Post Christian America

Many of you may have probably seen the feature story that ran in Newsweek titled ‘The End of Christian America.’ Jon Meacham sites statistics that show that in the last 20 years individuals identifying themselves as Christians have fallen 10 percentage points in our country and Americans claiming no religious affiliation have doubled since 1990.

Meacham writes:

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.

Two thirds of the public (68 percent) now say religion is “losing influence” in American society… 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.

The rising numbers of religiously unaffiliated Americans are people more apt to call themselves “spiritual” rather than “religious.”

Writing about the political dreams of what was dubbed the ‘Moral Majority,’ he comments:

Fearing the coming of a Europe-like secular state, the right longed to engineer a return to what it believed was a Christian America of yore…. But that project has failed, at least for now.

He closes the article by quoting Al Mohler, the president of Southern Seminary:

“What we are seeing now is the evidence of a pattern that began a very long time ago of intellectual and cultural and political changes in thought and mind. The conditions have changed. Hard to pinpoint where, but whatever came after the Enlightenment was going to be very different than what came before.” And what comes next here, with the ranks of professing Christians in decline, is going to be different, too.

Mark Driscoll, a pastor at Mars Hill in Seattle, recently responded to Meacham’s piece in an article he wrote for fox news, Has Christian America Come to an End?

He writes:

I do not find the report surprising or discouraging. Newsweek missed the subtle — but vital — difference between Christian America and Christendom America.

Christian America is comprised of those people who have had a truly transforming experience with Jesus Christ and are living new lives as practicing Christians….

Christendom America is comprised of those people who have not had a truly transforming experience with Jesus Christ and are living lives virtually indistinguishable from those who are non-Christians. The confusion is that it was common in Christendom for people who did not practice Christianity to profess Christianity. This was often done for social reasons, such as living in a culture that expected church affiliation, being born into a religious tradition and assuming it was simply part of one’s identity (like a cultural or racial connection), or personally, socially, and vocationally benefitting from being connected, even loosely, to a church or denomination.

With the social benefits of professing to be a Christian no longer in place and the social stigma of not professing to be a Christian now lifted, those who were part of Christendom America are simply no longer pretending to be part of Christian America.
Since those who professed faith but did not practice faith were confusing to account for, this is actually a good thing. Now, it is more likely that if someone is a Christian or non-Christian, he or she will state so plainly….

Therefore, the number of Christians has likely not diminished as much as has been reported, but rather we are seeing an increasingly accurate accounting of actual Christian America.

Regardless of whether you resonate more with Meacham who sees these developments as a failure to procure a truly Christian political society, or with Driscoll who sees them as the reality of the spiritual situation in America finally shining through the fog, the undeniable conclusion is that our culture, at this very moment, is changing. The cultural at large is shifting. The baseline assumptions of the majority of people is moving from a Judeo-Christian worldview to Post-Christian assumptions and presuppositions.

DA Carson, a seminary professor at Trinity Evangelical once said that 40 years ago when you were talking to an atheist, you could assume he was a good Christian atheist – that is, the God he dis-believed in was our God. The conversation was still on our turf. Those times have passed.

There are a number of interesting and important questions wrapped up in the onset of a Post-Christian America. When I blog again next Tuesday I will try to address the question: How must our presentation of Christ and his gospel change in lieu of a culture that is becoming more and more “Post-Christian.”

Until then, here is a question to ponder (and comment on if you are so inclined):
Is the emergence of “Post-Christian America” a good thing or not?

Thanks for reading.

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