This section of Dr. Smith's concluding chapter will tend to either depress or inspire you…it is not good news but it is information that can lead to new ministry perspectives IF taken seriously.
"Most emerging adults are okay with talking about religion as a topic, although they are largely indifferent to it – religion is just not that important to most of them…the best thing about religion is that it helps people to be good, to make good choices and to behave well".
In other words, moralism…that isn't necessarily personal or transformative…what "religion" is good for is to make "them", other people in the world/culture behave well and make good choices (whatever that means). Moralism is essentially a religious "substitute"…it assumes that we need something to be able to set some sort of standard for behavior…if religion is helpful in doing that, then fine…but the exception? Moralism is fine unless someone imposes their moralism on "me". Dr. Smith continues…
"…once youth learn what it means to be good, there is no real need to continue being involved in a religious congregation. The time comes to "graduate" and move on…few (young adults) name religious communities as important places of social belonging…religious beliefs do not seem to be important, action-driving commitments but rather mental assents to ideas that have a few obvious consequences".
In other words, "religion" and spirituality is something else in culture to consume for personal, narcissistic reasons…to be able to get whatever "bang for the buck" or inspiration or snippet of meaning out of it so that it can be blended in with the prevailing winds of syncretistic belief systems. It is "chicken soup for the soul"…or better yet a gnostic salve for feeling a little better about yourself when it comes to ultimate meaning in life as long as that meaning doesn't impinge itself on your personal preference or lifestyle choices. It really is the individual in this case that is making the decisions that outline what is right and important for them…maybe they will get a bit more serious about it later on in life…when their children need to have the moralism fix but until that time, it just is not that important.
Now, like I said, this research has massive implications for ministry…maybe we'll theologize and brain storm on those implications in the days to come. For now, simply absorb reality.