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February 24, 2005

The heritage of faith

A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reports that the  majority of American teens believe in God and worship in conventional congregations but have a minimal understanding of the faith they claim.

The research found that devout teens hold more traditional sexual and other values than their nonreligious counterparts and are better off in emotional health, academic success, community involvement, concern for others, trust of adults and avoidance of risky behavior.

The four-year effort was conducted by 133 researchers and consultants led by sociologist Christian Smith of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Smith reports the full results in the new book "Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers" (Oxford University Press), written with doctoral student Melinda Lundquist Denton. The book will be published next week.

Smith says the material "is not just about teenagers. It speaks more broadly about the direction of American religion."

The project involved a telephone survey of 3,370 randomly selected English- and Spanish-speaking Americans, ages 13-17, followed by face-to-face interviews with 267 of the respondents in 45 states. With ongoing funding from the Lilly Endowment, researchers will continue to track the same teens through 2007.

While America is becoming a more diverse nation, at least 80 percent of teens still identify as Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Mormon or Jewish, with most teens adhering to their parents' faith tradition, the report said.

Substantial majorities said they: Were affiliated with a local congregation (82 percent); had few or no doubts about their beliefs in the past year (80 percent); felt "extremely," "very" or "somewhat" close to God (71 percent); prayed alone a few times a week or more often (65 percent); and "definitely" believed in divine miracles from God (61 percent). Fifty-two percent said they attended worship two to three times a month or more often.

On most of the measured criteria, Mormon youths - whose church runs daily high school religion classes - were the most engaged in practicing their faith, followed in order by evangelical Protestants, black Protestants, mainline Protestants, Catholics and Jews.

Since government schools proselytize for the state religion of secularism at taxpayers expense, it's easy to see why teenagers would lack a better understand of the faith their teachers work so hard to undermine. But reality has a way of showing the truth, and the real world is made much more visible to teenagers via the easier access to information provided by the Internet. After 9/11 the idea of taking concern for what goes on in the world takes a more privileged seat in the consciousness of today's teenagers, so the zealots of the Religion of Secularism are having a hard time maintaining their censorship of critical thinking -- in spite of state mandated bans on stickers in science books requesting it.

Christians have a great opportunity here to pick up the slack. As the Secularists become more and more transparent in their attempts to quash any who disagree with them, it drives kids on to know the truth. Today's parents are from the generation that was told to toss out traditionalism, only to find that there were some really good reasons for those traditions. Seeing culture, tradition and faith in the context of meaning and purpose creates a different response.

The baby boomers saw the tradition, but had trouble seeing the meaning, and the sixties were their way of rejecting it -- only to later embrace the very thing they rejected. The newest generation is watching closely as their parents re-embrace those traditions, but in a way that also acknowledged the reason for the traditions. All the while the baby-boomers who refused to learn the lesson, most of whom apparently work in the entertainment industries, continue to push the failed philosophies of the sixties-- thereby providing at least one element of “old dude stuff” for the kids to rebel against.

The problem we have is that we are neglecting the deeper parts of our faith and traditions. The basics of the meaning and purpose are fine, but our kids need more. And they can't get it unless we lead the way. It's not enough to sit in a pew. It's not enough to acknowledge our faith throughout the week -- we need to make more and more of the teachings as well as the history of our faith a part of our lives. The enemy's weapons are lies and half-truths, and they can only be defeated with the truth, all of it.

Posted by Jack Lewis at February 24, 2005 11:02 AM

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Your main page says your RSS2 feed is http://jacklewis.net/index.xml but it really is http://jacklewis.net/weblog/index.xml

The problem is that if you add it as live bookmarks in Firefox, Firefox uses what is in the main page which is wrong (you have the correct info in the side bar)

Posted by: Don Singleton at February 25, 2005 08:42 AM


Posted by: Jack at February 25, 2005 09:51 AM

Actually I just checked and the URL for the RSS2 is correct on the main page, but is wrong for the individual pages.

Posted by: Jack at February 25, 2005 10:00 AM

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