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Joined: 2002/12/11
Posts: 37636
"Pilgrim and Sojourner." - 1 Peter 2:11

 Newsweek Cover: The Decline And Fall Of Christian America

[b]The End of Christian America[/b]

The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades. How that statistic explains who we are now—and what, as a nation, we are about to become.

It was a small detail, a point of comparison buried in the fifth paragraph on the 17th page of a 24-page summary of the 2009 American Religious Identification Survey. But as R. Albert Mohler Jr.—president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the largest on earth—read over the document after its release in March, he was struck by a single sentence. For a believer like Mohler—a starched, unflinchingly conservative Christian, steeped in the theology of his particular province of the faith, devoted to producing ministers who will preach the inerrancy of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means to eternal life—the central news of the survey was troubling enough: the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent. Then came the point he could not get out of his mind: while the unaffiliated have historically been concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, the report said, "this pattern has now changed, and the Northeast emerged in 2008 as the new stronghold of the religiously unidentified." As Mohler saw it, the historic foundation of America's religious culture was cracking.

"That really hit me hard," he told me last week. "The Northwest was never as religious, never as congregationalized, as the Northeast, which was the foundation, the home base, of American religion. To lose New England struck me as momentous." Turning the report over in his mind, Mohler posted a despairing online column on the eve of Holy Week lamenting the decline—and, by implication, the imminent fall—of an America shaped and suffused by Christianity. "A remarkable culture-shift has taken place around us," Mohler wrote. "The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered. The so-called Judeo-Christian consensus of the last millennium has given way to a post-modern, post-Christian, post-Western cultural crisis which threatens the very heart of our culture." When Mohler and I spoke in the days after he wrote this, he had grown even gloomier. "Clearly, there is a new narrative, a post-Christian narrative, that is animating large portions of this society," he said from his office on campus in Louisville, Ky.

There it was, an old term with new urgency: post-Christian. This is not to say that the Christian God is dead, but that he is less of a force in American politics and culture than at any other time in recent memory. To the surprise of liberals who fear the advent of an evangelical theocracy and to the dismay of religious conservatives who long to see their faith more fully expressed in public life, Christians are now making up a declining percentage of the American population.

According to the American Religious Identification Survey that got Mohler's attention, the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 percentage points since 1990, from 86 to 76 percent. The Jewish population is 1.2 percent; the Muslim, 0.6 percent. A separate Pew Forum poll echoed the ARIS finding, reporting that the percentage of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith has doubled in recent years, to 16 percent; in terms of voting, this group grew from 5 percent in 1988 to 12 percent in 2008—roughly the same percentage of the electorate as African-Americans. (Seventy-five percent of unaffiliated voters chose Barack Obama, a Christian.) Meanwhile, the number of people willing to describe themselves as atheist or agnostic has increased about fourfold from 1990 to 2009, from 1 million to about 3.6 million. (That is about double the number of, say, Episcopalians in the United States.)

While we remain a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even five years ago. I think this is a good thing—good for our political culture, which, as the American Founders saw, is complex and charged enough without attempting to compel or coerce religious belief or observance. It is good for Christianity, too, in that many Christians are rediscovering the virtues of a separation of church and state that protects what Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island as a haven for religious dissenters, called "the garden of the church" from "the wilderness of the world." As crucial as religion has been and is to the life of the nation, America's unifying force has never been a specific faith, but a commitment to freedom—not least freedom of conscience. At our best, we single religion out for neither particular help nor particular harm; we have historically treated faith-based arguments as one element among many in the republican sphere of debate and decision. The decline and fall of the modern religious right's notion of a Christian America creates a calmer political environment and, for many believers, may help open the way for a more theologically serious religious life.

