The Last Days of Christian America

I don’t think anyone who lives in the United States can say that our country is a “Christian” nation. Yes, the country was founded on Judea-Christian principles. This is hard to dispute (though many of the founding fathers were Deists). But to label the USA a Christian nation . . . especially in 2013, is difficult to maintain.

Studies have shown that the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades. The foundations of America’s “Christianized” culture is falling apart. The Northwest of the USA has traditionally been anti-religious and anti-Christian. But the anti-religious culture of the Northwest has moved to the East in recent years.

Al Mohler, who is regarded as a major leader of the “Christian Right” has gone on record saying, “The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered. The so-called Judeo-Christian consensus of the last millennium has given way to a post-modern, post-Christian, post-Western cultural crisis which threatens the very heart of our culture . . . Clearly, there is a new narrative, a post-Christian narrative, that is animating large portions of this society.”

I believe Mohler is correct. I spend a lot of time traveling and talking to nonChristians and Christians alike and those conversations underscore that we are now living in a post-Christian culture. Christendom as we know it is dead.

The reason, I believe, lies chiefly in three areas:

1. Christians in general have sanctified, anointed, and protected out-dated traditions of church practice that are over 500 years old, refusing to come to terms with the fact that many of these traditions are not only irrelevant, ineffective, but they are also unbiblical.

2. Christians by and large fall into two categories: legalists and libertines. Legalists are self-righteous, judgmental, harsh, and mean-spirited; libertines live just like those who don’t follow Jesus live. In other words, libertines behave as if God doesn’t exist; legalists behave as if they were God. Both lack spiritual reality. Until we face this problem squarely, Christians will have little impact on the culture.

3. The horrific way that Christians treat each other and eat their own. This is perhaps the biggest problem of all. It’s why evangelical Christianity continues to fracture and lose members and influence.

It is going to take a major shaking of the Spirit of God to turn the tide on these two problems. Obedience, however, should never be delayed nor should it be contingent on waiting for the crowds to obey.

Each of us can choose to do business with our Lord in these areas and change course now.

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  • Jacob Froese

    Very interesting. I find it not offensive even though I have spent years in leadership positions in the church. God is alive and continues with us even as we learn some new parameters of our being.

  • C. H. Fisher

    It is with great interest that I read these posts on a topic that I have talked and written about many times. Commonly, when people discuss the issue of receding Christianity they begin by pointing to declining attendance at meetings and end with declining Christ-likeness in individual professing Christians. These are actually two completely different topics. George Barna at one point in addressing the problem appeared to be more concerned with meeting attendance (I refuse to call it church attendance) than with the waning evidence of actual Christianity. As long as individuals continue to believe that meeting attendance is the primary measurement of actual Christianity, the issue will remain clouded with ambiguity. That was the erroneous premise that Bill Hybels and his team used to found the Seeker-Friendly movement.

    The fact is that true Christianity is measured by an individual’s full surrender to Christ, not by a mere profession of faith. History is rife with examples of what I term Churchianity, a belief and participation meetings with ends in themselves, with all the trappings thereof. Reading or listening to a group of individuals discuss the issue of Churchianity as if it were Christianity, when some of them have been part of the problem, is frustrating. As A. W. Tozer once wrote, “The only parallel we can think of at the moment is that of a deadly-serious and fanatically determined dachshund chasing breathlessly after its tail-a tail, incidentally, which is not there because it has previously been removed. Add a large number of other dachshunds, bespectacled and solemn, writing books to prove that the frustrated puppy’s activity is progress and you have the picture!”

  • Frank Viola

    How are you defining “Christian” and what makes a person a Christian?

  • R.M. McGrath

    I don’t know. The majority of people in this country are Christian. Our Presidents and Congresspeople have been overwhelmingly Christian. Historically, the Supreme Court has been heavily Christian (though in modern days there have been a few Jewish people).

    As such, I can’t understand it when people say that this country isn’t mostly a Christian country. Sure, the atheists and other nonreligious are growing in numbers but I don’t think there’s any real threat to Christianity’s overwhelmingly dominant status in the next few decades.

