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3.09.2009

America becoming less Christain

Interesting article on the decline of Christianity in America. 75% of Americans consider themselves Christian today versus 86% in 1990. Personally, I'm a little surprised that the number is so high, but I work and study in academia which is often a very anti-religious place. On the bright side, one source in the article says the economic downturn will bring people back to church...

Thoughts?

9 comments:

Nick Nelson said...

I need to preface this by saying that I am feeling very cynical today. I guess I am not that surprised that such a high percentage of the American population identifies itself as christian. But I am actually dismayed by it. 75% of our country is certainly not christian if the definition is people who follow Jesus and seek to manifest His Kingdom. Rather this 75% is made up in large part by the cultural Christians of the bible belt or the religous who draw life from the "rightness" of their beliefs rather than the love of Christ; in effect loving their religion more than Jesus (with disastrous consequences). Neither looks like Jesus. However it is all done in the name of Jesus, which ends up really ostracizing that 25%.

Adam Newby said...

Based on previous quotes from the guys who did the survey, they think it is due to the fact that many Americans are simply deciding to be honest about how they have always lived. So it's not that "fewer" people are Christian. It's just that "more" people are being honest about their actual individual beliefs and faith (or lack of such) instead of identifying with some group mentality. Here is the article with the quotes (It's very short. Will take you 60 seconds to read):

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/religion/post/2009/03/63756713/1

Here's one 1993 quote from Lachman, one of the guys who compiled the report:

"The American tradition is to identify with a faith, and yet often it's a superficial attachment with no understanding of what a religion means for behavior or lifestyle."

Dan Jones said...

I struggle with percentages and numbers. I feel its our modern world still influenceing our desire to "measure and observe". That being said, I wonder if this is more of a reflection of many Christian herritages rather then a way of life. This may bethe problem, can a "way of life" be reflect in these tupes of statistics? I find that difficult to believe.

-dj

Zack said...

Dan I'd agree we can't completely rely on statistics for things as subjective as this; however I think we can glean some interesting information from these sorts of statistics. I agree though we can not at all determine ways of life only what people actually say.

Adam if what you say is true then I think we should really be happy about the decline. The that people who could really care less, but just say they are Christian because it is easy (and maybe they fear hell just enough to say the believe in God hoping that's enough) that disassociate with Christianity the more appealing authentic Christianity will become.

Yet who am I to say what's authentic Christianity and what's not.

Adam Newby said...

I didn't say it. The guys who did the study said it. Which I think is important to point out. Because American Christianity will use this study to say, "See, we're losing ground." But according to the actual guys who did the actual study, that's not the case. To them, it seems Christianity never held the ground to begin with.

Adam Newby said...

I didn't say that to be defensive or anything. I just meant to say I haven't really formed a definitive opinion on what these observations mean. I was just passing on the researcher's opinions. Which I think is valuable information.

NancyJ said...

I really thought about Zack's last statement "Yet who am I to say what's authentic Christianity and what's not."

What is authentic Christianity? And is it obvious when someone is following Jesus?

I haven’t called myself a Christian for a really long time. It hasn’t come up. Perhaps it feels like too narrow of a definition; as it unfortunately has all kinds of negative stereotypes for me.

However, if I try to explain that I am “Emergent”…Well let’s just say that’s not easy.

For the 75% who still categorize themselves as Christian— there probably are many who fall into the definition Nick Nelson made..."who draw life from the "rightness" of their beliefs rather than the love of Christ...loving their religion more than Jesus."

I guess it is possible that it could be more damaging to be the wrong kind of Christian than to be in the none category? (I am not concluded on this.)

My nephew wrote me an e-mail recently and stunned me with this statement… I really think the only way to experience Joy is to limit our expectations for how to live for God and then just be moved with God's breath.”

Not easy! But what would happen if we did?

Nick Nelson said...

In regards to Nancy's question, "What is authentic Christianity? And is it obvious when someone is following Jesus? "

I think that the answer to the second half is yes, but the answer to the first is more difficult. In other words, someone who is a christian, or perhaps the preferred term is Jesus follower, is going to live their life in a way that manifests the Kingdom of God. The Bible paints a clear picture that the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world are radically different, in fact they are diametrically opposed. So the person living their life in a way that manifests the kingdom is going to look different from the world and it will noticeable. However, the picture of what this looks like isn't cut and dry. I don't think it has anything to do with the normal moralistic distinctions "christians" love to pat themselves on the back for (drinking, smoking, anti-gay, etc). It has far more to do with the radical, outrageous, scandalous love of the cross (see Matt 25:31-46 or Isaiah 58 for example). The mark of Kingdom citizens is that kind of love.

And the thing is, is that that love can flow from God, through us, to others regardless of where we are behavior wise. I do believe that there are ways to "behave" that are pleasing to God and he patiently grows us in these. We are called to be perfect as Christ was perfect, obviously a high call. But that means we should only compare "how we are doing spiritually" with Jesus, not one another. And because He came for the broken, it isn't moral "goodness" or "rightness" that necessarily marks His people (that comes with time and if people are always joining the Kingdom, it may look a little messy), but their love.

All that said, if someone tells me they are a christian, I will believe they are sincere, not judge them to not "really" be one (just perhaps misled).

Zack said...

another interesting article on this:
http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2009/03/the_end_of_evan.html