Let's be clear: while the percentage of Christians may be shrinking, rumors of the death of Christianity are greatly exaggerated. Being less Christian does not necessarily mean that America is post-Christian. A third of Americans say they are born again; this figure, along with the decline of politically moderate-to liberal mainline Protestants, led the ARIS authors to note that "these trends … suggest a movement towards more conservative beliefs and particularly to a more 'evangelical' outlook among Christians." With rising numbers of Hispanic immigrants bolstering the Roman Catholic Church in America, and given the popularity of Pentecostalism, a rapidly growing Christian milieu in the United States and globally, there is no doubt that the nation remains vibrantly religious—far more so, for instance, than Europe.

Still, in the new NEWSWEEK Poll, fewer people now think of the United States as a "Christian nation" than did so when George W. Bush was president (62 percent in 2009 versus 69 percent in 2008). Two thirds of the public (68 percent) now say religion is "losing influence" in American society, while just 19 percent say religion's influence is on the rise. The proportion of Americans who think religion "can answer all or most of today's problems" is now at a historic low of 48 percent. During the Bush 43 and Clinton years, that figure never dropped below 58 percent.

Many conservative Christians believe they have lost the battles over issues such as abortion, school prayer and even same-sex marriage, and that the country has now entered a post-Christian phase. Christopher Hitchens —a friend and possibly the most charming provocateur you will ever meet—wrote a hugely popular atheist tract a few years ago, "God Is Not Great." As an observant (if deeply flawed) Episcopalian, I disagree with many of Hitchens's arguments—I do not think it is productive to dismiss religious belief as superstitious and wrong—but he is a man of rigorous intellectual honesty who, on a recent journey to Texas, reported hearing evangelical mutterings about the advent of a "post-Christian" America.

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SI Moderator - Greg Gordon

 2009/4/9 11:02Profile

Joined: 2007/2/21
Posts: 220
Richmond, VA

 Re: Newsweek Cover: The Decline And Fall Of Christian America

Greg forgive me if I am wrong dear brother but as I was reading this article certain verses in Romans chapter one came to mind expressing the Wrath of Abandonment.

Romans 1:24
Romans 1:26
Romans 1:28

I am not taking joy in showing these verses. I pray for our leaders and those who inhabit this nation that the truth of the gospel hit them bringing about true conversion. could it be that we are seeing the out working of these very text in our own nation ? If so may God in the middle of all this mess bring forth revival his way.


 2009/4/9 11:57Profile

Joined: 2002/12/11
Posts: 37636
"Pilgrim and Sojourner." - 1 Peter 2:11


Amen brother. Revival is coming and Judgment is at work in North America.

This is the time for those who truly know their God to do great exploits.

SI Moderator - Greg Gordon

 2009/4/9 13:23Profile

Joined: 2006/9/13
Posts: 3165

 Re: Newsweek Cover: The Decline And Fall Of Christian America

EDIT: Removed due to posting in the wrong place.

 2009/4/9 13:31Profile

 Re: Newsweek Cover: The Decline And Fall Of Christian America

The Israelites became arrogant in their history of being founded of God. They boasted that their nation was of the one true God even though they caroused and led overtly sinful lives. Our church is the same. America can not hang it's hat on our forefathers 'Christianity' then turn around and look like the rest of the world. The proof is in the pudding TODAY not what happened at the birth of America. Common sense sees right through Christian hypocrisy and who wants to be a part of that??? If Christianity is based on leadership or timeframes then we're in trouble. I'm a Christian despite who's leading what or what year we're in. If numbers go up and down like a roller coaster of professed Christians via leadership or timeframes then one wonders if this fickleness doesn't represent the superficial nature of the American church to begin with.

There's a remnant, they are in Christ no matter who's in charge or what the weather is like. I can only hang my hat on that. Poll taking and everything else is just a waste of time.

 2009/4/9 15:09

Joined: 2007/6/27
Posts: 1573
Omaha, NE


Yes, GOD has called and set apart for Himself
a remnant of the righteous, who love truth
and seek His glory, His kingdom, His purpose,
and His righteousness!!

Martin G. Smith

 2009/4/9 16:18Profile

Joined: 2004/10/9
Posts: 97
Justin, TX


Note: Originally written March 11th.