  • vorjack

    It never was a “Christian nation.”

    I have to disagree. At the founding it was demographically Christian, culturally Christian, and legally at every level except federal it was Christian. The Federal Constitution is famously godless, but the federal government was not originally intended to be all that strong. The states were where the action was.

    Most of the states had some kind of confessional Christian language in their constitutions. Half of the states originally had established churches. Many blocked non-Christians from holding office and some even blocked non-Christians from voting.

    I think if you ignore that, you miss out of the importance of the gradual transition the followed, which involved both the evangelicals and the freethinkers.

  • Stefan Korth

    Concerning some responses here stating that the old traditional churches rather gain than lose people, well… There is a market for religion, definitely. People who do want some traditions and hymns.

    I was part of a modern church called vineyard, and had to learn that sure more than 80% of that congregation were going to church because of the fellowship, not because of Christ. In fact I would have trouble naming a single person that I know who not only claims to be a Christian, but who actually does what Christ did (acc. to John 14,12). Not only in the vineyard, but in my whole town. Sure there are Christians, but I don’t know them.

    How can I say so? I was so bothered that the supernatural is not part of my Christian life, I since look for people who do have that supernatural aspect of Christ in their life. Funny, some I have found, but those were unable to reproduce. They know how to heal in Jesus name, but not how to pass on this anointing. Some even got mad when I asked them to anoint me because this is what my life lacks. As I understand, for them the supernatural is not for every Christian, but to underline how cool they are and that they are really close to god. Might be wrong here, but it is getting a bit frustrating if you really start looking for real life samples of Christians. My conclusion is that the church cannot contain the supernatural. If you are a leader, and do not act out the supernatural, you do not allow the supernatural to happen in your church (well, only if you may control it). Leadership and supernatural does not mix well, unless it is a leader that acts out supernatural. This is at least true for most Christian churches in Germany.

    I think the trouble is that most leaders do not accept any other lead next to them. Hey expect Christ to lead THROUGH THEM, but Christ is head of the church, not head of the leaders. So he often surpasses the leaders. Which really pisses them off. When I once passed forward a word from god which was rejected as expected, I asked the leaders why they did not even consider my word being from God, checking and praying over it instead of instantly rejecting it, and the response was that they believe god would not surpass the god given leaders of a church to give it such an important message, god would not use such a jerk like me (they used a nicer word though) to talk to them as he would know that they would not accept anything I say as coming from God.

    It was not just them. Talking to many leaders, they tend to expect gods talking from other important people in their life, especially from other leaders. God should respect the hierarchy existing in churches…. But he never did. Jesus was best friends with sinners, not theologians….

  • David

    Gregory Peterson wrote: “Having not learned how to be moral, they still talk like racists when it comes to justifying discrimination against Gay people. They have a lot of practice trying to forbid for other adults what they allow for themselves…. like sex and marriage.”

    What a remarkable twisting of language. First the homosexuals hijack the word Gay so it now means homosexual, and now they hijack the idea of discrimination so that those who believe in sexual morality have now, according to you, “not learned how to be moral.” Is it really more of a sin in your eyes for someone to believe in gender diversity and marriage between a man and a woman, than it is for a homosexual man to have sex with another man? You have completely lost your moral compass. Homosexuals have equal rights to marry right now, only the definition of marriage involves opposite gender because God created man male and female. Go check out Josh Weed and find a homosexual man who has married a woman and started a family. His being homosexual did not prevent him from doing this. The idea of “discrimination” is completely fabricated and illogical. Please do not be an idiot and fall for that nonsense.

