Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The End of Christian America?

An interesting article was published in Newsweek about the apparent decline of Christianity in America. You can access the article at the link below:

Newsweek: The End of Christian America

Below are insightful email comments from pastors Dennis C., Michael M., and occasional troublemaker John M. regarding the significance of the demographic trends:

[Dennis C.] I found in it a lot of confirmation regarding the thrust of our conversations over the past weeks. Her understanding of the church/state separation issue and the religion/politics integration issue is important. She really has a grasp of the issue in American history since the colonial era and up through the founding and the reason for the thought that went into the first amendment. I find her analysis of the current dilemma in the evangelical world and the recent history of getting into bed with a political party to be very persuasive also. By reaching back to Augustine, Paul and Jesus she is really promoting a kingdom perspective re: the mission of the church throughout the ages.

[John M.] Below are a couple quotes that stood out to me:
"The American culture of religious liberty helped create a busy free market of faith: by disestablishing churches, the nation made religion more popular, not less."
"Let the religious take their stand in the arena of politics and ideas on their own, and fight for their views on equal footing with all other interests."

For me the fact that fewer Americans are claiming a specific religious affiliatioin and tend to identify more with "spirituality" than "religion" is actually encouraging. Ultimately, truth will stand in the "free market of faith".
Also, the survey results can be interpreted in more than one way. It may depress Dr. Mohler, but it also means that the harvest is ripe and getting riper. The last time I filled out one of those forms regarding religious preference I gripped to my wife that I could not find a category that I fit into. I was very tempted to put "no religion". Apparently, I'm not the only one...

[Michael M.] John & Dennis, Hearty “Amen” to both of your observations, I could not agree more. [This is one of the better articles I have read commenting on the Survey.] Perhaps another “need” illustrated by the study is the lack of historical understanding both within and without the church. [I know, a real surprise opinion coming from a historian.] I believe it illustrates that along with our call to develop, teach and implement an “orthodox-relational-practical-cross filled” theology, we should probably add “historical.” Doing so will produce believers who understand that his kingdom comes, his will is done regardless of the friendliness of either our culture or government. In fact, we have ample illustrations (China?) of the faith exploding even when governments attempt to stifle the market place of ideas. Michael M

ok, so what do you think? Is this troubling or encouraging? How can or should we respond?


joe 6-pack said...

anyone want to talk about this? or should we continue on the email discussion?

My wife, who is not the most internet savy person, found this article on MSN's news toolbar this morning and pointed it out to me.

Even if the article is full of crap (which it is not--several men have pointed out that the author has fairly sophisticated grasp of church history in America), the fact that articles like this are appearing on the internet and people like my wife can find them and read them means that this perspective is going to filter into the public consciousness.

By-the-way, the Spirit was at work in some unusual ways last night in our "god" party. I would find it very difficultt to explain, but it was very encouraging.

John M. said...

Joseph thanks for the "face-time" in the new post.

I mentioned in the email chain that another friend of mine not associated with the blog or the email discussion sent the artile to me last night, so I agree with you that it is probably getting a lot of readership and exposure.

The provocative title will definitely get people's attention, although I think the title is a bit misleading. I wonder how many people will actually read the whole thing. It actually gets better as it goes.

Brian Emmet said...

Sociological trends and analysis can only take us so far. We should allow them to take us as far as they can, while at the same time being open to God's "suddenly," as in, "Suddenly, in 2014, there was a unique outpouring of the Holy Spirit that began, in all places, in traditionalistic/mainline churches ( or megachurches or bar churches or among senior citizens or children under 11)." We need to be both wise (discerning the shape of our times as best we can), faithful (obedient to our best understanding of what God has called us to be and do) and faith-filled towards God's good but totally unexpected future (e.g., the Resurrection).