Last week there was much discussion in the electronic and print media on the so-called collapse of Christianity in America. The precipitating cause for this media kerfuffle was the release of the Pew Research Center’s newest report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.”
Overall, the percentage of American adults (over 18) who self-identify as Christian has dropped about 8 points between 2000 and 2014, from 78.4% to 70.6%.
This decline has been accompanied by a significant increase in the same time period of the percentage of American adults who no longer associated with any religious faith (religiously “unaffiliated”) grew from 16.1% to 22.8%.
Furthermore, this decline of “Christians” and rise of “unaffiliated” increases with each succeeding generation (Silent [1928-1945], Baby Boomers [1946-1964], Generation X [1965-1980], and Millennials [1981-1996], having lower “Christian” percentages and higher “unaffiliated.”)
This holds particularly true with the Millennial Generation, with older Millennials (1980-1989) being slightly more “Christian” (57% to 57%) and slightly less “unaffiliated” (34% to 36%) than younger Millennials (1990-1996).
Clearly, cultural Christianity is losing ground, numbers, and influence in the United States. And this is not good news for America. A more secular, less “Christian” America will become less exceptional, less altruistic, and more self-centered, self-absorbed, and disconnected.
In a separate Pew poll, 72% of American felt that religion was losing “influence” in American life (an increase by 20% from as recently as 2002) and 56% of these people thought that lost influence was a negative for the country.
Cultural Christianity can exert, and most of the time has, a positive input on culture.
Ironically, even avowed atheists have acknowledged the positive influence Christianity has had on Western culture. Communist China’s Academy of Social Sciences testified recently about this phenomenon:
We were asked to look into what accounted for the preeminence of the West all over the world. At first we thought it was because you had more powerful guns then we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past 20 years we have realized the heart of your culture is your religion, Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to Democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.
Most Americans have taken this cultural Christianity for granted because it has always been part of the landscape, the furniture in the room. For most of our history as a nation, and certainly for the life-span of most living Americans, being a part of a Christian congregation, Catholic or Protestant, added real social value to a family, regardless of whatever spiritual blessings they may have derived. Church membership provided positive, reinforcing social networks, conferred respect within the neighborhood and community, and often produced positive benefits in the workplace by providing networks and business contacts. Conversely, church membership almost never generated negative feedback. Now, in an increasingly intolerant, secularizing America, if you or your church supports traditional marriage and does not affirm same-sex relationships, you might very well be shunned socially and fined, punished, demoted, or fired at work and be labeled as homophobic and a bigot.
While in the past church affiliation traditionally has been a social positive, now, and increasingly in the future, following Christ faithfully and openly may generate social negatives and sacrifices rather than positives and rewards.
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SOURCE: The Christian Post