August 30th, 2010
02:10 PM ET
The phrase sounds like the title of a 1950s science fiction B movie. I can even see the lurid movie poster showing disfigured churchgoers lumbering through panicked city streets.
But it’s actually a term invoked in a recent article I wrote that provoked at least 5,000 reader comments and 32,000 Facebook shares.
The article didn't just divide readers - it made me think as well.
"If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation," says the Rev. Kenda Creasy Dean, a professor of youth and church culture at Princeton Theological Seminary.
But ruffling feathers is not so easy for teens in today’s religious climate, says Elizabeth Corrie, who directs a program called the Youth Theological Initiative at Emory University in Georgia. YTI is designed to instill religious passion in teens.
Corrie says many teenagers aren’t anxious to draw theological lines in the sand because they’ve grown up in an era where religion has been used to divide people.
“They don’t want to debate homosexuality, abortion, or whether Christianity is the only way to salvation because they sit next someone who is Muslim or Jewish and they just want to be friends with them,” Corrie says.
Teens aren't the only ones who share this ambivalence.
Who could argue against religious tolerance? But if it is no longer acceptable to make exclusive claims of faith (“Islam is the only way; Only Jesus can save”), how does one maintain a distinctive religious identity?
If, for example, Christian missionaries traveled abroad to serve the poor without talking about their faith, how would they be different from UNICEF?
It’s a challenge I think people of varying faiths face. Many religions traditions teach followers that they have the “truth.” But it can be delicate trying to honor your truth without alienating people from other faiths.
One person who seems able to navigate this tension is Huston Smith, a scholar of world religions. His book, “World Religions” is now a standard college textbook.
Smith is a passionate Christian, and the son of missionaries. Yet he has spent much of his life immersing himself in other religious practices.
Can you still call yourself a Christian, I asked Smith once, when you say other faiths offer salvation as well?
“God is defined by Jesus, but not confined to Jesus,” he answered.
Was Smith right, or was he also embracing a mutant form of Christianity?
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.