There has been much discussion of the new Pew "Religious Knowledge Survey" in which atheists and Mormons outpaced everyone else and Catholics, as a whole, came in last.
These results were given a poignant concreteness when a commenter on the Dotcommonweal blog decided this morning to ask her son the questions that the Pew surveyers asked. The result?
" I just tried the test on my son, who is in his 9th year of CCD and has been going to Sunday Mass all his life. He believes in God but is not too certain, doesn’t know if the Bible is the word of God, thinks that Jesus was born in Nazareth (”Jesus of Nazareth”), that communion is a symbol, that salvation comes through faith alone, that the gospels were written by Mark, Luke, John and Paul, and has never heard of Job. In terms of factual knowledge, it’s a total failure.
That, after 2 years of CCD in France, 4 years in a suburban US parish, and 2+ years in an urban US parish. One can’t help but wonder: what’s the point of CCD?"
Actually, her son did pretty well. 12% of American adults think Noah and Joan of Arc are a couple. Only 1/3 of American adults know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. One quarter of US adults con't know what is celebrated at Easter. In the Netherlands, 58% of adults didn't know what Easter was about. At St. John's University in the UK, 60% of those asked had no idea what the parable of the Good Samaritan was about. The most widely known Bible verse among both adult and teen believers is "God helps those who help themselves." (II Hezekiah 37: 2a!)
In our culture, such religious knowledge is no longer part of the general culture. In the 21st century, discipleship will be the necessary personal foundation of religious knowledge for the vast majority of people.
The 2009 Pew Faith in Flux survey pointed out that the vast majority of Catholics leave the Church by age 23. Most do so by age 18. And that attending CCD or Religious Education classes, being part of a youth group, and even attending a Catholic high school seems to have little impact on whether or not someone who is raised Catholic will stay Catholic, become a Protestant, or drift off into "none" land.
As Kenda Creasy Dean, Associate Professor of Youth, Church, and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary, points out in her new book "Almost Christian" The single biggest factor in the development of the faith of children is the faith of their parents.
"The religiosity of American teenagers must be read primarily as a reflection of their parent's religious devotion"
It is very simple. CCD is not and cannot be a substitute for the discipleship of parents.
If we don't make adult disciples, we will continue to lose our children and grand-children.