Here is a list of the beliefs of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism:
1. There is a God somewhere who has something to do with what happens in the world.
2. God wants people to be nice to each other.
3. The purpose of life is happiness and self-esteem.
4. God doesn’t really get involved in my life unless I ask for help.
5. After death, good people go to heaven.
This, according to Kendra Creasy Dean in Almost Christian, is not only what most teens believe, it is the underlying creed and value system of many Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish congregations and denominations.
OK, I am officially depressed.
She tries to help me with my depression by assuring me that fixing this is not up to me, rather it is up to God. The thing is that the church should not settle. We should not find this kind of faith acceptable. So I guess that while we are not settling and while we are saying, “Unacceptable,” we are also waiting and praying.
I am thinking about alternatives. We could indoctrinate our young people better. But the theology of many adult mentors does not go further than the above list. We can get a curriculum that has a stronger theology. My congregation does this. But such curriculum often comes from publishing houses that don’t open up the discussion the way I would prefer. Usually it will be an evangelical curriculum in my not-really-evangelical denomination. But there isn’t really a good alternative.
The social justice type curriculum that my denomination has put out for years just doubles down on the God-wants-us-to-be-nice-to-each-other theme. Only it implies that voting in politicians who will make us be nice to each other is a big part of this. Also, the emphasis is usually so urban that it is useless out here in the heartland. This curriculum is deservedly unpopular. Other curriculum is so open-minded that it does not do any theological indoctrination at all. That is also useless against Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
I know Dean has more positive things to say. But this part of the book, as I said, depressed me. Do not take my mood as definitive. A lot of people in the churches are doing amazing educational work. And, as Dean says, God is at work among us.