Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Souls in Transition 3

Smith.jpgSo, what are the implications of that long listing from Wednesday for religion for emerging adults? Here is what Smith and Snell discovered in their fantastic new book: Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults

They explore what they call “causal mechanisms”: cultural codes that are impacting religious faith of emerging adults.
How would you rank the following from most significant to least? Which is at the top in your view? Which is the most significant influence on minimizing faith?
First, disruptions in life negatively impact religious commitment.
Second, distractions in life negatively impact religious practices.
Third, personal and psychological differentiation (separation from parents) negatively impact religious commitments.
Fourth, postponed family formation and childrearing retard religious commitment.
Fifth, keeping one’s options open creates obstacles to making religious commitments.
Sixth, the code of honoring diversity hampers religious commitment.
Seventh, the self-confidence and self-sufficiency, which are vital codes for emerging adults, negatively impacts religious commitments.
More after the jump…


Eighth, self-evident morality prevents the need for religious authorities encoding morals.
Ninth, partying, hooking up, having sex and cohabiting block connection to religious groups.
But, Smith and Snell see other trends…
First, religion is a resource for stability and recovery and
Second, ongoing relations with parents, at least those who are believers, can sustain a connection with faith.
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posted January 12, 2010 at 4:13 am

I believe what you say is true. One can water down the truth and it is not to be diminished in any way. Young people need something they can trust and hold onto. Christian faith is important and it should be something that is taught in the home and given strength in the faith community.

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Tony Jones

posted January 12, 2010 at 7:01 am

I agree, this book is fantastic. I that seeing the differences between their survey of teenagers and this one of emerging adults is the most fascinating. That’s what I’ve focused on in a series of posts to complement yours.
I’ve started the series today and it runs through next Tuesday:

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Steve Lutz

posted January 12, 2010 at 9:32 am

Another fantastic list. Smith & Snell have really done their homework.
Did *they* list these factors in any particular order?
And are these cultural codes akin to Plantinga & Keller’s “defeater beliefs” and “implausibility structures”? Perhaps what Smith/Snell cite are what make Christianity seem unlivable as opposed to unbelievable?
As a college minister, I would include all of these, though probably move #1 farther down the list. I also think that career/American Dream/materialistic/consumeristic aspirations need to be factored in somewhere.
I would say that #1 is the commitment to personal autonomy & “freedom” that underlies #4, 5, 7, & 8 in particular.

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posted January 12, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Great list but underlying most of these implication is a lack of a real understanding of purpose. In that case, William Damon says in “Path to Purpose” and Tim Clydesdale in “The First Year Out” both point to this age straying from their religious practices because they don’t feel a part of any real purpose. That purpose becomes more clear as family life is more imminent but until they have an understanding of why, they don’t see a need for religion in times of transition, when separated from parents, with so many options, etc.
It seems that a key is that churches don’t really give youth much of a purpose for being involved. I would say this is the greater reason for abandonment of religion among emergent adults.

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randy g.

posted January 12, 2010 at 2:10 pm

One of the things I do not see explicit here is “college” or “university.” I like that. Although many of the obstacles listed generally are part of the college experience, I do not believe they are limited to college students. — I think of Brad and June in Smith’s early chapter.
Randy Gabrielse

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chad m

posted January 12, 2010 at 3:05 pm

as an “emerging adult” who works with teens, this caught my eye:
“Seventh, the self-confidence and self-sufficiency, which are vital codes for emerging adults, negatively impacts religious commitments.”
i see more young people asking the question, “What’s the point of religion?” if i can have a nice life, if i can flourish without religion, why would i bother? why would i get overly involved in religion if i can be a nice, moral person and achieve success without it? i believe this is a major stumbling block – one that i’m trying to figure out myself. what is the point? does my faith really change the way i live? does it make a difference? or could i have the same life, maybe even a materialistically better life, apart from religion? these are serious questions young adults and teens are asking of older Christians. i’m looking to older Christians, more mature Christians, for answers. help my teens and the young adults i interact with understand why Jesus matters. and it has to be more than, “with Jesus, you don’t have to go to hell.”

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posted January 12, 2010 at 3:24 pm

I am well past this stage – but looking at the list many of these were factors in my life at various times when I was 20 to 30 (well not 8 and 9, but 1-7) and some spanned the entire decade.
The only one I note in the list that seems specific to this generation is the comment on honoring diversity (#6) (honoring racial and cultural diversity and “equal rights” was big, but not the LGBT discussion) – and some aspects of the sexual morality in #9 perhaps, but not all of it by any means.
Steve – I think you are right, most of these make Christianity “unlivable” rather than “unbelievable.” But they are compounded by factors that seem to make Christianity unbelievable – one of the issues is “owned” rather than “inherited” faith. I wonder when this transition occurs for people? In my life I would say that the process started in earnest when life became more stable — in my late 20’s and even into the early 30’s.

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