"The End of Christian America" by Newsweek

This week Newsweek came out with a front page article entitled "The End of Christian America."
This article was prompted by the recent religious survey of Americans that we recently reported on. This survey showed that the percentage of Americans that identified themselves as having no religion has doubled in the last decade to 15% of the US population. This is but one of many signs pointing to the crumbling of Christendom in the US.

Here is an excerpt of the Newseek story:

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In Texas, authorities have decided to side with science, not theology, in a dispute over the teaching of evolution. The terrible economic times have not led to an increase in church attendance. In Iowa last Friday, the state Supreme Court ruled against a ban on same-sex marriage, a defeat for religious conservatives. Such evidence is what has believers fretting about the possibility of an age dominated by a newly muscular secularism.

"The moral teachings of Christianity have exerted an incalculable influence on Western civilization," Mohler says. "As those moral teachings fade into cultural memory, a secularized morality takes their place. Once Christianity is abandoned by a significant portion of the population, the moral landscape necessarily changes. For the better part of the 20th century, the nations of Western Europe led the way in the abandonment of Christian commitments. Christian moral reflexes and moral principles gave way to the loosening grip of a Christian memory. Now even that Christian memory is absent from the lives of millions."

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In the past, economic declines have led to people coming back to churches. This has not happened this time, the article points out--yet another sign of the religious decline in America. People are still "spiritual," but more and more they look to places other than churches to find God and self-actualization.

This means that churches can no longer adopt a mere "build it and they will come attitude." Today, I went on an exploration of the North Dallas area with a couple of our elders and two members of Mission Alive. One church in the Prosper area has devoted $20 million dollars to a new facility. With the decline in religion happening so rapidly, one cannot help wonder if these types of buildings--including our own--will be largely empty in 20-30 years.

Churches must learn to recapture our mission and share Christ with a world that increasingly does not him and is rejecting what it perceives--rightly or wrongly--as institutional Christianity. Church growth theory is dead and dying. Gathering up Christians from struggling churches will no longer be sufficient to replenish the pews. We must recapture mission as the heart of the church's purpose.

For my part, I would not say that I am eager to face this future, but I am ready. In truth, nominal Christianity, both in our fellowship and in the larger Christian world, is doing little for either God or believers. When laws start to go against us (as they already are) and our political leaders no longer support our causes, this may cause us to wake up and take our faith seriously. The line between believers and non-believers will sharpen. And this may be a good thing, making us realize that we must share Christ with those around us.

What do you think of the religious decline in America? Are you scared, stoice, indifferent, or excited, about the future?

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Comment by Sharon Dunlap on April 9, 2009 at 10:47pm
Bill you are an inspiration to all of us! We need optimisim in our lives & to remember we don't know the whole picture. Only our Lord does.
Comment by Bill Bowman on April 9, 2009 at 8:04pm
Perhaps the USA is following the pattern the Israelites followed in the book of Judges. After the good times, God caused hard times. They even became slaves. Then being brought to their knees they repented and came back to God. Good times were again experienced.

If we keep optimistic that God is in control, keep a smile on our faces, help people that cross our paths, our churches could resume a growth pattern with those who, after terrible times, realize Christ is the answer.
Bill Bowman
Comment by James Nored on April 9, 2009 at 11:35am
Dean, I'm not sure what you think that I was getting at. I am not blaming unbelievers for not supporting us. I am saying that the net result of laws changing is that we may wake up to the fact that we need to share Christ. I am not advocating laws as the way to convert people to Christ. If you are able to go back and look at other discussions, it might give you a good perspective on my views.

As to judgment, I am not inspired, and I am do not pretend to know certainly if some external event is from God, Satan, or our own sinfulness. I seek to examine my own life when bad things happen to see if I'm on the right path.

When there is sin in the local church, it is right for us to confront this. Paul, however, says that it is not our business, but God's, to judge those outside the church (1 Cor. 5).
Comment by Jason Whaley on April 9, 2009 at 9:10am
Hasn't Christianity always loved a crumbling empire? What if Christendom is that empire?

What doesn't kill Christianity makes it stronger.

Suffering produces endurance . . . character . . . and confident hope.

Yet . . . I, personally, am also grieving this decline. I feel like I've lost people I love or would've loved.

I'm grieved, yet confident in God that life can be born in this adversity.
Comment by Dean Smith on April 9, 2009 at 6:53am
"When laws start to go against us (as they already are) and our political leaders no longer support our causes"? Apparently you are part of that large contingent of Christians that refuses to believe that judgment has begun for the family of God (1 Peter 4:17). To assess this decline as some benign form of persecution only explains the decline. Let's hope we can wake up and accept God's judgment on our own idolatry instead of continuing our failed policy of blaming non-believers for not supporting us. Read the book of Acts. Where do you find that philosophy? It's time to restore the heart and perspective of the ancient church, one disciple at a time.

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