An article over at CNN, More Teens Becoming “Fake” Christians, raises news that is alarming but not new.*
According to Princeton Professor Kenda Dean, author of Almost Christian, American teenagers are embracing what she calls “moralistic therapeutic deism,” looking to God as a divine therapist whose primary function is to make us feel good about ourselves.
She places the blame for this squarely and fairly on parents and pastors. “”Churches don’t give them enough to be passionate about,” she says. And she’s right.
But my concern is that she never defines what Christian is. She critiques a “gospel of niceness” that doesn’t require teens to take risk, witness or make sacrifices.
But quite frankly, that’s not what a Christian is either. I can join Peta and do that. Being a Christian isn’t about the sacrifices I make, but about the one Christ made.
The teens who are most articulate about their faith, she says, are the Mormons and the evangelicals. But neither group, ultimately, accepts the definition of being a Christian that the other holds, so each, I suppose, could consider the other group fake Christians as well. That’s why definitions are important.
Being a Christian is not about being passionate or articulate, although of course it doesn’t exclude it. And that’s my concern about a study of fake Christians that doesn’t define what a Christian is.
Her remedy, by the way, is for parents to do something radical. Here’s how CNN reports it:
Get “radical,” Dean says.
She says parents who perform one act of radical faith in front of their children convey more than a multitude of sermons and mission trips.
A parent’s radical act of faith could involve something as simple as spending a summer in Bolivia working on an agricultural renewal project or turning down a more lucrative job offer to stay at a struggling church, Dean says.
But it’s not enough to be radical — parents must explain “this is how Christians live,” she says.
I agree. But parents also must explain what Christians are, broken, fallen creatures in need of grace and reconciliation through Christ.
Even radical obedience may bring glory to ourselves or to our church, without ever bringing glory to God.
That’s fake Christianity by any measure.