Thursday, May 14, 2015

Is America 70% Christian?

There has been much talk about a recent nationwide poll that reveals that the number of Americans who self-identify as "Christian" has dropped to 70%, the lowest such percentage since these types of polls have been asking the question. It should be noted that the methodology employed by the pollsters might raise questions about its accuracy. The subjects were contacted using land line telephone numbers. The last time I picked up an actual ringing land line in my home was when George W. Bush was still in the White House! But if anything, this methodology would have the result of yielding more traditional Christians than fewer since it would favor older respondents. So, I find the results of the poll to be believable. So, what's the big deal?

The suggestion that America is becoming less and less Christian in nominal terms should surprise absolutely no one. Over the past twenty five years, the Catholic Church has been decimated by a priest sex scandal, no doubt disillusioning many. Mainline Protestant churches haven't faired much better, with practically every denomination experiencing declines in membership and attendance. And yet, in my part of the country, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting one of those strip-mall churches that have sprouted up like mushrooms after three days of rain. They are everywhere, in schools, old Seven-Elevens, abandoned warehouses, with names like "Velocity" and "Movement"...sounds exhausting! These non-demonization, mini-congregations offer church for people who wouldn't normally attend one, I'm told. Either that or they serve as a place for people to go after they got tired of their old church. Either way, it seems that less than gaining new converts, modern Christianity has become a mile wide and an inch deep. So, 70%? I'm thinking that might be a little high.

I have no answer to the problem of the declining popularity of Christianity. Partly because I'm not even sure it's a problem to begin with. Whoever said that being hugely popular and mainstream was so great? I can make a case that the Christian "church" was much more effective at changing people's hearts and minds and transforming lives back when we were a persecuted band of outcasts. ( See the Book of Acts ). The beginning of the end for transformational Christianity began the night that Constantine saw the comet and Christianity began its long ascendancy to power and wealth. Seems to me that even Christ himself warned us that, "broad is the way that leads to destruction and many will find it, but narrow is the way to the Kingdom of God and FEW will find it," ...or words to that effect.

Maybe Christianity has tried to get too cute with all the jazzy entertainment driven services, or maybe not. Maybe prosperity gospel heretics like Joel Osteen have muddied the theological waters so as to make sacrificial Christianity unrecogizable. Or maybe, in this new era of relativism, any dogmatic orthodoxy will naturally fall out of favor. What do I know? I'm no expert.

But, there is a sense in my heart that something is wrong. It's as if the Titantic is sinking and the
Christian Church is busy rearranging the deck chairs. I live in a world that is morally unrecogizable from the one in which a I grew up. I watch my cities on fire with discontent, read stories of truly epic corruption and self-serving in the halls of power. But when I go to church I hear sermons with little relevance to what I see happening around me. There is no connection to the real world, only my more secure, less violent slice of it. That's not comforting, it's boring.

70%? Yeah, definitely on the high side.