Speaking The Language Of Faith

"Faith in the Next Generation," an article in Seattle Pacific University's Winter 2006 issue discusses Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith and Melinda Denton. This book summarizes the results of five-year project begun in 2001, where 3,370 randomly chosen teenagers, ages 13 to 17, were interviewed in 45 states. One of the most interesting discoveries is that most American teens believe in a religion the authors call “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” or “MTD.” According to Smith:
MTD is the actual, functional, de facto religious faith of the majority of American teenagers from a variety of religious and nonreligious traditions.
When it comes to teaching our teens biblical literacy and the rudiments of Christian theology, Smith and Denton argue that they need plenty of opportunities to express what they believe:
Religious faith, practice, and commitment can be no more than vaguely real when people cannot talk much about them. Articulacy fosters reality.
As the SPU writer puts it, "In other words, it’s hard to know what you believe until you talk it out." This means asking open-ended questions, discussing faith around the dinner table, and giving our teens the chance to handle hard questions from others about their convications. It might mean sharing a spiritual journal, where a teen may freely write about her faith in a written conversation with us, or encouraging a personal faith blog. I'm going to pray that our boys have the chance to talk about what it means to follow Jesus sometime this week. How about you?

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