Monday, May 14, 2007

Forbidden Fruit

Awhile ago I chastised Kenda Dean for her exuberant praise of a youth ministry scholar whose book I found lacking. When I saw that Kenda had breathlessly endorsed this book with, “I’ve waited for this book my entire ministry” I was a little suspicious. In the end, however, Kenda is closer to the truth this time around.

If I taught a class on adolescent sexuality and faith as Kenda does, I too would enthuse over this book. Marrying the NYRS with a large health survey, Regnerus drills down on how religion influences adolescent sexuality. Nothing escapes his attention although some matters do receive more attention than others. Even in areas where Regnerus doesn’t have enough data, such as online pornography, to do justice to the topic, he makes educated guesses that will help direct future research.

The strength, and weakness, of this book is the numbers. There are a lot of numbers as this is straight up statistical sociology. Regnerus uses a multi sample methodology, supplementing survey data with interviews, but if you are not a numbers person you might want to wait until Kenda writes a follow up book that helps the church interpret this data. His 12 conclusions are eye opening but not immediately practical which could also be said for his unscientific postscript. If you are looking for a curriculum to use at youth group steer clear of this book. If you are looking for a description of a complex relationship - religion and sex in adolescence - that you might use to understand your youth and develop a normative framework, this is your book.

I'll post a few quotes from the book in the coming week since there is nary a page that goes by that doesn't contain an interesting insight. The bibliography alone makes this book worth it.

A footnote - the book that I've been waiting for my career has to do with vocation and adolescence. Interesting that Regnerus uses imagery from the Garden of Eden (the apple) when the expulsion also directly relates to vocation (the curse of work). I wonder if there is enough data to drill down on Vocation and Religion in the Lives of [North] American Teenagers?

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