Gordon in the News: last updated 02/15/2008

Dr. Christian Smith’s Award-winning Book-turned-film, Soul Searching, Premieres at Gordon

September 24, 2007

Ashley Hopkins
Office of College Communications

WENHAM, MA-The award-winning book-turned-film Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (2005), Oxford University Press, written by Gordon College alumnus Dr. Christian Smith, will premiere at the College on Thursday, October 4, 2007, at 7 p.m. in the A. J. Gordon Memorial Chapel. A panel discussion will follow the screening featuring Smith and faculty members from the social work and youth ministry departments at Gordon. Both events are free and open to the public.

"This film is a riveting portrayal of the religious attitudes of adolescents in America today and it captures their feelings in a very transparent way," says Bob Whittet, associate professor of youth ministries at Gordon. "It will provide a great conversation starter for parents, youth ministers and members of the community interested in where religion fits into the lives of our teenagers."

Soul Searching is based on findings from the largest and most detailed study of the religious lives of American teenagers, The National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR), for which Dr. Smith is the principle investigator and director. Melinda Lundquist Denton, who co-wrote Soul Searching with Smith, is the project manager of NSYR. The study encompassed a nationwide telephone survey of teens and their parents, as well as lengthy face-to-face interviews with more than 250 of the survey respondents. Key findings of the survey include:

  • Religion is a significant factor in the lives of many American teenagers.
  • Teenagers are far more influenced by the religious beliefs and practices of their parents and other adults than commonly thought.
  • Greater teenage religious involvement is significantly associated with more positive adolescent life outcomes.
  • Religion is widely practiced and positively valued by teens, but also de-prioritized and very poorly understood by them.
  • Authors identify and define a new faith in the U.S called "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism"-"the belief that religion is about doing good and being happy, watched over by a distant and benign Creator whose purpose is largely to help us feel better about ourselves," explains Andy Crouch of Christianity Today in a 2005 review of Soul Searching.

In addition to Soul Searching, Smith is the author, co-author or editor of numerous books including: Moral, Believing Animals: Human Culture and Personhood; The Secular Revolution: Power, Interests, and Conflict in the Secularization of American Public Life; American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving; and The Emergence of Liberation Theology: Radical Religion and Social Movement Theory. His current research projects in the Center for the Study of Religion include: NSYR Wave 3, The Human Personhood and Social Science Project, and Religious Financial and Charitable Giving Project.

Smith is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame. From 2000-2005 he served as Associate Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Smith holds a B.A. in Sociology from Gordon College (1982), a M.A. (1987) and Ph.D. (1990) in Sociology from Harvard University and has studied Christian historical theology at Harvard Divinity School and other Boston Theological Institute schools. Before moving to UNC Chapel Hill in 1994, Smith taught for six years at Gordon College.

In recognition of his many accomplishments and work as one of the leading Christian sociologists in the country, Smith will be presented the "Alumnus of the Year" award as part of Gordon's annual homecoming ceremony.

The following is a link to the trailer of the film: http://www.revelationstudios.com/portfolio/all/1.html

For more information on the screening of Soul Searching or if you are a member of the media and want to set up an interview with Dr. Christian Smith, please contact Ashley Hopkins at 978.867.4569 or e-mail .

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Gordon College is a Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences on Boston's North Shore. The college offers majors in 36 fields and has graduate programs in education and music education. Leading the way in Christian college merit, Gordon is nationally ranked for its excellence in academics and its role in character building. These achievements recognize Gordon as one of the nation's top Christian colleges.