Thus it operates as "a parasitic faith. It cannot sustain its own integral, independent life; rather it must attach itself like an incubus to established historical religious traditions, feeding on their doctrines and sensibilities, and expanding by mutating their theological substance to resemble its own distinctive image."

This is why religious teenagers can remain happily within their original faith traditions, while believing in things diametrically opposed to the actual tenets of that religion.

This parasitic faith, Soul Searching said, has been alarmingly successful. Smith and Denton said they had come to believe "that a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition, but has rather substantially morphed into Christianity's misbegotten step-cousin, Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."

If this is the diagnosis of the disease, what is the treatment? Soul Searching seemed clear in its assessment that the church -- and Christian parents -- have failed in the task of educating youth about the core beliefs of Christianity.

In what was perhaps the saddest comment in the entire 300-pages plus of Soul Searching, the researchers said: "Indeed, it was our distinct sense that for many of the teens we interviewed, our interview was the first time that any adult had ever asked them what they believed and how it mattered in their life" (emphasis in original).

If true, that statement represents a situation which is a travesty. And rather than worrying about whether or not apostasy may come to America in the future, perhaps we should mourn the fact that it is already here.

Ed Vitagliano, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is news editor of AFA Journal, a monthly publication of the American Family Association. This article, reprinted with permission, appeared in the January 2006 issue.

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