YOUTH DATING RITUALS
Youth dating rituals and Christianity have been on my mind now for some time as I watch teenagers and how they react to each other.
I want to communicate some ideas and feelings on what I have read concerning current youth dating rituals. This relates particularly to friends with benefits, being almost Christian and church attendance. I do not want to give the impression I am better than anyone else or look down on those teens or others who follow the current trend. Every one has their imperfections. I have mine. I will also give some reasons for being a Christian and a true believer.
Regarding marriage and dating, a recent study found 40% of Americans under 30 believe marriage is an institution on its way to becoming obsolete. According to the US Census Bureau, the median age for marriage among young men is 28 and for young woman, 26.
Experts agree, a sea of change regarding young adults and their dating habits has occurred. Traditional courtship has given way to no strings attached relationships. “Hanging out” is quickly replacing more formal relationships between young men and women. While hanging out can be an informal way to meet potential spouses, much of the time it just leads to “friends with benefits” and lack of purpose or progression in relationships. Many of the connections men and women today are making are increasingly brief and sexual with no commitments.
Courtship used to have a pretty obvious script: a boy asks a girl out for dinner or a movie and he pays. Now, relationships are in a state of flux and confused. This has contributed to the cause of increased sexual promiscuity among young people.
Lack of church attendance, along with sexual depictions on TV and movies have contributed to the cause of increased sexual promiscuity in the US. Sex is shown to be a normal part of the dating or getting to know you process. Much of this started with the sexual revolution of the 60’s and the flower children. I realize that many young unmarried think there is nothing wrong with sex outside of marriage. This does not make it right just because everyone is doing it. Remember the commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
Kenda Creasy Dean, a Methodist minister and Professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, wrote a book, “Almost Christian.” It talks about what the Faith of our teenagers is telling the American Church. She indicts mainstream Christianity. “The religious faith of most American adolescents is inarticulate and shallow and we are responsible.” She fears that emphasis on “a do good, feel good spirituality” at the expense of real discipleship may, lead to the loss of the next generation. “American young people are theoretically fine with religious faith, but it does not concern them very much. It is not durable enough to survive long after they graduate from high school.” She condemns what she terms a “Christianish pseudo-faith,” “the Cult of Nice,” a “dinner theology,” “a bargain religion, cheap but satisfying, whose God requires little in the way of fidelity or sacrifice.” She writes that we are doing a good job of teaching youth what we believe. Namely, that Christianity is not a big deal, that God requires little. One may say defining an “Almost Christian” as somebody who “is fond of the form, but never experiences the power of godliness in his heart.”
In Dean’s book she goes on to say,“Nevertheless a minority of American teenagers say religious faith is important, and that it makes a difference in their lives. But one group really shines. “Mormon teenagers attach the most importance to faith and are most likely to fall in the category of highly devoted youth… In nearly every area, Mormon teens showed the highest levels of religious understanding…and were the least likely to engage in high risk behavior. They consistently were the most positive and self aware teens in the interviews.” In fact, chapter three of Almost Christian, is titled, “Mormon Envy.” In this chapter she further indicts Protestant churches by holding up Mormons as an example of a religious group that is doing right by it’s teenagers. Although she has serious theological disagreements with Mormonism, she says it is succeeding in creating young adults who firmly understand what they believe and why their faith has a claim on their behavior. However, even among Mormons, courtship is sometimes more about having a good time than finding a life partner. Teens in Protestant churches get the idea that they’re supposed to feel good about themselves but little is expected of them. She says that Protestant teens are being taught a brand of Christianity that is a mile wide and an inch deep.
When one visits a church in Europe or England one tends to see many empty benches with a small sea of white hair toward the front of the church. It is the older generation that has the largest representation in the churches, while the younger generation is staying away from church. Surveys show less than 15% of the people in Europe or England attend church on a weekly basis. This may become the norm to future American generations. Another survey says one-in-four millennial Americans aged 18 to 29 say they are not affiliated with any particular religion. Thirty year data shows age 22 as the age at which church attendance levels almost drop to European marks, as only 17% attend.
Why do younger people fall away from church attendance? One reason is marriage fosters religiosity and non-marital sexual behavior undermines it. This explains why 20 to 30 year old people tend to be less religious in part, and why 40 year old people tend to be more religious. People who are having non-marital sexual relations have a guilty feeling and attending church feeds the guilt feelings.
Some take exception to organized religion, claiming to worship God without the so-called confinements of congregational worship. Their claims would be more credible if the self-seekers behavior reflected God’s law’s.
For non-believers God does not exist. For others, God exists, but loves us so much that to make any demands upon us would not be loving. Thus, God’s “love” begins to resemble the natural man’s affections. Much of modern Christianity does not acknowledge that God makes any real demands. Many of those who believe in him, see him rather as a butler who meets their needs when summoned.
Rejecting God or looking at Him like He is a butler, lets us off the hook of accountability. Without accountability to God, we are only accountable to man’s ever shifting moral compass.
By Ray Western
Dean, Kenda Creasy, “Almost Christian.”
“Emerging Adulthood Changes Dating Rituals,” Deseret News, 5/2/2011
Peterson, Daniel, “Religious Teens,” Deseret News, 9/30/2010.
Regnerus, Mark, “Premarital Sex in America.”