by Carole A. Buleza
This article is the second in a series based on Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, by Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton (Oxford University Press, 2005. The book received the 2006 Christianity and Culture Book Award. The first article, “Christianity’s Mis-begotten Child” appeared in the March 2011 issue of The Word.
I knew that I would be writing more articles based on this book, which I consider exceptionally insightful and valuable. Soul Searching is the project report of professors at the University of North Carolina who received a grant to investigate how important faith is to American teenagers, why, and in what ways. The book received Christianity Today's 2006 Christianity and Culture book award.
The data for the report was gathered from 3,290 teenagers in the United States. The majority of the teenagers categorized themselves as Christian (82%); Protestants comprised the majority (52%) and Catholics were second (23%). The third largest category, those who considered themselves not religious, accounted for 16% of the respondents (31).
The book offers not only statistics but excerpts from the many interviews that were conducted, and the reflections of the authors. From my experience of working with teens and having two of my own, their analyses are correct, and their reflections are extremely valuable. Furthermore, they believe the beliefs held by the teenagers reflect those of the baby boomer generation, making the book valuable not only for youth ministers but also for pastors.