In 2000, a journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pitched an idea to the Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellowship Program. Colleen Carroll wanted to examine the attraction of young adults to Christian orthodoxy and their efforts to transform the culture. She won a $50,000 grant, took a year off from the newsroom, and delved into her research, meeting with over 500 "new faithful," young people devoted to orthodoxy. What she found turned out to be more widespread than she had expected.
Christianity Today associate editor Agnieszka Tennant talked with Carroll about her findings, which will be published in September in The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy (Loyola Press).
When did you first become aware of the intense interest that many young people express in Christianity?
I saw signs of it for years. I was noticing things that ran counter to the conventional wisdom about Generation X when I was at Marquette University in Milwaukee. I was there between 1992 and 1996. A lot of what I heard and saw in the media didn't jibe with what I was seeing among my peers. Some of it did, and some of it still does. But I felt that a lot was being left out in the analysis of Generation X and, even later, Generation Y.
What surprised you most in your research?
I was surprised by just how widespread this trend was, how deep it runs in the culture. It wasn't spotty. I had so many stories and sources that I constantly had to turn down people who wanted to tell me their story, which is pretty rare. People were thrilled that someone was noticing something that they were living day after day.
What do you mean by orthodox Christianity?
I use a definition offered by G.K. Chesterton, who said that orthodox Christianity ...1