Passing on the Faith: Transforming Traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians, and Muslims

Passing on the Faith: Transforming Traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians, and Muslims

Edited by James L. Heft
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 334
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  • Book Info
    Passing on the Faith: Transforming Traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians, and Muslims
    Book Description:

    From the beginning, the Abrahamic faiths-Judaism, Christianity, and Islam-have stressed the importance of transmitting religious identity from one generation to the next. Today, that sustaining mission has never been more challenged. Will young people have a faith to guide them? How can faith traditions anchor religious attachments in this secular, skeptical culture?The fruit of a historic gathering of scholars and religious leaders across three faiths and many disciplines, this important book reports on the religious lives of young people in today's world. It's also a unique inventory of creative and thoughtful responses from churches, synagogues, and mosques working to keep religion a significant force in those lives.The essays are grouped thematically. Opening the book, Melchor Sanchez de Toca and Nancy Ammerman explore fundamental issues that have an impact on religion-from the cultural effects of global consumerism and personal technology to pluralism and individualism. In Part Two, leading investigators present three leading studies of religiosity among young people and college students in the United States, illuminating the gap between personal values and organized religion-and the emergence of new, different forms of spirituality and faith. How religious institutions deal with these challenges forms the heart of the book-in portraits of best practicesdeveloped to revitalize traditional institutions, from a synagogue in New York City and a Muslim youth camp in California to the famed French Catholic community of the late Brother John of Taiz. Finally, Jack Miles and Diane Winston weave the findings into a broader perspective of the future of religious belief, practice, and feeling in a changing world.Filled with real-world wisdom, Passing the Faith will be an essential resource for anyone seeking to understand what religions must, and can, do to inspire a vigorous faith in the next generation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4697-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    James L. Heft
  4. Introduction: Youth and the Continuity of Religious Traditions
    (pp. 1-20)
    James L. Heft

    Jaroslav Pelikan, the well-known Yale historian of Christian doctrine, worried whether his grandchildren would have a religious tradition to reject. So pervasive did he consider the acidic effects of modern Western culture on religion that he feared that communities of faith would, over the coming generation or two, simply dissolve. Historians are rarely given to apocalyptic prediction; rather, they typically warn us about repeating the history from which we have never learned. But Pelikan has not been the only person who has worried about religion’s future in the West. Religious leaders and sociologists and theologians have been asking similar questions:...

  5. Section One: National and International Overviews
    • Looking for God: Religious Indifference in Perspective
      (pp. 23-36)
      Melchor Sánchez de Toca

      As we neared the public presentation of the Pontifical Council for Culture’s 2004 research into unbelief, religious indifference, and new forms of alternative religion, I somewhat absentmindedly recited to my secretary a rather detached theoretical analysis of unbelief. Unable to restrain herself, she burst out with her very own story: “My children have lost the faith.” They are good boys, born to a Christian family, whose mother works in the Vatican and is active in the parish. But they no longer go to Mass on Sundays. Indeed, not only do they no longer practice, but quite simply they no longer...

    • Journeys of Faith: Meeting the Challenges in Twenty-First-Century America
      (pp. 37-52)
      Nancy Ammerman

      The questions raised by this conference are both professional and personal for me. As a sociologist, the social changes of the last forty years have provided ample fodder for research, and I’ll attempt to tell you some of the things I think we’ve discovered in the process. But as a parent of a daughter born in 1980, I also stand before you with many of the same concerns that I suspect brought some of you here. Will our children have a faith to guide them? Will they be able to leave behind the chains and fears and dysfunctionalities of some...

  6. Section Two: Three Recent National Studies
    • Is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism the New Religion of American Youth? Implications for the Challenge of Religious Socialization and Reproduction
      (pp. 55-74)
      Christian Smith

      All human communities face the general challenge of social reproduction—that is, socializing subsequent generations to carry on community identities and practices. Meeting this challenge successfully requires effective practices of socialization, identity formation, role modeling, intergenerational transference of authority, and so on. Many other factors, however, typically play into the success or breakdown of social reproduction, including competing institutional demands and changing social environmental conditions that make passing on a collective way of life over time more or less difficult. Religious communities are only one among many types of human communities that face this general challenge of reproducing themselves in...

    • The “Interior” Lives of American College Students: Preliminary Findings from a National Study
      (pp. 75-102)
      Jennifer A. Lindholm

      “What is the meaning of college?” “What am I going to do with my life?” “How will I know I am going the ‘right’ way?” “What kind of person do I want to be?” “How is everything I’ve worked for up to this point going to contribute back to society?” “How am I going to leave my mark when I finally pass away?”

      These were the life questions noted most frequently by the undergraduate students we interviewed recently as they reflected on what are currently the most salient “spiritual” issues in their lives. Indeed, for traditional-age college students, the undergraduate...

    • Congregations That Get It: Understanding Religious Identities in the Next Generation
      (pp. 103-122)
      Tobin Belzer, Richard W. Flory, Nadia Roumani and Brie Loskota

      Organized religion in the United States is on the threshold of a seismic shift. Today, religious and community leaders are witnessing a crisis in the transmission of religious memory, practice, and tradition to the next generation. In major urban centers across the United States, there is a generalized perception that individuals in their twenties and early thirties constitute a “black hole” in congregational life. Members of the young-adult population are simply missing from most churches, synagogues, and mosques. Religious and community leaders are given to lamenting about the throngs of young people who are “spiritual but not religious” as a...

