Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the Left Behind series are but the latest manifestations of American teenagers' longstanding fascination with the supernatural and the paranormal. In this groundbreaking book, Lynn Schofield Clark explores the implications of this fascination for contemporary religious and spiritual practices. Relying on stories gleaned from more than 250 in-depth interviews with teens and their families, Clark seeks to discover what today's teens really believe and why. She finds that as adherence to formal religious bodies declines, interest in alternative spiritualities as well as belief in "superstition" grow accordingly. Ironically, she argues, fundamentalist Christian alarmism about the forces of evil has also fed belief in a wider array of supernatural entities.
Resisting the claim that the media "brainwash" teens, Clark argues that today's popular stories of demons, hell, and the afterlife actually have their roots in the U.S.'s religious heritage. She considers why some young people are nervous about supernatural stories in the media, while others comfortably and often unselfconsciously blur the boundaries between those stories of the realm beyond that belong to traditional religion and those offered by the entertainment media. At a time of increased religious pluralism and declining participation in formal religious institutions, Clark says, we must completely reexamine what young people meanand what they may believewhen they identify themselves as "spiritual" or "religious."
Offering provocative insights into how the entertainment media shape contemporary religious ideas and practices, From Angels to Aliens paints a surprisingand perhaps alarmingportrait of the spiritual state of America's youth.
What Wade Clark Roof did for understanding Baby Boomer spirituality with A Generation of Seekers, Clark does with this insightful, well-written ethnographic introduction to the spiritual lives of a new generation. Clark relies heavily on interviews and first-person reports from teens, then attempts to understand what they are saying through the lens of larger demographic and sociological trends. Many teens (by which Clark means those roughly between the ages of 11 and 21) privilege personal experience over institutional authority and consider themselves spiritual but not necessarily religious. Their spirituality is eclectic and often non-traditional, as they blend elements from the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition with new interest in mysticism, Eastern religions and the occult. Clark, a professor at the University of Colorado's School of Journalism, is very attuned to the significance of media in teens' lives, and offers fascinating explorations into what television programs like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel have to say about religion. Most interestingly, Clark also pays attention to the resurgence of "the dark side of evangelicalism," discussing the rise of popular interest in the apocalypse. One later chapter explores the ways some baby boomer parents "intentionally approach the media" and use it to discuss spiritual issues with their children. Clark's writing is engaging and fast-paced, and readers who aren't put off by the book's reliance on social theorists like Bourdieu and Gramsci will find this a surprisingly accessible book. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.