Skip to comments.Learning From Young Atheists: What Turned Them Off Christiany
Posted on 07/03/2013 8:22:51 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
It's something most Christian parents worry about: You send your kids off to college and when they come back, you find they've lost their faith. The prospect of this happening is why many parents nudge their kids towards Christian colleges, or at least schools with a strong Christian presence on campus.
But in many ways, the damage has been done long before our children set foot on campus. That's the message from a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly.
My friend Larry Taunton of the Fixed Point Foundation set out to find out why so many young Christians lose their faith in college. He did this by employing a method I don't recall being used before: He asked them.
The Fixed Point Foundation asked members of the Secular Students Associations on campuses around the nation to tell them about their "journey to unbelief." Taunton was not only surprised by the level of response but, more importantly, about the stories he and his colleagues heard.
Instead of would-be Richard Dawkins', the typical respondent was more like Phil, a student Taunton interviewed. Phil had grown up in church; he had even been the president of his youth group. What drove Phil away wasn't the lure of secular materialism or even Christian moral teaching. And he was specifically upset when his church changed youth pastors.
Whereas his old youth pastor "knew the Bible" and made Phil "feel smart" about his faith even when he didn't have all the answers, the new youth pastor taught less and played more.
Phil's loss of faith coincided with his church's attempt to ingratiate itself to him instead of challenging him. According to Taunton, Phil's story "was on the whole typical of the stories we would hear from students across the country."
These kids had attended church but "the mission and message of their churches was vague," and manifested itself in offering "superficial answers to life's difficult questions." The ministers they respected were those "who took the Bible seriously," not those who sought to entertain them or be their "buddy."
Taunton also learned that, for many kids, their journey to unbelief was an emotional, not just an intellectual one.
Taunton's findings are counter-intuitive. Much of what passes for youth ministry these days is driven by a morbid fear of boring our young charges. As a result, a lot of time is spent trying to devise ways to entertain them.
The rest of the time is spent worrying about whether the Christian message will turn kids off. But as Taunton found, young people, like the not-so-young, respect people with conviction-provided they know what they're talking about.
Taunton talks about his experiences with the late Christopher Hitchens, who, in their debates, refrained from attacking him. When asked why, Hitchens replied, "Because you believe it."
I don't know what that says about Hitchens' other Christian debate partners, but it is a potent reminder that playing down the truth claims of the Christian faith doesn't work. People don't believe those they don't respect.
Here's something that one of the students told Larry Taunton; he said, "Christianity is something that if you really believed it, it would change your life and you would want to change [the lives] of others. I haven't seen too much of that."
Folks, that's pretty sobering. This puts the ball in our court. Are we living lives that show our children that we actually believe what we say we believe? And here's another question-do we actually believe it? I have to say, as a parent I'm taking this very seriously. If possible, join me in reading Taunton's excellent article. Come to BreakPoint.org and we'll link you to it.
Very interesting. I would never have guessed the findings...
I personally believe that the messages of Christianity are at the same time very fundamentally simple / straightforward AND profoundly sophisticated and complex. To me, they are both very important, and both need to be embraced. I think we sometimes tend to ignore the mystery and discovery aspects of trying to find God in our lives, and I think that when we try to put God in a box we take away some of what would get young people excited about Christianity. I’m not sure I said that very well, and I don’t want to offend anyone. Just my two cents.
Phil's loss of faith coincided with his church's attempt to ingratiate itself to him instead of challenging him.
The ministers they respected were those "who took the Bible seriously," not those who sought to entertain them or be their "buddy."
Much of this applies to parenting and is exactly how the Dr. Spock parents raised the brats who are in charge of our government today.
It is not the message but the messenger.
God’s Word does offend people, His Word shines light on their sin, and it hurts.
When the messenger starts being afraid, the light grows dim, and the the hearer falls in the dark.
For me it was reason and logic.
That is the truth; it begs a simple two-part question: what has changed in your life? and how have you changed the lives of others because of your Christianity?
Jesus answered him, If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
Phil's loss of faith coincided with his church's attempt to ingratiate itself to him instead of challenging him. According to Taunton, Phil's story "was on the whole typical of the stories we would hear from students across the country." These kids had attended church but "the mission and message of their churches was vague," and manifested itself in offering "superficial answers to life's difficult questions." The ministers they respected were those "who took the Bible seriously," not those who sought to entertain them or be their "buddy."
