The title of a recent piece at Scientific American tells us the “Nones” juggernaut continues:
College Freshmen Are Less Religious Than Ever: Data from a nationwide survey shows students who list their affiliation as “none” has skyrocketed
“Nones” are people who when surveyed about their religious affiliation pick “None of the above.” What this means is that our culture will continue to get more secular as religion gets less important to more people over time. Those who applaud the increasing secularization of America hope we eventually turn out like Europe where churches are empty, and those who take their Christianity seriously are a curiosity.
I don’t see Europe in America’s future, but Evangelicals have to take this phenomenon seriously, especially as we raise our kids. That’s why in my book I argue we have to raise our kids differently in our increasingly secular age. I call it “holistic apologetic parenting,” which means defending and affirming the veracity of Christianity becomes a lifestyle with our children.
We can’t “protect” our kids from a culture hostile to our faith. Trying to do this is like trying to protect them from every germ so they don’t get sick. All that does is keep their immune system weak because their bodies don’t learn how to fight hostile microbes. It’s the same with the culture; we use the hostile culture to build up the faith immune system, so to speak, in our children. What this means in practice is that the secular culture that means to tear down our kids faith, can be used by us to build and strengthen it.
There is much about this in Keeping Your Kids Christian, lots of theoretical insight and practical examples of what I’ve done with my kids to question and challenge the cultural narrative at every point. We can use what comes at us every day from media and entertainment, and, depending on where our kids are educated, from their education to do that questioning and challenging. The culture in all of its varied manifestations is a veritable cornucopia of opportunities to make Christianity plausible to them, and the alternatives less so.
One narrative that must be challenged head on is not only touted in headlines like I quoted above, but is in the very cultural air we breath: secularism is superior to religious (specifically Christian) faith, and it’s growth and dominance in America is inevitable. The sub-narrative, implied more than argued, is that secularism will eventually appeal more to our kids than our Christian faith, and that there is not much we can do about it. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When you read the literature on the growth of the “Nones,” you’ll find that conservative Evangelical children maintain their faith into adulthood at a much higher rate than Catholics or mainline Protestants. The simple reason is that conservatives Evangelical parents take their faith much more seriously than their other denominational counterparts. But in my experience, many conservative Evangelical churches and parents still don’t get that we must parent and church in a different way in such a secular age. If we do that, we’ll never have to worry that our kids will answer “None of the above” when filling out a survey about their religious affiliation.