Review: Almost Christian

Almost Christian

Author: Kenda Creasy Dean

Hardcover: 254 pages

Publisher: Oxford University Press

ISBN: 978-0-19-531484-7

Oxford University Press


I received this review copy a few months ago, when I was working as a youth pastor.  I thought it might provide some invaluable insights and requested it for that reason.  Now that I am no longer a youth pastor, I read this book and looked back at my ministry, which was a both a blessing and a curse: I got validation on some things and I was convicted on some things (things I did right and things I did wrong).

Based on the results of the National Study of Youth and Religion…Almost Christian investigates why American teenagers are at one so positive about Christianity and at the same time so apathetic about genuine religious practices. (Inside cover)

What follows in the book is shocking and yet not surprising.  The American church suffers from a major problem: Many of today’s religious youth embrace Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and the church can only blame itself.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism has little to do with God or a sense of divine mission it the world.  It offers comfort, bolsters self-esteem, helps solve problems, and lubricates interpersonal relationships by encouraging people to do god, feel good, and keep God at arm’s length.  It is a self-emolliating spirituality; its thrust is personal happiness and helping people treat each other nicely.

They [teens] practice it [Moralistic Therapeutic Deism] because this is what we have taught to them in church. (29)

God is out, nice is in and the church can only blame itself.  But, there is good news.  There is hope.  But the church needs to cultivate an authentic faith in its youth, which also means cultivating an authentic faith in the adults.

The book is divided into three parts:

  1. Worshipping at the Church of Benign Whatever-ism
  2. Claiming a Peculiar God-Story
  3. Cultivating Consequential Faith

Part 1 explains what Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is and how it has infiltrated the church.  Part 2 examines the tools necessary for combating Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.  Part 3 looks at practices that will help youth build authentic, mature faith.  In essence, this book defines what Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is, lists the tools the church has available to combat it, and describes practices that can overcome it.

It has been my experience that many members in the church think they have figured out what attracts youth.  It is that very mentality that does the most damage.  We are doing this to ourselves and something needs to change if we want a vibrant, authentic faith to be passed down.  This book should be required reading for all pastors and anyone who has anything to do with youth ministry.  This book is the wake up call that the church desperately needs if we want to pass on authentic faith and belief in God to our youth.


I received this book free from Oxford University Press. Providing me a free copy in no way guarantees a favorable review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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