This week a survey has been getting a lot of play in the media regarding the shift in American religious faith. USA Today ran a front page article on Monday, March 9th on the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS). The gist of the research is that all major denominations and religions in America have experienced a quantitative loss in membership over the last 18 years.

One highlight of this survey includes the fact that those who refer to themselves as “none” (or of no religious persuasion) is up from 8% in 1990 to 15% in 2008. Of concern to evangelicals in particular is the fact that 15.8% of those surveyed identified themselves as Baptists, down from 19.3% in 1990. Those who identified themselves as non-denominational remained about the same (14.2%) since 1990. Of course, there is a lot more to this survey than these facts, but these are the pertinent facts when it comes to those of us who do evangelism.

It’s not surprising that the media is using this information as a sort of pealing death knell of Christianity in this nation. Already, those who identify themselves as “nones” seem to be taking this news as validation for their stance. On Tuesday I ran into an agnostic who attempted to rub this in my face as proof that Christianity is losing ground. What did I have to say to that?

Well, here’s what I have to say to that. It’s far worse than the news media and ARIS reports. Everyone who is a pastor of a Southern Baptist church knows that it’s worse. 15.8% of the respondents might consider themselves Baptist, but how many of these are attending church on anything approaching a regular basis? In recent years, the bloated membership rolls of Southern Baptist churches have been an issue at the annual convention. There is a debate on how to count noses; do you count people who became members and who never attend church or don’t you? Apparently, the SBC is content to count them and it’s more than likely that as long as they are considered true blue members by the leadership of the SBC, they consider themselves members as well.

Can someone be considered a Christian who has no desire to align themselves with a local church? The Bible doesn’t seem to teach that they can. In fact, if someone hates his brother, he is considered a murderer, by God’s standard (1 Jn. 3:15). Most professing believers do not attend church because they harbor bitterness in their hearts and in fact hate church members and leadership. This violates the spirit of the Sixth Commandment regarding murder.

So, it’s probably much, much worse than the survey reports in terms of active membership. But we can KNOW it is far worse because of what Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-23. He said that “many” will go to Hell with the hope of Heaven, calling Him “Lord” as they do so, pointing to their apparently supernatural works. Identifying oneself as a Christian in a survey no more makes one a Christian than me calling myself the President of the United States makes it true either.

How many Christians are there in America? Pollsters will never get it right. Since the Scriptures teach that no one can evaluate another’s true spiritual condition before God, but are instead called upon to “examine themselves” (2 Cor. 13:5), polling Christians about their beliefs is a fool’s errand. Only the Lord can accurately assess who is a true follower and who is not (Jn. 2:23-25). And when He does do that on that great day of reckoning, there will be many surprises.

It’s extremely tempting to look at this poll and say, “See, this is what happens when you don’t evangelize.” Since only 2% of Christians evangelize to begin with, it’s only natural to conclude that we’re going backwards statistically. But ultimately salvation is of the Lord and if He wants to save the lost He can make the rocks cry out and testify even if His professing children won’t. The 2% statistic may be far more accurate in gauging who is a Christian in this nation and who is not.

It is highly ironic that the non-denominational sub-group has held steady over 18 years in spite of the growth of the so-called “mega-churches”. All of the money spent on high power praise bands, lighting, facilities, pastors in trendy clothes, expensive youth programs, media ad infinitum has resulted in zero gain over the last 18 years. If you are a seeker sensitive church guru reading this, my challenge to you is, “Why not just start following the Bible? It can’t be any worse than what you’re doing now.” No, I take that back. It will be worse. The people you have drawn with cotton candy will leave when the solid meat is brought out. But do it anyway, your budgets and big box cathedrals be damned. They are anyway.

It’s probably too late for American Christianity. It’s bankrupt and far worse than ARIS realizes. The only problem is that most who actually espouse American Christianity sound a lot like the church in Laodicea; “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” As the Lord Himself says, we “knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). The only remedy is a tidal wave of true repentance (Rev. 3:19).

Jon Speed

 2009/4/9 17:21Profile

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