Updated: Feb 18
Although Creasy Dean is sympathetic to the motivation to be nice, particularly in a pluralistic context, she rightly concludes it is sub-Christian. Scripture speaks frequently of hospitality, kindness, and compassion, but never of being nice (33). In keeping with the thesis of her book, she attributes responsibility not to the teens but to the church. She writes:
…We confuse Christianity with self-preservation, which is the very opposite of Jesus’ own witness, and the antithesis of his call to his disciples to take up their crosses and follow him. It would be unlikely for teenagers to develop any religious framework besides superficial Christianity of churches have supplanted the gospel with a religious outlook that functions primarily as a social lubricant, with a “god” who supports teenagers decisions, makes them feel good about themselves, meets their needs when called upon but otherwise stays out of the way. If this is the god we offer young people, there may be little in Christianity to which they object, but there is even less to which they will be devoted.
That’s the rub, isn’t it? Sure, there may be nothing about our faith that will offend if being nice is central. But then again, there won’t be anything worthy of devotion.
The Christian faith can’t be reduced to sociological studies. Creasy Dean, to her credit, is attentive to the fact that the Holy Spirit must work for the faith once handed down to take hold in anyone’s life. But the church has already lost her way if she begins to replace the faith once handed down with dogma that has no higher purpose than to function as social lubricant in a pluralistic context. Is that really the faith for which people have given their lives over the centuries? Indeed it isn’t; it’s idolatry.