Ridgely, “Connected Christians”

May 14, 2014

Ridgely, Susan B.  2014.  “Connected Christians: New Practices in Evangelical Spirituality.”  Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 14(1): 84-93.

Excerpt: Having been reared on Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey and having been home schooled through high school, it was not surprising that Seth wanted his children to grow up to embrace Jesus and to live according to the Bible. Nor was it surprising that this millennial father, and second-generation evangelical, desired to express his religious commitments through a tattoo on his forearm that will read, “Veritology,” a term coined in a Focus on the Family (Focus) DVD seminar. “Veritology: What is Truth?” headlined The Truth Project’s first lesson, a lesson that asked the question that has anchored Seth’s life since he first saw the series two years ago: “Do our actions reflect what we believe to be ?” Seth explained, “you can go back and basically analyze your beliefs, not just the things you say you believe, but what you actually believe, by looking at how you behave. And I think that has been—it’s been both convicting and it’s been amazingly inspirational to me.” As Seth interpreted Focus’s question, it licensed his movement away from reliance on traditional Evangelical authorities, organizations, and the material they’ve produced. In this way, Seth reflected the “New evangelicals,” as Tom Krattenmaker calls them: Young “[b]elievers eschewing locked-down doctrinal declarations and political battles to tend to the specific and the local.” These young evangelicals might be seen as part of the “emergent church” or Gordon Lynch’s Generation X Christianity, but none of them used those terms or viewed themselves as part of a movement. Rather, like many of his generation, Seth shied away from the rigidness of Christian institutions or the labels of broad movements, while magnifying the piece of his tradition that demanded that he be in relationship with others. This emphasis on relationship with God and community has led me to term Seth and his fellow second-generation evangelicals “connected Christians.” In this short essay I compare the religious practices of Seth and twenty other “connected Christians” with those practiced by fifteen of their first-generation co-religionists. Here, I explore how feeling comfortable in their Evangelical tradition and confident in their relationships with both God and the world has oriented the second-generation toward what they perceive to be unique spiritual expressions of faith that have been shaped by, but are distinct from, their parents.

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