I started last week talking about M.T.D - Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. On of the items that keeps coming up in the National Study of Youth and Religion is that the call of the Christian is to be "nice." We are to be nice. That is a good statement, for we are called to be nice to all people. The problem develops when the NSYR found that apart from "being nice," the average religious teen does not think that religion influences their decision, choice of friends or behaviors. It does not help them obey God, work toward a common good, compose an identity or belong to a distinctive community. Think about that - these are the things that religion does not do!
So what does religion do for a person? It helps you be "nice" and feel better about yourself. Religion can give comfort in the midst of turmoil and give support in making the decisions that teens have already made (giving them the "back-up" for their decisions).
In M.T.D., religion stays in the background of life.
Now before I go on, ask yourself, "Is this the way that I view religion"? Do I see religion as something that is on the edge of my life, not really the center of all that I am and do? do I really think that my religion influences what I do at work, in the office, at home, on the computer, with the family and out with friends? Do I really have a religion that leads me to act in a certain way at all times? Or have I pushed my religion into the background, using God as a supreme being that is there to help me out in times of trouble but in the end, is not really involved in my life?
Be honest. You don't have to answer to anyone but yourself. And, if this really is your view of religion, you don't even have to answer to God - for all he calls you to do is be nice, treat others fairly and not mess things up in your life. In the end, all "good" people go to heaven ("good" = not being a jerk, not messing things up too badly, not robbing, raping or murdering, but living a normal life that everyone else is living, being nice to others).
That, my friends, is the influence of M.T.D. in the lives of the Christian adult today. And if it is in the lives of the adults, why wouldn't it show up in the lives of the teens? After all, they are listening, watching and learning from us - at home with the parents, at school with the teachers and at church with the pastor and church members. We are actually modelling M.T.D. for our youth and they are learning from us, learning very well.
Before I go on and address the whole "call to be nice," I am going to let you chew on these thoughts for a little bit. I will be back in the next post and talk about what Christians are actually called to do in their lives.