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Passing on the Faith

Transforming Traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians, and Muslims

James Heft

Publication Year: 2007

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.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-x

The chapters of this book were originally given in somewhat different form as papers at an international conference held at the University of Southern California in October 2004. The conference, ‘‘Faith, Fear and Indifference: Constructing the Religious Identity of the Next Generation"...

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Introduction: Youth and the Continuity of Religious Traditions

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pp. 1-20

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...

Section One: National and International Overviews

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pp. 21-22

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Looking for God: Religious Indifference in Perspective

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pp. 23-36

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...

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Journeys of Faith: Meeting the Challenges in Twenty-First-Century America

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pp. 37-52

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...

Section Two: Three Recent National Studies

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pp. 53-54

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Is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism the New Religion of American Youth? Implications for the Challenge of Religious Socialization and Reproduction

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pp. 55-74

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...

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The ‘‘ Interior’’ Lives of American College Students: Preliminary Findings from a National Study

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pp. 75-102

‘‘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...

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Congregations That Get It: Understanding Religious Identities in the Next Generation

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pp. 103-122

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...

Section Three: Passing on the Faith to the Next Generation of Jews

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pp. 123-124

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BJ: A Portrait of a Revitalized Synagogue

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pp. 125-134

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...

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Current Expressions of American Jewish Identity: An Analysis of 114 Teenagers

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pp. 135-144

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...

Section Four: Passing on the Faith to the Next Generation of Christians

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pp. 145-146

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A Spiritual Crossroads of Europe: The Taizé Community’ s Adventure with the Young

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pp. 147-161

I stand before you today with a mixture of gratitude and apprehension. Gratitude, because the organizers of this conference saw fit to include the Taize´ Community in their program, ostensibly as a ‘‘model that retain[ s] religious traditions in non-reductive ways while at the same time...

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Religious Identity and Belonging Amidst Diversity And Pluralism: Challenges and Opportunities for Church and Theology

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pp. 162-184

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...

Section Five: Passing on the Faith to the Next Generation of Muslims

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pp. 185-186

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Identity and Community in a New Generation: The Muslim Community in the Early Seventh Century and Today

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pp. 187-203

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...

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Making Safe Space for Questioning for Young American Muslims

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pp. 204-217

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...

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Second-Generation Muslim Immigrants in Detroit Mosques: The Second Generation’ s Search for Their Place and Identity in the American Mosque

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pp. 218-244

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...

Section Six:Two Evaluations of the Research

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pp. 245-246

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The Leisure of Worship and the Worship of Leisure

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pp. 247-263

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...

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Teach Your Children Well: Closing Observations on Constructing Religious Identity in the Next Generation

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pp. 264-274

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...


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pp. 275-294


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pp. 295-300


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pp. 301-321

E-ISBN-13: 9780823246977
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823226474
Print-ISBN-10: 0823226476

Page Count: 334
Publication Year: 2007