Thursday 10 June 2021

Christian Smith on Handing Down the Faith

There’s an interesting interview (here) with Christian Smith about his forthcoming book, Handing Down the Faith: How Parents Pass Their Religion on to the Next Generation, co-authored with Amy Adamczyk.

The headline captures it nicely:

‘Sociologist Christian Smith says most American moms and dads see the Body as nothing more than a resource center for their kids.’

Some bits of the interview that stood out to me are these:

‘[M]ost parents think what’s really important about raising kids in the faith is that it’ll be good for them in this world. There’s very little reference to salvation or eternity. It’s very “this worldly” focused: The kids will be happier and make better choices. So I think religious parents have a very immanently oriented, not transcendently oriented, rationale.’

’[t] became very clear how important parents were in the formation of their children. We realized that what parents are doing with teenagers really matters more than media, school, or friends.’

‘[F]or the most part, religion has been redefined. It’s an individualistic thing that may or may not be part of one’s personal identity, along with other features like your career or your sexual orientation or your hobbies. Religious faith may be a piece of that larger sense of individual self.’

‘Parents are looking to congregations basically as resource centers. They’re not community ways of life. They’re not bodies of people who are embodying some alternative or renewed way of living.’

‘This is not a new conclusion, but it’s reinforcing what we have known for a while: American religion has really morphed into an individualistic, consumeristic reality.’

The US context means their discoveries won’t necessarily provide an exact match in other situations, but it could be worth reflecting on the overlaps.

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