You may think your teenager is a Christian, but the author of a new book would argue that he or she may actually be a “moralistic therapeutic deist” instead. What on earth is that? 

It’s a person who sees God as a “divine therapist” who merely wants him or her to feel good and do good, according to an Aug. 27 post on Belief, CNN’s religion blog. Those wishy-washy feelings are accompanied by lax practice of the faith and an inability to articulate their religious beliefs. 

Such are the conclusions of Kenda Creasy Dean, professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and author of “Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teens is Telling the American Church” (Oxford University Press, $24.95), after helping to conduct research of teens for the National Study of Youth and Religion, which includes teens from a wide range of Christian traditions, including Catholicism. 

“If this is the God they’re seeing in church, they are right to leave us in the dust,” Dean says. “Churches don’t give them enough to be passionate about.”  

So, how do Catholic parents instill that passion in their teens? Here are a few tips: 

  •  Teach teenagers that practicing their faith, such as going to Mass, is not about feelings. It is about giving ourselves to God and discovering the purpose God has for our lives. 
  • Keep in mind that most teens go through a period when they question what they believe. When they express those questions, don’t get defensive, even though it may sound as if they are attacking God or the Church. 
  •  Remember that the best way to help a teen develop a strong faith is by the witness of your own faith. If they see that your faith gives meaning to your life, they will begin to search for that meaning in their own lives.