  7. Section Three: Passing on the Faith to the Next Generation of Jews
    • BJ: A Portrait of a Revitalized Synagogue
      (pp. 125-134)
      Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon

      I am pleased to be here to talk about the work that my congregation, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, has been doing for the past eighteen years. Congregation Bnai Jeshurun (BJ) was founded in 1825. Until then, the only synagogue in New York City was a Spanish-Portuguese synagogue, which observed Judaism according to the customs of Sephardic Jews. In 1825, there were enough Eastern European Jews to permit the founding of their own synagogue, where they could observe Judaism according to their own customs. Originally Orthodox, this active and prominent community was eventually...

    • Current Expressions of American Jewish Identity: An Analysis of 114 Teenagers
      (pp. 135-144)
      Philip Schwadel

      This chapter explores the characteristics of 114 American teenagers’ Jewish identities using data from the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR).¹ The NSYR includes a telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 3,290 adolescents aged 13 to 17. Jewish teenagers were over-sampled, resulting in a total of 3,370 teenage participants. Of the NSYR teens surveyed, 141 have at least one Jewish parent and 114 of them identify as Jewish. The NSYR also includes in-depth face-to-face interviews with a total of 267 U.S. teens: 23 who have at least one Jewish parent and 18 who identify as Jewish. The...

  8. Section Four: Passing on the Faith to the Next Generation of Christians
    • A Spiritual Crossroads of Europe: The Taizé Community’s Adventure with the Young
      (pp. 147-161)
      Brother John of Taizé

      I stand before you today with a mixture of gratitude and apprehension. Gratitude, because the organizers of this conference saw fit to include the Taizé Community in their program, ostensibly as a “model that retain[s] religious traditions in non-reductive ways while at the same time bridging in an open and dialogical way the ever-increasing religious pluralism of the contemporary world.” It is quite something to be considered, even remotely, such a model. So on behalf of my community I thank the organizers for this show of confidence in the life we have been attempting to live for the past sixty-plus...

    • Religious Identity and Belonging Amidst Diversity And Pluralism: Challenges and Opportunities for Church and Theology
      (pp. 162-184)
      Peter C. Phan

      The four realities referred to in the title of my essay—namely, identity, belonging, diversity, and pluralism in religious matters—when combined together and placed in the North American context, present both challenges and opportunities for the Christian church and its theology. To understand how religious, and more specifically, Christian identity and belonging are shaped in this context, I begin by briefly describing the four realities mentioned and then outline the main challenges as well as the opportunities they present to the process of forming Christian identity. Next I elaborate a series of theological insights that I hope will help...

  9. Section Five: Passing on the Faith to the Next Generation of Muslims
    • Identity and Community in a New Generation: The Muslim Community in the Early Seventh Century and Today
      (pp. 187-203)
      Ghada Osman

      The history of Islam in the United States has been a multilayered and complex one. At least 10 percent of African slaves in antebellum America are estimated to have been of Muslim origin, although it appears that none of them survived slavery while maintaining their adherence to Islam. The second phase in the history of Islam in the United States occurred with the migration of Arabs from the Ottoman Empire in the post–Civil War period; while most of these Arabs were Christian, a minority was Muslim. Some immigrants from British India, southern Europe, and Ukraine were also Muslims. The...

    • Making Safe Space for Questioning for Young American Muslims
      (pp. 204-217)
      Amira Quraishi

      I chose to speak today of making safe space for young Muslims with questions because the two organizations I studied were frequently described as programs that specifically address a need to think critically about Islam in an American context. The mission statement of one of these organizations, the Muslim Youth Camp (MYC), explains that it

      brings Muslim families and individuals of diverse backgrounds together for a fun-filled week of Islamic living, learning and inspirational experiences in nature. By encouraging camaraderie, personal spiritual exploration and respect for diversity of Islamic practice, MYC seeks to be a strong catalyst in the creation...

    • Second-Generation Muslim Immigrants in Detroit Mosques: The Second Generation’s Search for Their Place and Identity in the American Mosque
      (pp. 218-244)
      Ihsan Bagby

      Muslim immigrants started arriving in America in large numbers after the 1965 liberalization of immigration law. They achieved economic success, raised families, and established mosques as a commitment to retaining their faith and passing on that faith to their children.¹ Now, after four decades, the children of these immigrants are maturing—a significant portion of them are in high school and college and some are starting their own families. Using data and interviews from a study of Detroit mosques,² this paper looks at second-generation mosque-goers and addresses three issues: 1) the second generation’s sense of belonging to the mosque; 2)...

  10. Section Six: Two Evaluations of the Research
    • The Leisure of Worship and the Worship of Leisure
      (pp. 247-263)
      Jack Miles

      The dialogues that take place among organized religions matter less than the dialogue, such as it may be, that each religion has with the institutions and attitudes of international secularism. Within the life of any organized religion, those most exposed to secular institutions and most imbued with secular attitudes are likely to be young adults, some of whom will be making their way from the more or less religious homes of their youth into the larger culture in which they will make lives and homes of their own. Therein lies the originality and relevance of an encounter drawing together bona...

    • Teach Your Children Well: Closing Observations on Constructing Religious Identity in the Next Generation
      (pp. 264-274)
      Diane Winston

      From their origins, the Abrahamic faiths have placed a high premium on transmitting religious identity from one generation to the next. Yet each of the traditions has developed its own methods for religious training. That’s why an opportunity for educators from different faith traditions and professional disciplines to come together holds special promise. Unexpected similarities may bring comfort, just as unanticipated differences can spur revelatory insights.

      The October 2004 conference, “Faith, Fear and Indifference: Constructing Religious Identity in the Next Generation,” and the subsequent collection of essays based on this gathering confirm this hoped-for outcome. Scholars, theologians and clergy, practitioners...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 275-294)
  12. Contributors
    (pp. 295-300)
  13. Index
    (pp. 301-321)