Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Percent of Americans Claiming to Be Christian Down - Don't Worry - This is a Good Thing!

 God May Be Winnowing The Wheat From the Chaff
 It wasn't the Christmas present most believing Christians wanted to find under their tree, but if you read between the lines and analyze the statistics, you might find it's a wondrous gift indeed, for those who really believe.
The Harris Poll of more than 2,000 Americans is about as reliable as any poll you're likely to find.  They know what they're doing, and they have people on board skilled at asking questions which are honest - they don't lean toward a pre-ordained goal.  So when they issued their new national poll on faith and belief in America earlier today, I paid attention.

This new Harris poll shows several significant and downward trends in levels of belief among Americans.  Many Christians will view this with alarm, but I think this has something positive for us.  In the past, many Americans have claimed Christianity as their faith, but they are what my friend, Pastor David Rogers, calls "cultural Christians," people who go through the motions without ever taking a leap of faith and making Christ a part of their lives in any meaningful way.  
Now, with the rise in secularism in America, I think that the number of fair-weather Christians - what I'd like to call CINOs – Christians In Name Only - is declining.   
This could mean that we’re in a time of winnowing, a time where God is separating the wheat from the chaff.  Those looking for the Second Coming may see this as a sign (one among many) of the coming End Times, but I'm not expert enough in that area to even offer an opinion.  However, it seems clear that the ability of Christianity to exert secular influence is declining.  Sure, an activist group of believing Christians just got Cracker Barrel to reverse its stance on Duck Dynasty - it takes far fewer than a majority to be effective at influencing specific groups around specific issues, as GLAAD does all the time - but that's not the same thing as having a faith in God and Christ permeating our society or our government's decision-making.
It is obvious that the government of today is making decisions that would have been anathema to the Bible-believing Founding Fathers, who saw faith (not an "established church," but real faith) as essential in society, and a guiding influence for government.  Today, it's all but a secular sin to admit to having a committed faith, and official oppression of Christians (see some of the "rules" in Obamacare) has become the norm. 

To me, it seems that Christianity has always been strongest when there was a price to pay – only the strongest in their faith would hang tough when it wasn’t as easy and natural as Church on Sunday.  I’m not saying I want to pay a price for my faith, but as Christianity’s strength in America wanes (if the trends continue, and I believe they will), we will live in an increasingly secular society, one where the GLAADs and A&Es of the world will feel ever more justified (and safer) in attacking Christianity.  

That’s when we’ll see the sunshine Christians step aside.  That may be happening now.

The Poll itself shows some interesting numbers, statistics that demonstrate that many of those who profess to be Christians aren't really Christians after all - if I'm right, there's more winnowing to come.  Take a peak.

Three quarters of U.S. adults say they believe in God (down from 82 percent four years ago).  However, only 57 percent believe in the virgin birth, and 72 percent believe in miracles (down from 79 percent).  Only 68 percent believe in Heaven (down from 72 percent) - but amazingly, only 64 percent believe in the survival of the soul after death. That got me wondering - if you don't believe in the survival of the soul after death, what's the point in heaven?  

More numbers. While 75 percent say they believe in God, only 68 percent believe Jesus is God or the Son of God, and only 65 percent believe in the resurrection of Jesus.  Again, without belief in His divinity or resurrection, what is it that you DO believe?  I know Satan must be thrilled, though, because only 58 percent believe in him.
So who are these people? If you say you "believe," but don't believe in the Immaculate Conception (which means you don't believe Jesus was the Son of God), and don't believe in the resurrection (which means you don't believe there's salvation), what do you believe?  If you don't believe in these core tenets of the faith, are you really a Christian?
The decline in practicing "cultural Christians" - people who go through the motions without committing their soul to real believe in Christ - will hurt some churches.  Pews will be emptier and collection baskets will be thinner.  However, those churches have been the ones to "put on a show" for people, without actively engaging them and challenging them to walk in the shoes of Christ and his disciples.  
Other churches and faith-based movements, ones who can motivate their congregations and "convict" their members with an abiding belief in sin and redemption - those churches will prosper.  As our total numbers thin through this cultural winnowing process, those who remain (still, a hundred million or more, but way down from what it used to be) will want to come together, to share their faith and to be inspired by fellow believers.  This bodes well for the increase of planted churches and house churches, as well as for an increasingly active role, by Christians, in society.

I could be engaging in wishful thinking, but I believe what I'm saying to be largely true.  As the fairweather Christians fall by the wayside, it will be up to the rest of us to "take up the slack" in an increasingly secular and hostile world.   
I welcome your insights.

1 comment:

  1. The USA will follow the religious trend and numbers we are now seeing in Europe and should be matching them in another decade. This should also reflect a decline in the number of people that are Republican as well. 2016 could be seeing the beginning of the end for the Republican party.