The American Cultural Context for Adolescent Catechesis

By Dinges, William D. | Momentum, February/March 2007 | Go to article overview

The American Cultural Context for Adolescent Catechesis


Dinges, William D., Momentum


This is the sixth article in a series on adolescent catechesis sponsored by the Partnership for Adolescent Catechesis, a collaborative effort by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM), the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership (NCCL) and the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) with support from the United States Conference Catholic bishops (USCCB), to enhance the quality of adolescent catechesis in parishes and schools.

In the reflection that follows, I discuss aspects of the cultural context in which catechesis occurs among young American Catholics. I start with the common-sense observation that handing on the faith never occurs in a vacuum. Aside from individual, life cycle and interpersonal family dynamics, a complex array of social, cultural and historical factors-each with its own mechanisms and patterns-fosters and impedes this process.

American Cultural Context

Young people today-and at an ever-younger age-are exposed to cultural forces with significant implications for faith development. These forces include a pervasive commercialism, the blandishments of mass marketing and a pop culture milieu saturated with violence and hyper-sexuality. They also include increasing age and generational segregation along with transformations in how we define "family."

There is also the communications revolution globalized through the Internet. This digital revolution dramatically facilitates networking and the ability to access and convey information. Through chat rooms, weblogs, MySpace.com, spam and games, it influences the computer-savvy young and competes aggressively for their attention.

In addition to these influences, Catholicism in America continues to be transformed by a new church and world relationship stemming from Vatican II and by the demise of the ethnic Catholic subcultures that long carried Catholic identity. ("New wave" Hispanic and Asian Catholic immigrants are obvious exceptions to these trends). The waning of anti-Catholicism, long-term alterations in the Catholic class structure and growing evangelical influences on Catholics are also elements of the wider cultural gestalt impacting the task of catechesis.

While many aspects of the contemporary religious gestalt are important, three stand out: religious diversity, the commodification of religion and the enduring influence of American individualism.

Religious Diversity

No society is as religiously diverse as the United States. Every major world religion can be found in America today. Religious diversity not only means the presence of world religions, but differences within them, an array of sects and cults and the spread of new and increasingly unconventional forms of individual spirituality.

One view sees religious diversity in negative terms, especially where this diversity promotes an attitude of religious pluralism that is perceived as corrosive of religious certitudes. Especially in a political environment that separates church and state, religious pluralism relativizes all religious beliefs, weakens claims to uniqueness and promotes the privatization of religion and a deeper cultural relativism encapsulated in the "I-have-my-truth-you-have-your-truth" view of reality.1

This perception of the relativizing impact of religious pluralism stems from a growing awareness of historical contingency and of the socially constructed nature of all human knowledge. It also derives from contradictions and logical falsifications posed by competing religious claims. It is promoted by a postmodern cultural climate in which civility and the aversion to being perceived as intolerant or judgmental temper assertive or absolute claims on the part of many individuals.

Collaterally, and especially within the parameters of Christianity in America, religious diversity also gives expression to a denominational sensibility. This, too, has important consequences with regard to relativism, even where denominational loyalty has grown weaker, and where liberal or conservative value orientations often are stronger predictors of belief and behavior than denominational identity per se.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The American Cultural Context for Adolescent Catechesis
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.