  • http://textsincontext.wordpress.com Michael Snow

    Over a half-century ago, D. Elton Trueblood describes ours as a “cut-flower” society. Beautiful, the flowers can be put in a vase to look at. But, in the end, they wither and die.
    Or as Jesus said, if the salt loses its savor, it is cast into the street.
    When we listen to faithful voices of the past, we can see how idolatrous we as Christians have become regarding our American culture.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/8601342@N03/ Gregory Peterson

    You didn’t mention that while “liberal” Christians supported abolishing slavery and Jim Crow, conservatives started a civil war to keep slavery legal, brought forth lynch law and accused people of the “unnatural sin of miscegenation” and said that God will bring judgment upon the United States if “mixed race” marriages were legalized. Having not learned how to be moral, they still talk like racists when it comes to justifying discrimination against Gay people. They have a lot of practice trying to forbid for other adults what they allow for themselves…. like sex and marriage.

    Since “moderate” and “liberal” Christians can’t seem to control conservatives which talk for all Christians in the media… Who, aside from conservatives, need Christianity anymore?

    I’m listening to Sun Ra tonight. Maybe I’ll become a Sun Ra-ist. Great sacred music, colorful vestments, and you don’t have to work to perpetuate the politics of resentment.

  • Kenneth

    It never was a “Christian nation.” It was a nation where demographics and immigration patterns enabled a Christian hegemony and basic sort of consensus for a long time. We were a Christian nation by dint of demographic inertia, not design. We were designed as a nation where spirituality was no one else’s business but your own, and government had no say so whatsoever. Growing diversity and the crumbling of that consensus is now forcing us to actually live by our nation’s promise of plurality. That’s nothing to mourn.

  • Mike

    Ah, my mistake. I missed the word, “by,” in your essay.

    Falling by 10 pts is very different than falling to 10 pts. The mistake is mine.

    However, it’s not a little alarmist to be worried about falling from 90% representation to 80%?

  • Frank Viola

    NEWSWEEK featured some of the studies several years ago.

  • Mike

    “Studies have shown that the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades.”

    Studies such as?

    Because the folks over at the Barna Research Group, a Christian research firm, would very much like to know how you get a figure that is pretty much the exact opposite as what they get (80% of Americans self-identify as Christian)

  • jerry lynch

    Where Oh where do our comments go?

    Christians in America have gotten the biggest entitlements for about 150 years. White and Protestant was nearly royalty. Sorry, I am really tired. I do have a point. But not today.

  • rumitoid

    4. Christian involvement in politics.

  • rumitoid

    Liberals refuse to face facts? You need to expound on that.

  • pagansister

    It is so nice to finally read an article that states that “the USA is no longer a Christian nation”. I continuously read that we are still a Christian nation and I continue to respond to that with “No it isn’t” and get shot down by other posters almost every time—each trying to reinforce why is still is. I enjoyed reading your reasons for your statement and I agree with them. THANK YOU! :-)

  • Frank Viola

    You misunderstand my point completely. You’ve obviously not read “Pagan Christianity” which traces the historical roots of institutional churches, including “conservative” churches. Their order of worship, etc. isn’t much different than liberal churches. They all have the same roots and are just as influenced by Greco-Roman traditions that date back 500 years ago and before. See http://www.PaganChristianity.org

    And yes, the moderator did not delete any of your comments.

  • Wladyslaw

    Sorry for my previous post. I thought you deleted it. Forgive me.

  • Wladyslaw

    AWESOME! Liberals refuse to face facts. Why were you so afraid of my post and deleted it. Please show me what I said that was so rude or not on topic.

  • Wladyslaw

    “. Christians in general have sanctified, anointed, and protected out-dated traditions of church practice that are over 500 years old, refusing to come to terms with the fact that many of these traditions are not only irrelevant, ineffective, but they are also unbiblical.”

    All liberal mainline Protestant Churches that have changed their beliefs to conform to contemporary culture are drastically losing their members. The most liberal, the Episcopalian Church, has lost the most numbers. The conservative churches are the only ones growing.

    Check: Conservative Churches Grew Fastest in 1990′s, Report Says – New …
    http://www.nytimes.com › COLLECTIONS › RELIGIOUS GROUPS
    Sep 18, 2002 – The denominations that recorded the next highest growth were the conservative
    Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, with 18.6 percent; …
    Catholic Churches–”bronze age morality” has actually grown along with the conservative protestant growth.

