Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The decline of Christian America?

During Holy Week usually Time or Newsweek usually share a cover story about religion. Newsweek delivered this year with a cover article called “The End of Christian America” written by Jon Meacham. The cover of the article had the words, “The End of Christian America” in red and in the form of a cross against a black backdrop.

The link to the article is here: http://www.newsweek.com/id/192583

The article (I read the on-line version) must have generated quite a bit of reaction as Meacham was compelled to share a short response to the reaction. In his response he said in his cover story he was arguing two things:
1) that new data suggested that the percentage of Americans who self-identify as Christians has been falling and
2) the political project undertaken by politically and theologically conservative Christians in the wake of Roe v. Wade—what we call, in cultural and political shorthand, the rise of the religious right—has failed.
His response can be found here:

In a very detailed blog, Greg Boyd shared six reasons why American should not weep over the demise of American Christianity. His blog is here: http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/

There is way too much in Meacham’s article for me to reflect on in a short blog. I would like to share some very brief reflections on this term “Christian America.”

When I hear the term, “Christian America” my mind often thinks of the book, “the Scarlet Letter.” I think of Hester Prynne (a main character in that book) having a red “A” emblazoned on her clothes and being imprisoned by Christians for committing adultery.

I’m confident that most Americans do not want to see this type of “Christian America.”

However I am concerned that the percentage of Americans who self-identify themselves as Christians has fallen. I’m not surprised when I hear that young people (between 18 and 30) do not believe as strongly as the generations before them and some even have a hostile view towards the church. David Kinnaman made this argument in his book, “Unchristian.”

Clearly something is changing in American culture regarding our views about God and the church.

I’m happy if the religious right has less control over our culture and politics; I’m very concerned if belief in God decreases and if the church’s influence in the world decreases (particularly the main-line church).

At a minimum we in the church (especially the main-line church) have to do much better at understanding what is happening in our culture regarding people’s beliefs about God and the church. I certainly don’t claim to have the answers, but I am certainly willing to work with others at understanding this more clearly.

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