Monday, July 12, 2004

The Kids, They're Alright

The widespread influence of Silentio on America's youth is finally, after two long years, taking effect:

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. 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. 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. About two-thirds say that Satan is just a symbol of evil, not really a living being. 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.

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.

"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."

Ah, song of my most cynical heart -- sing again! Yea, my job here is almost done. I had to leave youth ministry before I could truly save souls.

Oh ... but it gets better:

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.

It's almost too toothsome to taste, isn't it? Such moral ambiguity! Such unwillingness to unquestionably believe in a particular ideology! The audacity! It's almost as if -- Noooo! -- that the moralistic revival of America isn't really a revival at all, that American Christian belief is as shallow as George Bush's health care reform. Noooooooooo!