December 17, 1999

A Teenager's Guide to God

It's an odd fact of religious life in America that in this country founded by Christians, in which a majority of people say they believe in God and identify themselves as Christians, that so many religious Christians feel they're an oppressed minority. They say the media doesn't share their values. That secular institutions undermine their beliefs. And the job of raising Christian children, they'll tell you, is like trying to do God's work from behind enemy lines. This week we're devoting our whole show to the kids they're struggling to bring up.

Oh faithless and perverse generation? How long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?—Matthew 17.


This American Life host Ira Glass and producer Susan Burton spent a week in August recording a suburban Chicago youth group at every stage of their very first mission trip. The teenagers were from Covenant Presbyterian Church in Chicago. They went to West Virginia, to fix up someone's house, and to witness about their faith to strangers. The goal: That they mature from a child's kind of faith to an adult's. There's a boom in mission trips like this right now, a boom that crosses denominations.
Act One


These teenagers are the children the Christian right has in mind when it holds conferences on what's at stake in America's culture war. On the fourteen-hour drive to West Virginia, we listen to the Backstreet Boys and talk about Dawson's Creek. One of the things that's so interesting about these teenagers is the odd mix of Christian and secular pop in their lives. (13 minutes)