Survey: Teens’ Religious Knowledge Shallow

February 23, 2005

Here’s an AP story reporting that American teens are involved in their faiths their religious knowledge is shallow. Duh! Well, sorta Duh. I would suspect there are many devout Christian teens for whom this generalization doesn’t hold true. There are other interesting findings from the Survey. From the article:

The majority of American teens believe in God and worship in conventional congregations, but their religious knowledge is remarkably shallow and they have a tough time expressing the difference that faith makes in their lives, a new survey says.

Still, the notably comprehensive National of Study of Youth and Religion concluded that “religion really does matter” to teens.

The research found that devout teens hold more traditional sexual and other values than their nonreligious counterparts and are better off in emotional health, academic success, community involvement, concern for others, trust of adults and avoidance of risky behavior.

Now here’s the real “Duh.” This last paragraph is so obvious it’s barely newsworthy. But while obvious, it’s often denied by our culture. Of course the devout will have better emotional health, academic success, community involvement, etc. And abstinence programs work too!

I can’t help but stop here to interject a relevant aside. When I speak before groups around the country on the subject of Christian persecution/discrimination in America I often point out how the First Amendment’s Establishment clause has been turned upside down by the courts. While the framers intended the clause, like its Free Exercise Clause counterpart, to guarantee religious liberty, activist courts have turned it into a weapon against religious liberty — for Christians that is. One example I use is the many high schools which prohibit valedictory speakers from invoking Christ in their speeches before the student body because of “the separation of church and state.”

Consider this carefully. A student is charged with giving an address to his or her fellow students, faculty and parents and sharing those things that led to his/her academic success, fulfillment, happiness, etc. The student writes the speech, crediting Christ and the Bible with his/her academic success, happiness and fulfillment. He/she vets the speech with the administration, which promptly censors Christ and the Bible out of it. The effect is to completely gut the speech. If he/she can’t credit Christ then there is no point in making the speech at all. Because to them, it is all about Christ.

Again, the ostensible purpose of the censorship is to preserve this mythical safeguard between church and state. But who in their right mind can argue that a school, by permitting a student free speech to invoke Christ is endorsing the content of the speech? If I speak before a group in public are the federal or state governments endorsing the content of my speech merely because they “permit” me to speak? Of course not. It’s no different in a school. The school, by permitting voluntary student expression, about Christ or anyone or anything else, is not endorsing that speech. BUT BY PROHIBITING THE INVOCATION OF CHRIST, THE SCHOOL IS SUPPRESSING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND RELIGION (THE FREE EXERCISE CLAUSE) OF THE STUDENT CENSORED. In this way, around the country, in the name of promoting religious freedom, schools and other agencies of government suppress religious freedom and speech. AND WHAT’S MORE, THEY DO IT AT THE EXPENSE OF THE HEALTH OF THE CULTURE. Which brings me back full circle to the last quoted paragraph of the AP story above. In our paranoia to exclude any indicia of the Christian religion from the public square, we actually miss opportunities to allow students to share with other students values that promote a healthy society in all respects. I just had to share that little tidbit from the AP story to use a jumping off point for this rant. Good thing I’m not on school property or other government property or I wouldn’t be able to say these things — or even think them.