Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers

By Christian Smith; Melinda Lundquist Denton | Go to book overview

Conclusion

THE TITLE OF THIS BOOK is intended to suggest three meanings. First, in the research project this book reports on, we as sociologists were embarked on a kind of sociological search for the souls of American teenagers. We were not trying to save their souls, simply to do our best to reach and better understand them. Second, what we found when we did so is that many, though certainly not all, U.S. teenagers are themselves engaged in a kind of search for their own souls—trying to sort through their life and faith identity, beliefs, commitments, and practices in their long passages from childhood to adulthood. Teenagers, however, are not a people apart, an alien race about whom adults can only shake their heads and look forward to their growing up. Teenagers are part of us, fully members of our families, religious congregations, neighborhoods, communities, and nation. Teenagers and adults, it turns out, have much more in common with each other than not, and so need to learn better to care for each other. Communities of faith in particular often profess to care about the youth in their midst. Therefore, third, we hope that the findings of this book set various groups and communities of adults on their own processes of soul searching, for when it comes to American adult attitudes and practices regarding adolescents, we think a good deal of soul searching is warranted. To that end, we intend this book to be, among other things, a catalyst for many soul-searching conversations in various communities and organizations about the experience and place of adolescents in our society, in particular the significance of the religious and spiritual lives of teenagers today.

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