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Soul Searching (2007)

Unrated | | Documentary | Video December 2007
Based on the book, Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of American teenagers, by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, which reports on research conducted over a seven... See full summary »
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Credited cast:
Melinda Lundquist Denton
Christian Smith
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Based on the book, Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of American teenagers, by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, which reports on research conducted over a seven year period by the National Study of Youth and Religion. Featuring interviews with the book's authors, youth pastors, and teenagers from around the country, this compelling documentary illustrates some of the major themes and findings of the book, and goes behind the book in depicting the inner lives of a sample of American teenagers. Find out what these teenagers really think about God and religion, what their hopes and aspirations are, and what the research says about the effects of religion in their lives. Written by Anonymous

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A Movie About Teenagers and God

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Documentary

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Unrated
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December 2007 (USA)  »

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$90,000 (estimated)
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1.78 : 1
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Accessible and relevant analysis of the religious lives of teenagers
5 May 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This documentary film was produced as a companion to the 2005 book of the same name, co-authored by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton. It presents the main findings of their National Survey of Youth and Religion, as illustrated by profiles of about a dozen teenagers from around the United States. At least one teenager, Kelsey, also appears in the book. Most of the screen time is devoted to letting the teenagers speak for themselves, although there are other voices, including parents, coaches, religious leaders, youth workers, and Smith and Denton, who offer on- and off-camera summaries of their research.

Among the important items of discussion: teenagers are people, and as such they deserve the serious attention of all adults -- not just sociological researchers or youth workers; there is much diversity in the religious attitudes and practices of teenagers, so the news is mixed no matter what your personal position on religion; religious teenagers tend to 'do better' than non-religious ones, for a variety of reasons; most teenagers follow in the paths set by their parents, both in terms of the content as well as the intensity of their beliefs; and even intensely religious teenagers could use more religious instruction, lest they lapse into what the authors call 'moral therapeutic deism,' a generic and watered-down approach to their specific faith tradition.

The film was produced by a team of Christians, so religion receives a favorable treatment despite the apparent attempt at objectivity. This of course is supported by the research findings which highlight religion's salutary effects while avoiding some of the less savory and more controversial aspects of the history of organized religion. I'm presuming that its intended audience is youth workers, so the tone and stance both seem appropriate.

The book is a useful resource, although it can be a dense read in places; the film is a more accessible way of approaching this important research. It is also visually interesting and well-made.


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