What was it we used to say?
"There's a seeker born every minute."
“Much of what passes for youth ministry these days is driven by a morbid fear of boring our young charges. As a result, a lot of time is spent trying to devise ways to entertain them.”
Absolutely. The “teaching” is very puffy and sort of sprinkled in among the “Awesome Weekend Retreats!”, the “Total Laser Quest Domination!”, the “Build 70 Houses in a Weekend”, etc., events. It is largely event-driven and the student has to really hunt to find a weekly Bible Study that isn’t just an “accountability group” (read “Christian gossip”).
I say all this as the father of two girls who went through our church’s big-time youth (sorry, “Student Ministry”) program and both largely withdrew during their senior years. One plugged into a Christian sorority in college, the other went completely off the map for about 18 months - became a person we didn’t even know - and finally made the turn-around (now engaged to a great young man headed for seminary). We thought that both we and their youth pastors had given the firm foundation of faith that they needed. I know we did. Not so sure about the youth pastors.
Here's the problem for Larry. He is to base his faith on a personal relationship with Jesus and not base his faith on the actions of sinners.
While it is true that Christians should take their faith more seriously, we are still sinners and will continue to sin. I wonder if Larry ever said anything to his youth pastor or other members of the church?
I was the complete opposite of this guy. When I was in college, I looked for my faith. I tried join a Catholic group and went to several services. They were not very welcoming but I did not turn away from Christianity because of it. I continued to look for a Church. It has taken many years to find that church but my faith in God and of his son Jesus has always been there.
I'm not totally going to poo poo Larry because I think he has awaken us to what people are needing in our churches. We also all need to renew our relationship with Jesus and follow his commandants.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
How many Christian youth programs and preachers tell young Christians that Jesus tells them, “Take up my cross and follow Me.” In our wicked world, to stay faithful to death, the Holy Spirit teaches us through the Bible. How many young Christians, and not so young Christians, are steeped in God’s Word?
Living according to the Scriptures makes one different from the ungodly majority. There’s the problem.
Reason and logic are truth, God always appeals to us through our intellect. It is Satan who appeals to us through our emotions. Love is not an emotion or a feeling...it is God’s extraordinary gift through the Spirit that lives within each of us. If we know God’s love intimately, then the light shines within us and it is easier to ward of decisions made with emotions and look to our intellect to guide us.
Really? I would be hardpressed to find any other religion that was more reasonable and logical. Yes, there are things that I just cannot fathom: the Trinity, for one, the timelessness after the Angel in Revelation declares there won't be time any longer. Things like that I cannot rightly imagine. But none of that is rightly illogical or unreasonable (take a couple of high-level math courses and you'll quickly get into a similar spot, and that's pure science.)
In a nutshell the story is this:
God lovingly creates man, so much so that He made man in His own image (s.t. mankind can rightly be called
children of God), but man then sins — God being infinitely Just cannot stand sin (and sin demands death); but God loves man and, being infinitely merciful Himself, dies instead. But this would only break the chains, leaving man alone and
in the dark so he comes back! to lead us and light our way out of the dark despaired place we'd gotten ourselves into because of sin.
Yes it's on oversimplification, but it has all the main points and shows just how awesome God is. I mean I wouldn't do what He did, I seriously doubt you would either, but that's because we are unrighteous. That said, God's actions and work in people's lives have seriously changed the world — it is entirely because of Christianity that slavery is illegal in all countries today.
He told them still another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.
Matt. 13:33 NIV
When God’s word is accepted by you, it works its way into all of your life. Thus changing you for the better. It doesn’t just sit somewhere in the back of your mind until you pull it out on Sundays.
This makes it sound like you're saying that God doesn't care about emotions (or ever appeal to them) — but what of Abraham and telling him to sacrifice his son? (That's arguable; certainly a test of will & obedience) What of Jesus asking Peter
In my case, it was a lack of evidence, and the cult-like veneration, er, “respect” accorded to the clerisy of the branch of Christianity that I was raised in.
He told them still another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough. — Matt. 13:33 NIV
This is very true — and it can be very frightening, because sometimes I am very blind to God's working in me, sometimes I get frustrated with how imperfect I am. A holy and righteous God deserves nothing less than utter perfection: thank God for Jesus.