- Hardcover: 264 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 15, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195314840
- ISBN-13: 978-0195314847
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 0.9 x 6.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 56 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Dean (The Godbearing Life), a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, opens this absorbing portrait of teenage religiosity by throwing down a gauntlet: the faith of America's teens is "not durable enough to survive long after they graduate from high school. One more thing: we're responsible." Dean, who worked on the National Study of Youth and Religion with sociologist Christian Smith, says that American Christians' emphasis on "a do-good, feel-good spirituality" at the expense of deep discipleship may cost them the rising generation, which is (with the exception of Mormon teens, the subject of an admiring chapter-long case study) largely apathetic about Christian faith. How, then, can religious leaders and teachers inculcate what Dean calls a "consequential faith"--i.e., one that bears fruit for the long haul? She identifies four factors teens need: a personal encounter with God, a strong church or youth group, a sense of being called to duty, and hope for the future. In a refreshingly personal final chapter, Dean outlines her frustration at the daunting task ahead but emphasizes the possibilities if the Christian church decides to take up its cross and follow Jesus.
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"A lot of youth workers have been a bit depressed since the National Study of Youth and Religion revealed what we'd long suspected about American teen religiosity: it's pretty darn benign. But in Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean helps us turn the corner from the moralistic, therapeutic deism that afflicts our churches to a hope-filled, consequential faith that has the potential to change the lives of young people and, with a little help from the Holy Spirit, just might transform our world."
-- Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier
"Almost Christian hangs an illuminating theological magnifying glass over the startling conclusions of the National Study of Youth and Religion. Peppered with compelling, sometimes unsettling, dialogue from NSYR interviews, the book pulls no punches but, at the same time, inspires hope that the American church can--in fact, must--move beyond the flimsy, vague, self-absorbed spirituality that has unintentionally been woven into the faith fabric of postmodern American Christianity."
-- Mark DeVries, Founder, Youth Ministry Architects, First Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee
"Kenda Creasy Dean argues passionately that the faith of the average American Christian teen is only a pale, watered-down version of the robust faith it could be. Drawing on extensive research and impressive analysis, Dean offers a smart how-to guide for Christian youth ministers and parents who hope to transform that watered-down faith into something much more."
--Donna Freitas, author of Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America's College Campuses
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This wonderful book is based on the National Study of Youth and Religion conducted from 2002 to 2005. It is a fascinating analysis of teen religious practice, which is a bellwether of the faith of us all. Teenagers are practicing the faith that we are teaching them, not what we say we believe, but what we actually believe as evidenced by our actions. All of this could be dry and boring, but in "Almost Christian" it is not! This is a truly fascinating exploration of what makes faith vibrant, what makes faith "consequential". As such it is important for everyone to read, not just those interested in teens and youth ministry. Much of the book describes real faith--a faith rich in holy desire and missional clarity--and explores ways that we as a church can experience and model this in our lives.
Most teenagers today practice an "imposter faith" what the author calls "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism"--"the new mainstream American religious faith" in which God is seen as a butler or a therapist rather than (as the approximately 8% of youth that are "highly devoted" do) as a "divine swimming instructor" who is down in the water with them, leading and instructing them. The book also explores the faith of these "highly devoted" youth and what makes them different from their peers.
The scope of this book is limited to Christian ministry and formation and does not include Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or other faiths. There are helpful appendices and an index, and the book is written in a somewhat intellectual style and at the same time a very moving style---very readable and pragmatic--not academic.
I read this book not because I had any interest in youth ministry or teenagers in particular, but because of the title--"Almost Christian"--something in it resonated with me, and I'm so glad I gave it a chance. This book made my life richer, and gave me an appreciation both for young people and for my faith that I did not have before. It's really important to me to not be an Americanized Christian with a watered-down faith, but rather, someone who reflects the love of Jesus Christ and real faith in all I do. I found myself enlightened, inspired, and encouraged.
In light of this study, the purpose of Dean’s Almost Christian is twofold. Firstly, Dean focuses on arguing that the reason for the lack of genuine faith amongst our youth is due to the adults (Part I of the book). The adults are just as at fault when it comes to subscribing to moralistic, therapeutic deism as their kids are; the kids are simply modeling themselves after their parents and adult church members.
Secondly, in Parts II and III of the book, Dean walks her readers through not only the consistent set of “cultural tools” that make faith meaningful for youth (i.e. an articulated God story; a deep sense of belonging; a clear sense of a God-given purpose; and an attitude of hope for the world), but how to help young people implement these cultural tools (i.e. through the practices of translation, testimony, and detachment) (22-23).
Overall, I appreciated Dean’s book. The thesis and problem that Dean presents here is wonderfully provocative, and I am in enormous agreement. When I read this book, I was still an expecting parent for my first child, and Dean’s thesis in this book terrified me. The notion that, as parents, our kids become us (at least in terms of faith) haunted me for weeks after reading this book. As an aside, it has challenged me to be more consistent in my personal spiritual disciplines and to more passionately seek out a life of authentic faith in Christ.
Key quote: Perhaps parents and teenagers do not argue much about religion because they seem to believe almost the same things. Contrary to popular opinion, teenagers conform to the religious beliefs and practices of their parents to a very high degree. The “breaking away” from authority figures associated with the teenage years comes later in adolescence, but the 13-17 year olds in the NSYR were highly conventional, content to adopt their parents’ religious inclinations. By and large, Smith and Denton concluded, parents “get what they are” religiously (p18).