Monday, April 20, 2009

"Christless Christianity"...

In an online article by Collin Hansen of "Christianity Today" -- "Death by Deism," about how no merely civil religion alone can sustain a free republic, Hansen refers to and briefly describes the 'Christless Christianity' ("moralistic, therapeutic deism' -- MTD) that's impacting so much of professing evangelicalism today:

Though they aren't journalists, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton broke one of the biggest stories in contemporary religion with their 2005 book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Conducting the most comprehensive study of religion and teenagers to date, the sociologists discovered a newly dominant creed that they dubbed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Rather than transformative revelation from God, religion has become a utility for enhancing a teenager's life. Smith and Denton lay out the five points of MTD:

1. A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Surely American teenagers did not invent this new religion. A quick scan of bestseller lists, television guides, or public school curricula will reveal MTD's appeal. Indeed, the God of MTD sounds like the "cool parent" teenagers adore.

"God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he is always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process," Smith and Denton write.

Hansen concludes: "If orthodox Christianity gives way to MTD, American public life may further degenerate into a feel-good free-for-all. No merely civil religion, especially one shaped by MTD, can long sustain a free republic by itself. A nation committed only to liberty and the pursuit of happiness will be left wondering why life is so unfulfilling."

1 comment:

Arthur Sido said...

I think that a large part of the problem is the civic religion we have in America. Going to church, being members of a church, etc. all are part of the cultural fabric of America. The focus is on the form, on the ritual, on the group and not on Christ. I think the biggest reason that so many kids walk away from Christianity is that they never were Christians in the first place. We are not losing 80% of Christian kids, they were unbelievers all along. They “went to church” but were never part of the church and when they left home there was no reason for them to keep pretending.