  • Frank Viola

    Ummm (cough) . . . the “premise” is that USA is not a Christian nation, so stop calling it that. We in a post-Christian situation. So the country has become a new but unusual “mission field” for the gospel of Jesus Christ, so to speak. It’s been inoculated from a poor stereotype of the gospel. The take-away and most important part of the piece are the 3 reasons stated at the end. Those are KEY. There was nothing about gay marriage. That wasn’t even on the radar.

  • Brian P.

    What’s the proper response to watching dross burn away?

    Sorrow?

    Or joy?

  • Rick

    I don’t understand even the basic premise behind this lament. In a culture in which 70-some percent of the population identifies as “Christian”, and mega-churches get more “mega”, and in which the current president is only the 44th president in a row to claim Christianity, and in which 95 percent of Congress is Christian — how exactly are we not Christian anymore? Be specific. If this is another “gay marriage proves America has forgotten God” article, then just say it, instead of being vague; I disagree with that statement, but at least it beats an argument with no supporting statements.

  • Kevin McKee

    Trevor, I think your observation is both radical and true, way to go. To me as a Canadian observer of the U.S. and in particular what passes for evangelical in the U.S., but seems to me to be really fundamentalism with nicer language, I am frustrated by the lack of willingness to seek truth. It seems today that Ayn Rand has more significance to the philosophy of conservative Christians than Jesus or Paul. I think we need to be open to studying all that science, atheism and different cultures have to offer, confident that our faith in Jesus Christ and belief in God will be compatible with any truth that we may find in other places and that ultimately this is God’s creation and God’s world.

  • rvs

    My sense is that Christians will do / are doing much better in a post-Christian American culture.

  • Steve

    May I add a reason of my own? I think that the broader Christian movement has failed to answer the objections of scientism and secular humanism. Our culture values scientific evidence, reason, and logic above faith. Fine, we can play on that landscape. However, we have failed to loudly proclaim and demonstrate the complementarity of faith and reason – the unity of science and revelation.

    I would also add that the age of a particular tradition doesn’t automatically relegate it to the dustheap. I mean… the Bible is kinda old. Lots of people say Saint Paul is outdated. Shall we forever be on a carrousel of trying to be current? Re-branding ourselves with hip new terms and shaking our sandals at everyone who isn’t as hip as Me?

  • Dorfl

    I really don’t know about point three. I’ve been thinking about this since I read the post you linked to. In short:

    I am an atheist, and what worries me about Evangelical Christianity isn’t how evangelicals treat each other: it’s how evangelicals treat those who don’t belong to their own tribe. Specifically, I’ve seen evangelicals forgive-or completely ignore-their leaders behaving fairly horribly, as long as that behaviour has been directed against outsiders. It’s only when the leaders have made the mistake of transgressing against their tribe’s own taboos that I’ve seen them eaten by their own. And then my response hasn’t been ‘Oh Noes! They’re turning on each other!’ as much as ‘Hasn’t it been obvious for years that that guy was a power-hungry narcissist?’

  • http://seedsinmyheart.blogspot.com Randi

    I appreciate Trevor’s comment & agree that the early church flourished in such an environment….. Sometimes things need to be totally emptied to be full. Need to get worse before they get better. And darker for the light to shine brighter.

    But nothing is impossible with God and I still believe that there could be a major awakening in our country!! That individuals can learn that the way to be part of God’s purpose & plan is to stop trying to change the world — but instead allow God to totally change our own individual world by our surrender to Him!!! <3 One heart at a time!!

  • http://www.differentkingdom.com Trevor Lloyd

    I agree that Christendom is dead and I am glad. Let’s shake off any last vestiges of this nominal and cultural Christianity, this civil religion, and let true, radical Christ-followers get on with being witnesses to the gospel of the kingdom in a pluralist and sometimes hostile society. The early church flourished in such an environment.


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