As younger generations drift away from evangelical churches, the number of religiously unaffiliated young adults grows. Is the drift because of politics, personal morality, rebelliousness, culture wars, or something else? In this project, 16 young adults from the Churches of Christ participate in qualitative interviews over a five-year span. They describe messages they learned about success and survival from their faith communities as children, and how they have embraced and reinterpreted those messages into helpful life principles as adults. The resulting study explores issues of ethnicity in evangelical borderland communities and contrasts Latinx narratives with white narratives in religious and educative contexts. Findings also revealed gendered narratives, class-based narratives, and the glaring absence of helpful narratives around sexuality, filtered through the lenses of religion and education. The central finding of the interviews is this: participants experienced the Church of Christ as rewarding conformity with community, a strategy (when it works) which secures the future of the denomination and cements a conservative doctrine in the next generation of leadership. However, the study concludes that true survival narratives were the narratives participants constructed in response to the narratives provided by Churches of Christ.
Cari Myers is visiting assistant professor of religion at Pepperdine University.
Introduction: How to Make It Here
Chapter 1: Constructing the Survival Narrative
Chapter 2: The Hermeneutical Circle of Ethics as Qualitative Methodology
Chapter 3: Religion: “Everyone in the Car!”
Chapter 4: Identities: “Everyone Loves a Mirror”
Chapter 5: Education: “How to Make It Here”
Chapter 6: Mechanism beneath the Message
Conclusion: The Essential Narratives
About the Author
With her attentive listening to the voices of young adults raised in the Church of Christ, Myers paints a poignant picture of the ways in which their religious formation both strengthened and hindered their survival as they ventured into the outside world. The pressures to conform and perform become painfully clear in her analysis, opening important questions about the dynamics of race, gender, sexuality and class as they intersect with the efforts of youth ministry to capture the next generation for the church. An important read for all who hope to understand in vivid detail what it is like to grow up in an evangelical subculture, particularly as a member of a nondominant group.