Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book Snap: Thomas Bergler's "Juvenilization of American Christianity"

Here's another case of a scholar confirming some things I'd put together on my own; but The Juvenilization of American Christianity (JAC) adds in one piece I was missing. I had attributed much of the immaturity of the modern, Western church to individualism. JAC confirms this, but adds in the process which was the specific vehicle for the change. 

Surprise -- essentially, it was youth ministry. In this book, Bergler documents how a certain perception of crisis motivated church leaders to look to youth as a vanguard, in the hopes that they would become agents of change. To attract the youth, though, the leaders had to compete with the world's way of engaging youth; and so, we end up with today's relational sort of faith which has a heavy focus on entertainment, little regard for authority, and little concern for obligations or service. Boom bada bing: Church designed for teenagers, but when the teenagers grow up, they expect more of the same. And so the cycle gets going.

Bergler follows various branches of the church -- Roman Catholics, evangelicals, and a couple of others -- documenting how the cycle was perpetuated in them. This makes JAC a bit dull at times. There are some especially shocking bits in the mix, such as the youth leader who said that it was a sin to bore a kid (!) and a technique to make Jesus more attractive than e.g., Elvis,  by saying that Jesus is a better friend than Elvis could ever be! (It never occurred to these folks, Bergler says, that by trying to replace Elvis with Jesus, they also shifted expectations for Elvis on to Jesus!)

This is  poignant book that concisely proves its point. Read it and digest the food for thought.


  1. JPH - given the book's title, how 'localised' is it to the American church landscape? Are there more general themes that (for example) are common to the whole Western church?

  2. It does not discuss conditions outside America.