feel that their religious faith is very important in their life.
Yet, Barna says, slightly more than half of all U.S. teens also believe that Jesus committed sins while he was on earth.
And you know what that means, don’t you? Yes despite only moderate box office returns and a total ban at Blockbuster video, Last Temptation of Christ has seriously impacted our nation’s youth!
And who can blame them? After all, these days which King of Kings comes more quickly to mind The staid DeMille with the sonambulent H.B. Warner or the saucy Nick Ray with the sexy Jeffrey Hunter?
And leave us not forget the Gay Communist Jesus of Pasolini whose style was aped by Mel (with a little Mario Bava thrown in for good measure)
About 60% agree that enough good works will earn them a place in heaven, in part reflecting a Catholic view, but also flouting Protestantism’s central theme of salvation only by grace.
Oh those pushy Catholics! I’ll bet they consider altar-boy-fucking to be “good works.”
About two-thirds say that Satan is just a symbol of evil, not really a living being.
A brand name, really. Like Wal-Mart.
Only 6% of all teens believe that there are moral absolutes–and, most troubling to evangelical leaders, only 9% of self-described born-again teens believe that moral truth is absolute.
“When you ask even Christian kids, ‘How can you say A is true as well as B, which is the antithesis of A?,’ their typical response is, ‘I’m not sure how it works, but it works for me,’” says George Barna, president of the Ventura, Calif.-based research company. “It’s personal, pragmatic and fairly superficial.”
Yes folk, it’s all Oprah’s fault!
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 McDowell, 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, also now say that the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ never occurred.
And Mel clearly helped on that score, being far more interested in blood, pain, suffering and the Jews, than the Ressurrection — which comes as a hastily tossed-off anti-climax, even more perfunctory than in the Pasolini.
“There’s a greater disconnect now than ever in the history of the church in America between what a Christian young person says they are and what they actually believe,” says Mr. McDowell, who has ministered mainly to youth for more than 30 years. “Christianity is based on truth; Jesus said, ‘I am the truth.’ But you have an overwhelming majority even of Christian kids saying there is no absolute truth.”
And who can blame them? If Absolute Truth existed then Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul would agree on absolutely everything on Star Search and the show would be five minutes long.
Catholics have noticed the trend as well. A few weeks ago, in fact, Pope John Paul II specifically warned several U.S. bishops about the “soulless vision of life” that seemed to be overtaking America, urging them to “confront directly the widespread spirit of agnosticism and relativism which has cast doubt on reason’s ability to know the truth,” especially among youth.
Indeed, the consequences of this theological implosion now pervade the thoughts and actions of believing teenagers, following the moral breakdown of the broader American culture. Here’s one practical example: Only 10% of Christian teens believe that music piracy is morally wrong, according to a recent Barna survey, not all that different from the 6% of their non-Christian peers who feel the same way.
Then extrapolate the situation to other possible big-picture results. Nearly 60% of evangelical Christian teenagers now say that all religious faiths teach equally valid truths, according to Mr. McDowell. It’s bad enough that they seem to have been co-opted by relativism from within our culture and even from within the church and family. But it’s even more disconcerting to realize that we’re relying on this generation for the future defense of Judeo-Christian civilization against the highly motivated forces of militant Islam.
Aha! So THIS is the culprit, right?
Or could Mr. Buss have been thinking of THIS?
Perhaps it’s counterintuitive to believe this problem is as severe as that outlined by Messrs. Barna and McDowell. After all, we’re told that spirituality is de rigueur among youths these days and that Christianity is right up there.
But this zeitgeist largely reflects a pseudo-faith that is fed by a steady diet of pop-culture feints, from the allegorical “Lord of the Rings” movies to the T-shirt that recently adorned Pamela Anderson saying, “Jesus is my homeboy.”
The kids in my Sunday School class really do understand that. It’s their peers I’m worried about.
And perhaps you should be. But Pamela Anderson is the least of your worries Mr. Buss.
The very least of your worries.