Six Cultural Trends That Are Rapidly Changing the Lives of American Christians

American Flag blowing in the wind of an approaching storm

John S. Dickerson is a journalist-turned-pastor and the author of a new book, Hope of Nations: Standing Strong in a Post-Truth, Post-Christian World (Zondervan, 2018). He should not be confused with the John F. Dickerson who co-hosts CBS This Morning, but F is the rare fair reporter in big-time media and S is also an excellent writer.

Five years ago, I praised John S. Dickerson’s first book, The Great Evangelical Recession (Baker, 2013), and quoted his good pastoral advice: “When someone is addicted to alcohol, pornography, marijuana, or illicit heterosexual sex, we tell them (if we are scripturally sound) they need Christ’s power to overcome that lifestyle. When someone from those same tribes comes to Christ, we expect them to be drawn to their former way of life. We expect that learning to walk with Christ will include some stumbles, falls, and retreats into those old entrenched patterns.”

He applied that to the LGBT debate: “A person must come to Christ, and then Christ can free them from their slavery. … Many evangelicals swap the cart and the horse—expecting homosexual unbelievers to overcome their behavior without the power of the cross or the Holy Spirit. … No matter what tribe an unbeliever belongs to, we should lovingly expect them to act like pagans until they come to Christ. … As with any tribe, don’t focus on changing behavior. Focus on changing relationship to God through Christ. … Don’t be surprised when you are hated and misunderstood about this issue. You will be.”

Now Dickerson argues that six trends are reshaping American culture. “My goal in stressing them is not to frighten anyone,” he says. “Rather, I believe God has called and appointed us into this precise moment in history, so that we can do great things for His Church and His Kingdom.” Here’s his summary of what we face. —Marvin Olasky

1. The decline of Christianity in the United States and Europe

Christians are dying faster than they are being replaced in the United States and dozens of other countries. Pew Research has also found that millions of Americans “switch away” from Christianity every decade, abandoning the faith of their childhood to identify as agnostic or non-religious: 2 in 3 young people brought up as Christians are disengaging from their faith between the ages of 18 and 29.

Additionally, the national way of thinking in the United States continues moving away from Christianity. This is why some researchers are using the term “post-Christian” to describe the United States and the West. The term does not mean no Christians remain, but rather that the cultural center has moved away from Christianity. At today’s rates, Christianity is on track to decrease as a percentage and in influence in the United States during the next 30 years.

2. The drift toward socialism within the United States

In the 2016 primaries, more young Americans voted for socialist candidate Bernie Sanders than for both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump combined. That was a quiet, almost unrecognized turning point in U.S. history—and an indication of the future electorate. Harvard researchers have documented that millennial Americans prefer socialism to capitalism. This preference for socialism is a first in U.S. history, and it is increasing with each younger generation.

The shift toward socialist candidates could begin as soon as 2020—the first presidential election in which millennials will eclipse baby boomers to become the largest voting bloc, though predicting the timing of this shift is impossible. Presently, boomer and older Americans are acting as a cultural dam, holding back a tide of social change. As boomer and older Americans pass away, this trend toward socialism is on course to accelerate because its opposition will be dying.

Socialism is just one feature on the emerging value set held by young Americans. This new value set is on track to displace the traditional American value set, reshaping society and law in the United States.

3. The civil war of ideologies in the United States

The majority of millennial and younger Americans view reality through a different lens than their boomer parents and grandparents. In my research, I titled these two distinct worldviews as the “truth-based” worldview and the “post-truth” worldview. (I am intentionally painting in broad strokes here and oversimplifying many nuances in generational beliefs.)

Many of the social and political divisions we are experiencing today in the United States trace back to this foundational difference in worldviews or ideologies. For example, post-truth thinkers do not root their argument in reason, but rather in emotion. A post-truth thinker defines what is right and even what is constitutional by a floating scaffolding of morals held by peers—rather than by any fact or written standard.

The post-truth way of thinking (or ideology) is already embraced by a slight majority of Americans, but it is overwhelmingly embraced by younger Americans. As such, the post-truth view is on course to redefine U.S. morals, elections and culture during the next decades.

4. The decline of whites in the American population

Any mention of this might sound racist to some, but a fourth demographic fact interplays with the first three: The number of whites is decreasing in Great Britain, Germany, and France, and now the United States is following suit. In the United States, this decline has less to do with immigration than some might assume. It is primarily the result of declining births by young white Americans—who are increasingly non-religious, increasingly aborting pregnancies, and waiting longer to have fewer children, if they have children at all.

In Europe, this trend of domestic population decline has fueled the continent’s need for immigrants from Muslim countries. Many European nations now need these immigrants to work in their factories, staff their retirement homes, and fuel their economies. The West’s domestic population changes correlate with two primary factors: the legalization of abortion and the cultural turn away from Christianity.

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SOURCE: WORLD Magazine, John S. Dickerson