The New York Times recently ran an article about evangelical Christian leaders warning one another that their teenagers are abandoning the faith in droves.
Their alarm has been stoked by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be “Bible-believing Christians” as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation.
While some critics say the statistics are greatly exaggerated (one evangelical magazine for youth ministers dubbed it “the 4 percent panic attack”), there is widespread consensus among evangelical leaders that they risk losing their teenagers.
The Times article goes on to, of course, report that the evangelicals blame it all on contemporary society:
Genuine alarm can be heard from Christian teenagers and youth pastors, who say they cannot compete against a pervasive culture of cynicism about religion, and the casual “hooking up” approach to sex so pervasive on MTV, on Web sites for teenagers and in hip-hop, rap and rock music. Divorced parents and dysfunctional families also lead some teenagers to avoid church entirely or to drift away.
This all begs a couple of questions. First off, we need a little more information on what defines a “Bible-believing Christian.” I consider myself to be a Bible-believing Christian, but you can bet that Jerry Falwell already has my spot in hell picked out for me. I suspect, based on this statement they are more concerned that kids might grow up to be thoughtful adults, who, while Christian, may not support the wingnut branch of the evangelicals.
Also, if the Christian message is getting lost to the likes of the stupid fare I’ve noticed on MTV, and the current version of rap and rock music, then it must not be a very strong message. Perhaps these kids are already cynical about the message of “Sinners in The Hands of An Angry God,” as he is so often presented by the evangelical right.
So, I think their concern is really more about how the kids might growup to be real Christians, rather then faux-Christians that follow “kraxy kristian kooks” like James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson…and let’s not forget Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church.