Tag Archives: youth culture

Young, restless, and immediate: The future of evangelicalism

Here’s a piece I did a little while back on Patheos.com on who evangelicals are and where they’re headed – getting to the nub of the matter.


A little taste:

“What do this fundamental immediatism and this youth-driven quality mean for the future of evangelicalism? First, they very likely mean that whatever touches the hearts and minds of the generation rising right now – the adolescents of today – that will shape evangelical worship, ecclesiology, and doctrine for years to come.

“An optimist could point to the dynamism and renewal that emerged from past youth movements, or to the laudable and faithful concern of many young evangelicals today for justice, creation care, and other historical blind spots of the movement.

“A pessimist, however, would say that this is very bad news indeed. They could point to sociologist Christian Smith’s famous diagnosis of evangelical youth as mired in “moralistic therapeutic deism”: the theologically vapid belief in a kindly grandfather God who lavishes blessings and requires no accountability—this we might call immediatism gone, at last, to seed . . .”

America’s teens don’t know the radical message of the Gospel–and we parents are to blame

Two adolescent couples at the 2009 Western Ida...

Yup, “Christian” teenagers in America are more likely than not to believe “moralistic therapeutic deism.” That was sociologist Christian Smith’s coinage, and although he’s not mentioned in the following CNN.com article, the diagnosis remains the same: American Christians are not teaching their young people enough Christianity to get arrested for. Maybe they should check out Mark Van Steenwyk’s and my “Resources for Radical Living” course (coming someday to a bookstore near you).

(CNN) — If you’re the parent of a Christian teenager, Kenda Creasy Dean has this warning:

Your child is following a “mutant” form of Christianity, and you may be responsible. Continue reading

Time magazine: How young evangelicals differ on social issues from older generations of evangelicals

One Time writer has described how young evangelicals differ from their parents and grandparents on social issues and compassionate ministry (h/t to Trevin Wax):

While their grandparents might have considered political and social engagement inappropriate and their parents may have spent their energies on culture-war issues such as abortion and school prayer, the members of the newest generation of Evangelicals are less interested in choosing sides. They focus on nonideological causes like fighting for clean water and poverty relief and fighting against sex trafficking.


When students at Wheaton and other Christian schools go on short-term missions during spring break or over the summer, they may expect to spend their time painting churches or handing out Bibles. But once on the ground, they’re faced with first-order problems like a lack of clean drinking water or safe housing, and they return with a sense of poverty’s scope that cannot be alleviated simply by prayer.

Read the full article at Time’s website. Does this ring true for you, dear readers?

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “The Amish.”

As the editorial team for Christian History & Biography was preparing our issue on the Anabaptists in America (Amish, Mennonites, Brethren), a bizarre new reality show hit TV screens. The show, which threw a group of Amish teenagers into a west coast “party house,” had an interesting squirm factor:

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “The Amish.”
UPN’s “Amish In the City” shows us our modern selves in a mirror that is positively medieval.
Chris Armstrong

It began last night like a tasteless joke: “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Oh &*%^$%&! It’s the Amish! There goes the party.”

The first encounter between the six city kids and the six Amish kids thrown together in the new UPN reality show “Amish in the City” revealed much more about “us” than about “them”: Though there are winsome characters among the city kids, the first and lasting impression they leave is one of superficiality, fixation on sex and appearance, and deep-rooted self-centeredness. Next to these traits, even the ambivalent residue of communal spirit and Godly anchoring evident in the Amish young people has a tremendously appealing gravitas and sweetness. Continue reading

“Tell Billy Graham: ‘The Jesus People love him.'” How evangelicalism’s senior statesman helped the hippies “tune in, turn on to God”

This is part II of the story of Billy Graham and the origins of Christian youth culture, first posted on Christianity Today’s website back in 2002.

Christian youth culture has become such a prominent, pervasive fixture on the American scene-witness the multi-million-dollar Christian contemporary music industry-that it may be hard to think of it as even having an origin. Yet, as we saw in last week’s newsletter, not only is the idea of a distinct, youthful way of “doing” Christianity now over half a century old, but it owes much to the energies and advocacy of the now-venerable Billy Graham.

Last week we caught a glimpse of Billy in the mid-1940s, with pastel suit and pomaded hair, delivering the gospel in between swing-band instrumentals and girl-trio numbers to crowds of bobby-soxed and zoot-suited teens. We also saw him as one of the central personalities and energetic promoters of the influential Youth for Christ organization.

This week we follow Graham into the late 1960s as, disguised in dark glasses, old clothes, ball cap, and a false beard, he joins with demonstrating youth at City University in New York. And as he sits with his wife, Ruth, at their family home in Montreat, listening intently to a collection of rock albums. And as (again disguised) he mingles and raps with the audience at a 1969 Miami rock concert, to the strains of the Grateful Dead and Santana. And as (undisguised) he takes that same stage, by invitation of the concert promoters, to tell the partying masses how to “get high without hang-ups and hangovers” on Jesus. Continue reading

Dig that Billy Graham Cat! How the grand old man of evangelism helped create Christian youth culture in the zoot-suit era.

Since my Bethel Seminary presentation-service speech, posted recently, mentioned Billy Graham’s work with youth, I thought I’d post a bit more on that. What follows is the first of a pair of brief articles I posted to www.christianhistory.net back in 2002, when I was managing editor of Christian History & Biography. I need to note: everything I know about Billy Graham and youth culture I owe to Dr. Larry Eskridge. Here’s the first article:

Last Friday, the Church of England announced a new “national youth strategy.” This strategy, backed by a new fund, officially blesses “alternative forms of youth worship” in hopes of drawing back to Anglican churches some of the young people who are now staying away in droves. The church is now willing to sponsor such novel events as one cathedral’s “raves in the nave.” (Explains one online dictionary, a rave is “an all-night dance party, especially one where techno, house, or other electronically synthesized music is played.”)

In America, land of the open religious market, such efforts seem less surprising. Even an all-night dance party for the Lord would fail to raise many eyebrows in this country, where massive youth rallies focused around contemporary music have been standard methodology for more than a generation.

More eyebrow-raising, perhaps, is that the elder statesman of world evangelism, Billy Graham, played a part in creating this pop-culture style of youth ministry. Continue reading