Lisa D. PEARCE and Melinda LUNDQUIST DENTON,
A Faith of Their Own, New York.
Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 200. $24.95 pb. ISBN 978-0-19975389-5.
Reviewed by Noelle MOLLER, 505 Sandra Lane, Cary, IL 50013
In their recent book, A Faith of Their Own, Lisa Pearce and Melinda Lundquist Denton seek to provide insight into the complexities of the religiosity of American adolescents as they grow over a three year period. To accomplish this they take a multidimensional approach focusing on three main dimensions of religiosity: content (religious belief), conduct (religious activity), and centrality (salience), referred to in the book as the “three Cs”.
Overall this book accomplishes that goal. It provides the reader with great insight into the life of the American adolescent as they struggle to develop own religious identity. Using the “three Cs” the authors identify five primary patterns of behavior, or qualitative categories, from the data: Abiders, Assenters, Adapters, Avoiders, and Atheists. This approach combined with a conversational style and a logical layout makes this book highly accessible to all, including readers who may not have a sociological or statistical background.
Another aspect of this book I appreciated is that it took the information out of the lab and into the “real world”. Throughout the book Pearce and Lundquist Denton punctuated their findings with excerpts from interviews of several respondents. The use of these narratives, complete with pertinent biographical information, did a marvelous job of illustrating their point and putting a “face” to the five qualitative categories. It reminds the reader of the humanity that lies at the root of the research and analysis.
Another strength is they did not just stop at the analysis. The last chapter of the book, “Scaffolding for Religious Refinement in Adolescence,” focuses on the primary support systems in the religious lives of American adolescents: parents, friends, and religious institutions. Backed by solid research, they evaluate the potential impact of each of these systems as adolescents struggle with the complexities of their own religious identities. By doing so, they provide actionable information for parents, churches, and those that work with youth in a religious setting.
One criticism I would have was the use of the mosaic metaphor. I was initially excited about the use of this visual “aid” and looked forward to its application in future chapters. But, while it was mentioned throughout the book, its use felt sporadic and I think over the course of the book the intense color visual originally introduced to the reader fell a little flat for me.
A Faith of Their Own is a successful exploration into the complicated world of religiosity among American adolescents. Their multidimensional approach to analysis, thoroughness, and conversational style results in a book that is informative and intelligent without being too didactic. I would highly recommend this book to researchers, parents, pastors, catechists, and youth ministers alike.