There is a unique shift taking place in our culture today as young adults are leaving the home and developing widely differing perspectives. Some have suggested that this isn’t anything new, “There has always been a falling out with one’s parents throughout history.” they’ll suggest. But there is something particularly unique about this younger generation that is ‘discontinuously different’ as David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, would suggest. Alisa Harris is a perfect example of the cultural anomalies which are the present normalities. Her book Raised Right chronicles her story as she transitions from her parents’ traditions to a culture of wider values.
Raised Right – How I Untangled My Faith from Politics is the personal story of Alisa Harris’s journey through the major events that shaped her life, views, and conclusions. Being brought up as the oldest daughter of a very conservative family, Alisa spent her early years picketing abortion clinics and campaigning for republican politicians, including George W. Bush. Alisa was a passionate daughter faithfully following in her parents’ footsteps. But in college, after leaving her home and the shelter of her narrow world view, her vision widened and her fire was quenched. The book takes us through her sincere struggle for identity. Knowing she did not agree with her families ideals, she struggles through college and through to the end of the book to find significant meaning and definitive truth to shape her values.
In a way, this book is characteristic of a generation left feeling that they were held back as children to see the world in a particular way only to go out into society and find out it was not as they were told. Feeling lied to, these young adults grow up searching for authority but skeptical of anyone whose views come across as narrow or intolerant. In some ways I can relate as I find that there are actually few mentors whom I can turn to and be sure will give me an educated definitive answer, removed from any personal prejudice or conjecture. This book is a testament of a whole generation of wandering pseudo-believers who don’t know where to turn for guidance and authority. In a serious sense we have turned them away with our matter-of-fact responses for their questions and concerns, offering little more than our opinions.
Alisa provides a clear example of how many young adults respond drastically to their upbringing and often settle with positions on the opposite extreme. Few of her peers are thoughtful about the conclusions they choose to follow, knowing little more than what they disagree with.
As you read her story, it’s easy to see why she turned away from the traditions and values she was raised to accept without question. The structure put all of its weight on unfounded authorities which failed her later in life. When her vision was widened, she saw the errors in her misplaced trust in the Republican party and the politically filled promises which didn’t come true. Perhaps she threw the baby out with the bath water, or at least parts of truth that were attached to the lies. It’s a shame that she was mishandled because the taste in her mouth for certain doctrines were most definitely tainted with the after taste of the poison with which they were served.
It’s no wonder young adults have such a struggle with choosing between societal differences when they were raised to see everything as black and white. Once they realize the world has multiple shades of grey they grow to resent their upbringing.
It’s interesting to see what character remains from Alisa’s childhood: the drive to make her point, the temperament to speak out, and the determination to help those in need. Her character has remained fairly intact though her intellectual values have drastically changed. She writes as one who has experienced a lot from life, as one who knows where she came from and knows where she stands, but not as one who has discovered the answers to life. In the end, her conclusions only take us deeper into a confusing world with no absolutes.
In this way Raised Right paints a sad picture which falls short of answering the questions that many young adults are facing. While those who have more settled and founded convictions tend to see these questions as a threat to a stable standard for authority, I find the honesty refreshing and the opportunities inviting to speak directly to the problems with true authority.
Too often we attack the identity of a person – democrat, feminist, etc. – when instead we should be discussing biblical authority. While judging based on identity is easier, it does not help either party to communicate and understand each other, which are essential if we are committed to love one another.
Surely I could critique Alisa for several things where she and I would disagree. I could debate over her political positions and religious stance. I could critique Alisa for the conclusions she draws from her perspective of Scripture, but no more than I could offer the same criticism to people in the same churches where I find fellowship and edification. In the end, I think she has been criticized enough and it is about time her views are listened to and not attacked.
The takeaway from this book is well worth the read. The writing is crisp, precise, and insightful. The stories are inviting, entertaining, and thought provoking. It was such a pleasant read that I couldn’t put it down. Like a well crafted novel, I was captivated until the end. While we may draw different conclusions on specific issues, it is invaluable to have the sort of insight into the issues young adults are facing that this book provides. Though I would recommend it with reservations, I would still highly recommend it to anyone who has ever pondered why there is such a cultural difference between the older generations and those that follow.
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