Colleen Carroll writes to tell us why the younger generation is turning to religious orthodoxy: strong, traditional values, and a more conservative Christianity.
Carroll, a secular journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, spent a year researching and writing the book. As a practicing Catholic, Carroll set out on her own spiritual journey of sorts. To find answers, she interviewed young adults from across the country. She found intellectual, passionate, conservative young evangelicals.
“While researching this book, I was astounded … by the willingness of so many bright, articulate, fervent young adults,” she writes. “Their kindness and honesty humbled me, their words of encouragement and prayers heartened me.”
Carroll points to universities, notably Harvard, Notre Dame and the University of Chicago among others, as a source of this growing orthodoxy. She also shares stories of young evangelical activism in the unlikely locales of Capitol Hill and Hollywood.
She shares stories from countless interviews with faculty and students sorting out answers. “The holistic quality of Christianity can be attractive to students,” she writes, “because, unlike specialized academic disciplines, Christianity offers a comprehensive philosophy that applies to every aspect of life.”
Carroll points out that the Young Faithful, typically born between 1965 and 1983, are in some ways reacting to and rebelling against the “liberalism” and “moral relativism” of their parents, teachers, priests and older friends.
“This embrace of traditional religion and morality often begins with a rejection of relativism,” Carroll writes. “In a culture where young adults are frequently told that no universal moral standards or religious truths exist, many have begun to question that dictum and search for the truth that they believe is knowable.”
While the Young Faithful are people that many church leaders would desire as church members, Carroll warns, “These are not your father’s believers or your grandfather’s!” These are people who, according to social demographers, would typically not need church! Yet, they are flocking to those congregations that demand and celebrate traditional practices, high moral standards and a connection to the mystery and majesty of the Divine.
There is a richness to be mined here. The stories, especially, paint vivid images of young adults turning back to orthodoxy and orthopraxy. The characteristics she shares of this Young Faithful are insightful for all who minister to (or hope to minister to) this group.
While Robert Webber’s The Younger Evangelicals may offer more targeted information for mainline Protestant leaders, Carroll still gives adequate information regarding the responses of this generation.
This new faithful of young adults is working overtime to share its faith. Carroll would assert that these Young Faithful are Christianity’s hope for renewal. They are “ushering in a new day … intent on using their faith to transform a nation.”
Bo Prosser is the coordinator for congregational life for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Atlanta, Ga.
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