If you read newspaper headlines generated by a recent (Pew Research Center) study, America’s Changing Religious Landscape, you may think it’s all over for Christianity. The Washington Post ran the story “Christianity faces sharp decline as Americans becoming even less affiliated with religion.”
Sounds like we’re almost ready to say, “…would the last Christian to leave America please turn off the lights!” However, the article tends to skew and sensationalise the situation. To be fair, the Washington Post ran an editorial a couple of weeks later that restored some of the balance.
For an even better summary of events (and a more accurate interpretation of the data) the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commissionposted the following article, “No, evangelicalism isn’t in decline.”
In summary, the Pew Research highlighted the fact that “mainline Christianity,” sometimes called nominal or liberal Christianity is in decline. Not as drastically as the headlines would suggest, but even taking this into account my sadness was tempered with a shrug of satisfaction. Why? Maybe we’re starting to see a more accurate picture of Christian faith in America.
Nominal Christianity is synonymous with luke-warm Christianity. As the culture is increasingly hostile to those who believe the Bible and follow Jesus Christ, individual Christian faith cranks up or cools down. Soon there will be no middle ground. When Christianity is luke-warm it’s always easier to spit-out. That’s why evangelical Christianity is holding steady or on the rise. These kinds of commitments are not borne out of religion or tradition. Ask evangelical Christians about the anchor for their faith and they’ll talk about a relationship with the living God – that’s not so easy to walk away from.
So when Christianity is described as “on the slippery slope into oblivion,” smile and remind people that Christian faith has outlived every individual – around the world and throughout history - who decided to write its obituary.
It was supposed to have been withered up at last in the dry light of the Age of Reason; it was supposed to have disappeared ultimately in the earthquake of the Age of Revolution. Science explained it away; and it was still there. History disinterred it in the past; and it appeared suddenly in the future. Today it stands once more in our path; and even as we watch it, it grows.
Author and speaker.