A decline of Christianity in Western Civilization?

The Pew survey on religious affiliation has landed like a bomb within the internet and the subsequent explosion has invited much discussion within the past week over the shrapnel.

“The Christian share of adults in the United States has declined sharply since 2007, affecting nearly all major Christian traditions and denominations, and crossing age, race and region, according to an extensive survey by the Pew Research Center.  Seventy-one percent of American adults were Christian in 2014, the lowest estimate from any sizable survey to date, and a decline of 5 million adults and 8 percentage points since a similar Pew survey in 2007,” reported the New York Times.  The survey included 35,000 adults.

Religious leaders, pundits and other interested parties are working to interpret and dissect what appears to be a considerable, generalized worldview change within our culture.

The rise of the “nones” or people with no stated religious affiliation has stunned many commentators because of the category’s rate of growth.  “And in Pew’s most surprising finding, those identifying as atheists, agnostics or ‘nothing in particular’ rose to 22.8 percent of respondents, a total seven-year increase of 6.7 percent. The ‘nothing in particular’ camp — called ‘religiously ambivalent’ — saw the greatest increase, gaining 3.7 percent of Americans,” noted Ivan Plis for “The Daily Caller”.

With a growing amount of secularization, Christianity Today honed in on one specific category of US Protestants which, they demonstrate, has remained relatively steady:  that of Evangelicals. “Over the past seven years, evangelicals have lost less than 1 percent of their share of the population, holding steady at about 1 in 4 American adults (25.4% in 2014, vs. 26.3% in 2007) and preserving their status as the nation’s largest religious group…Evangelical churches also added more than 2 million people to their ranks, up from 59.8 million in 2007 to 62.2 million in 2014. Meanwhile, mainline churches lost 5 million people. ‘As a result, evangelicals now constitute a clear majority (55%) of all US Protestants,’ noted Pew.”

And Ross Douthat, an op-ed columnist and author of the insightful book “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics” writes, “What’s in steepest decline is affiliation, not religious practice. What we’re clearly seeing happen, in Bible Belt environs as well as on the liberal coasts, is people who once would have identified as Christians socially (as Christmas-and-Easter Methodists, cultural Catholics, etc.) are now dropping the label altogether…Instead, what’s happening is that American Christianity is losing more and more of its penumbra while retaining more of its core (albeit an aging core, in many cases) than trends in identification alone suggest.”

No matter what elements of data commentators may choose to bring out in the survey or regardless of how numbers are spun, the decline of Christianity in America appears to be moving forward.  Prophetic, future-telling imaginations may be invoked to suggest that once the Millennial generation grows up, they will return to the faith but there are no guarantees of what the future will hold for Biblical faith in America.

What are the trends/ideas/general aspects causing Christianity’s decline?  There is talk about the politicization of Christianity- specifically by the right wing although the left is not foreign to this hijacking either- being a significant culprit toward turning people off to the church.  Science has been mentioned as moving people away from faith and presumably toward a philosophical naturalism however, if this is the case, a naturalistic worldview is a philosophy, not necessarily provable according to the scientific method.  Sexuality or changing morals related to “getting it on” in the aftermath of the sexual revolution may be another culprit in turning people away from the Christian faith.

Sorting through these articles reminded me of a retreat I went on with Seed Church this year.  The guest speaker was Kent Carlson who pastors Oak Hills Church in Folsom, California. During the first session, he stated- my paraphrase-, “Christendom in America, as we know it, is over.  And this could be a very great thing.”  He went on to describe how the Christian faith has often flourished as a minority religion and, in the past, even as an illegal faith in other places.

I imagine that the only individuals threatened by a survey implying that less of America is Christian are those who want to use Jesus and His Kingdom values as a “power religion”.  These are the groups and personalities who take hot-button political issues like abortion or same-sex marriage or other political topics and use them as a litmus test for judging whether someone has true faith in Christ.  Historically, these political groups have used Christians as a reliable voting bloc for their political agenda.  This appears to be phasing out and that is, indeed, a positive thing.  Jesus Himself stated to Pontius Pilate in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”  As a side note:  I’m not saying Christians should not vote or be involved in the political process.  Obviously, we should look to Christ and our values however we must also recognize that the Body of Christ can be quite diverse related to political opinions for 21st century America.

With Christianity apparently in decline, nothing changes about the mission of the church: loving God, loving our neighbors, sincerely trying to help the poor while discussing and seeking to change the factors that create poverty, being an advocate for orphans and widows, choosing empathy for people who are oppressed, and dialoguing about our Savior Jesus to people interested in talking.

The beautiful picture of church life communicated in Acts 2:42-47 will prayerfully continue regardless of whether Christianity as a whole is in decline: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

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About dangeroushope

Striving to follow Christ, love people and learn more about the world.
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8 Responses to A decline of Christianity in Western Civilization?

  1. hopefully it declines more
    Christians basically teach men that real men are
    homemakers
    real men lead in cooking, homemaking, child care etc
    aka real men feminise themselves

    any man with an IQ of 1 can see that the bible does not teach that, it is just a scheme to please women who seek to be men and have careers.

    I for one am Glad Christianity in the west is declining, any teaching that results in ” real men stay at home and change diapers” etc is clearly led by Satan and Not God…

    • What church in the west has taught that “real men stay home and change diapers”? Most churches (based on men and women being made in the image of God) encourage shared household responsibilities between the husband and wife.

