Death of Christianity in America ‘Greatly Exaggerated?’

April 8, 2009 — 2 Comments

Newsweek Magazine, April 13, 2009 edition, has an ominous cover story:  The Decline and Fall of Christian America: How a reduction in religious affiliation will change the U.S. cover There has been a lot of press lately from major  surveys documenting decline in numbers of affiliated Christians and the increase of those openly NOT.  Dave Olson,  soon to be head of the Evangelical Covenant’s Church Growth and Evangelism Department, has written a book called The American Church Crisis – where he asserts after a study of 200,000 churches that attendance in America is half of what is usually reported by polls and church denominations.  The ARIS (American Religious Identification Survey, 2008) is the most recent study (quoted in the Newsweek article.)  You might want to read it for yourself , instead of being told what it says!)  Despite the sensational title, the Newsweek author, Jon Meacham,  is making a  point that is actually positive in some ways.  He is trying to say that there is a difference between Christianity and Christian America (as often defined.)

I certainly weep over  the depletion of the Judeo-Christian moral reservoir in our culture. But I applaud the fact that more people are un-linking Christianity from a false political hope.  I believe God is calling us to purity and commitment through the demonstration of the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus.  Our hope is not in high poll numbers!  A Southern Baptist leader quoted by Meachem said there is a “new post-Christian  narrative that is animating large portions of this society.”

Our goal needs to be the recovery of the  authentic Biblical narrative, the story that we are designed for good, damaged by evil, restored by Christ, and sent together to heal. The Story that we can truly FIND ourselves in!  (see my posts on Gospel)

Meachem also quotes an earlier work by Christian historians,  The Search For Christian America:

How to balance concern for the garden of the church with the moral imperatives to make gentle the life of the world is one of the most perplexing questions facing the church. “We have important obligations to do whatever we can, including through the use of political means, to help our neighbors-promoting just laws, good order, peace, education and opportunity,” wrote Noll, Hatch and Marsden. “Nonetheless we should recognize that as we work for the relatively better in ‘the city of the world,’ our successes will be just that-relative. In the last analysis the church declares that the solutions offered by the nations of the world are always transitory solutions, themselves in need of reform.”

Read the whole Newsweek article in light of the vision of Christ Church , “to build compassionate Christian communities that transform lives and bring hope to the world.”

Jesus is alive!!  Reports of HIS death are definitely exaggerated!


2 responses to Death of Christianity in America ‘Greatly Exaggerated?’

    Howard Burgoyne April 10, 2009 at 1:19 am

    Lyle, thanks for your post and reflections – I have not read the article yet, but plan to this weekend.

    Some reported that Jesus had not died, only fainted – so reports of his death were underrated – and the reports of his resurrection were disbelieved – and so the Church proclaims throughout history:

    Christ has died
    Christ is risen (notice the tenses)
    Christ shall come again!

    Have a great weekend preaching the death and rising of Jesus!


    Maybe we are becoming the “Gideon” nation. Remember when God’s plan for Gideon’s army was to reduce them to a ridiculously small number before reporting for battle? Imagine the polls in his local press? “Insane battle commander sends majority of troops home prior to battle of the century. Details at 11.”

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