      • Jonathan says:

        Titus 2:5 does not talk much about sharing homemaking and childcare…
        No where in the bible are men commanded to do homemaking…
        Yet Christians teach this….

      • Jonathan says:

        Not to mention
        Thru pretend Adam and Eve did not have different tasks even though the curse shows they did as they were cursed differently….

        Christians naively teach men and women to live with each other in a genderless feminist manner with no difference and disguise it as servant leadership or real love

        Men see that no single couple or author on the bible advocated for that or live like that
        Why should they attend churches since all it does it caters to women’s sin and their desire to be a man…

      • yes men and women are made in God’s image but they were not designed to be interchangeable…
        if so why did God create Eve?
        He could have just created Adam
        no wonder Christian think gay marriage is fine
        most live in same sex marriages with their shared household responsibilities with no Gender difference…
        even the P31 woman worked in addition to homemaking
        not worked so her husband could do homemaking
        her goal was to assist her husband
        not make him do her role so she can work as most women and churches teach…

        you would think people who claim to be Christians would read their bible
        my most Churches logic , most of our church fathers would not be Godly because they left homemaking and childcare to their wife and worked instead of taking a domestic and childcare class that churches make men attend…

        Men were created to work, lead and use the earth, before Eve even came along…

        shared responsibilities… based on which verse?

        you attend Capitol Hill Baptist?
        or am I wrong
        if you do, your church has an article on single men at 9 marks
        saying homemaking and childcare is the man’s responsibility …

        even though such is not taught in the bible, so much for being biblical

  2. I do not live in Washington DC and therefore, do not attend Capitol Hill Baptist. Based upon your responses, there are a lot of issues being conflated and there is a lot more hermeneutical complexity.

    For instance, do you believe that women should remain absolutely silent while in the church? (1 Timothy 1:11-13) Do you believe that women receive salvation through child bearing? (1 Timothy 2:15) Do you believe that women should wear headcoverings? (1 Cor 11:4-6)

    All of these passages have interpretative challenges when we ask how to apply them? Were they for the time that Paul and Timothy were writing? Are they universal principles? How can we tell the difference? That is a long conversation.

    The debate about men and women’s roles have nothing to do with gay marriage or sexuality in general. They are separate issues.

    I don’t believe anyone disputes that men and women are different- physically and biologically (IE how they were created). Since they are different physically, the curse applies differently. Also, the reason God said that Eve came from Adam’s rib is because “it was not good for man to be alone”. God created human beings as being relational and needing relationships (marriage, friendships,communities, etc). Jesus stated that the greatest command was to love God and love other people. This directly involves relationships with both our Creator and each other.

    Servant leadership is extremely Biblical. We are all to imitate Christ (Ephesians 5:1). Jesus Christ took the lowliest role of a servant and washed His disciples feet (John 13:1-17). If we are to imitate and take the mentality of Jesus, shouldn’t we love and serve our wives? Should a husband never take care of the kids? Should a husband never cook a meal for his wife? Should a husband never mow the lawn or do yard work at the home? Are you saying a wife should do all these things?

    Also, check out Ephesian 5:21-6:27: “21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

    22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

    25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

    Note that the verse before the passage about husbands and wives says “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

    • it says submit to one another
      then outline how it works
      wives to husbands
      children to parents
      etc

      unless you think Parents are to SUBMIT to a 1 year old
      or Christ submits to the sinful desires of the church!
      ( husband mean’t to emulate christ, wives the church-EPH 5)
      yes it actually does

      gay marriage is built on the idea that roles do not exist and marriage does not necessitate a male and female because a husband can be a wife and a wife a husband ( shares responsibilities)

      and if women get to pretend Titus 2:5 does not apply
      gays get to pretend Romans 1 does not apply
      you cannot pick and choose

  3. I don’t read Ephesians 5:21 and then going into Ephesians 6 that way. I think Paul is announcing the universal principle of “submission to one another” and then goes into a local issue that the Ephesian church was dealing with. The “therefore” indicates a change in thought process and moves into talking about relationships but the “therefore” is announcing the universal principle.

    The other question is: why does submission have to refer to someone giving somebody else an authoritarian type control? Does it have to mean that? Or can it mean “respect”? In the Ephesians 6 passage, it doesn’t tell wives to love their husbands….but don’t you think wives should love their husbands? Especially given the greatest commandment “love your neighbor as yourself” and the core principle of God being that He is love (1 John 4:8). In the same way, shouldn’t husbands respect their wife and also respect their children? This doesn’t mean you give into your child’s demands as a parent but I don’t read these things as an authoritarian type of control over submissive subjects.

    Gay marriage still, in my opinion, doesn’t have anything to do with this debate. Christians can believe and interpret what I do above and still view homosexual sex as sinful (just like adultery, fornication, lustful thoughts, etc are all sinful as well).

    Speaking of picking and choosing…you still have not answered these questions:

    “For instance, do you believe that women should remain absolutely silent while in the church? (1 Timothy 1:11-13) Do you believe that women receive salvation through child bearing? (1 Timothy 2:15) Do you believe that women should wear headcoverings? (1 Cor 11:4-6)”

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