Welcome To Post Christian America

Welcome To Post Christian America June 9, 2018

            Image:HeavenlyPerspective Kenn Stilger

A new study from the Pew Research Center has found the population of Christians in the United States is on a downward spiral.

Polling 35,000 Americans aged 18 and older, the poll found that over the last seven years, those calling themselves “Christian” has diminished by 8 percent overall. That’s about 5 million people who have moved out of the Christian faith since 2007.

This new demographic is being called the “Nones” (as in “None of the above”) or the “Dones” (as in “Done with religion”).

Even more eye-opening is what researchers are identifying as the cause for the ongoing exodus away from the Christian faith:

“Traditionally, we thought religion was the mover and politics were the consequence,” said Mike Hout, a New York University sociologist and demographer. However, today more and more are leaving Christian denominations because “they saw them align with a conservative political agenda and they don’t want to be identified with that.”

Other researchers, like Religion Dispatches writer Sarah Posner also points out that, “politically speaking, evangelicals, and in particular white evangelicals, have been highly politically organized for decades,” and that trend’s not stopping anytime soon.

So, while some Evangelical Christians can point to this latest report as proof that they need to “redouble their efforts in the culture war”, the truth is that they are actually to blame for creating their own problem.

Yes, it is very troubling to note that many young people are turning away from the Christian faith. But, are these people truly rejecting legitimate Christianity, or are they actually rejecting a political ideology that is only masquerading as Christianity?

I would argue the latter is more the case.

Christians in America are in effect practicing a very self-destructive form of Reverse Evangelism and not only repelling those who are still outside their walls, but alienating many of those who once considered themselves part of the team.

Yet, even as more and more people identify themselves less and less as “Christians” they are – at the same time – identifying more and more as “spiritual but not religious”. This indicates a desire to connect with God, and perhaps even with Jesus, but they seek to do so outside the typical constraints of American Christianity. Why? Mostly because this brand of American Christianity largely defines itself politically as an offshoot of the Conservative Republican party, and camps out on pet issues like Gay Marriage and Abortion while ignoring issues that Jesus seemed to care most about like Poverty, Violence, Oppression, and Exploitation of the weakest in our society.

As my friend Ross Rohde notes:

“My biggest concern is the damage this does to the Kingdom. We say Jesus is Lord, but we entangle ourselves with the equivalent of the “foreign wives” of the Old Testament. If we can’t untangle ourselves from these strange infatuations, strange loves, then we really aren’t following Jesus at all. We are treating Him like he is here for our salvation, our convenience, and we don’t have any responsibility in the relationship. That’s not treating Jesus as our Lord, it is treating him like a slave we don’t respect. Jesus is Lord, we are to follow Him, not some foreign bride.”

I couldn’t agree more. But what can we do about this? How can we turn back this troubling tide?

We don’t.

In fact, I would argue that no one can and we shouldn’t even try.

What we’re seeing here is a very natural reaction to an empty, man-made religion which is more political than spiritual, and that is a very, very good thing. If nothing else it shows that people are smart enough to realize when something doesn’t smell right and they’re willing to walk away from it entirely in pursuit of something more authentic and pure.

Rather than reverse this process, we should find a way to meet with these spiritual nomads and provide opportunities to address their deepest concerns and respond to their spiritual hunger for more God and less politics.

How do we do this? One idea I’ve had recently is to start a Meet Up group online for those who are interested in “Jesus Without Religion”, and to start getting together once a week with anyone and everyone who wants to learn more about who Jesus is, and what Jesus taught, and how to follow Jesus without any religious, denominational, or political strings attached.

Maybe you have another idea? I’d love to hear it. But regardless of how we go about it, the urgency is clear. The game is changing and if we don’t adapt to that change, we will miss a huge opportunity to advance the Kingdom and share the Gospel.

FACT: The sooner we give up the idea of ever returning to the “Good old days” when Christianity was the norm and everyone went to Church on Sunday, and kids went to Sunday School, and shops were closed on Sunday so everyone could spend time with their Church family, the sooner we can start adapting to the actual world we really do live in right here and right now – a world where almost no one knows the Bible stories, or can sing “Jesus Loves Me”, or understands what Flannel graph is.

We live in the midst of a vast mission field where more and more people do not know the Gospel, have no idea who Jesus really is, and do not own or read the Bible.

Welcome to Post Christian America.

This is our chance to get it right.

This is our time to shine.

Let’s not blow it this time around.
**

Keith Giles is the author of several books, including the forthcoming Jesus Unbound: How the Bible Keeps Us From Hearing the Word of God”, available July 4th, 2018.

He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb”. He is the co-host of the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in Orange, CA with their two sons.

Please, join me at one of these upcoming events:

*The Nonviolent Love of Christ: How Loving Our Enemies Saves The World, with Joshua Lawson and Keith Giles on Saturday, June 16 in Portsmouth Ohio. Register here>

*Crucifying Our Politics with Keith Giles on June 24 in Cleveland, OH. Register here>

BONUS: Unlock exclusive content including blog articles, short stories, music, podcasts, videos and more on my Patreon page.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Matthew

    Can I find this meet up group somewhere online? What about using a resource such as Zoom to get people together around the
    world for an online session? I´m in Germany.

  • John Smith

    “My biggest concern is the damage this does to the Kingdom.”

    That kingdom would be the Confederacy of slave states. And it’s about time it died for good.

    We live in the midst of a vast mission field where more and more people do not know the Gospel, have no idea who Jesus really is, and do not own or read the Bible.

    They walk away because they can no longer stomach a religion which tells them to oppress their neighbors. Whether they read the Bible or God’s truths were written in their hearts all along, they do, in fact, know Jesus – and they know you’re the pretty much the exact antithesis of Him.

    You people really don’t get it, do you? You voted Donald Trump into power. And you keep telling everyone who cares to listen – and everyone who doesn’t, for that matter – that you approve of his cruelty, his malevolence, his xenophobia, selfishness, psychopathic narcissism, of ripping children from their mother’s breasts for crying out loud, just as long as your anti-Christ harms your neighbors more than he does you – and if you have to choose, just as long as he harms your neighbors, period. Devil himself would call you scum, and judging by the frankly pathetically low bar he tested you with this last election, I’d say he already has.

    You are going away for ever, and neither God nor man will miss you.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    Why is church so boring?

  • Ivan T. Errible

    They walk away because it’s boring. And they have to pay to be bored and spend hours every weekend (that they could be doing something more entertaining) listening to tedium.

  • John Smith

    Then boredom is doing the work of God here, getting people away from these monsters.

  • I don’t vote. So, no, it’s not true that I “voted Donald Trump into power.” And I have not approved of anything that oppresses anyone.

    I think you miss the fact that I am on your side of this conversation, even if we don’t share the same views about God or faith.

  • James

    What nonsense!

  • James

    You could look at it another way about them leaving. Perhaps the Believers are becoming fewer. the Falling away !!….

  • James

    Because you refuse to learn?

  • James

    You seem to be the monster! Portraying others as the evil ones and you and your ilk as being Righteous!

  • James

    This group of people teach immorality as good and anyone who dares say otherwise as judgmental! They make Right..Wrong..and Wrong..Right! Read what they are saying to justify their own behavior! Taking words ands dividing them and distorting scripture or outright lying! Disregarding what Jesus actually taught and His Disciples and perverting reasoning! Matthew, these people DO NOT care for you or your salvation. They care about TODAY and themselves as though they will never DIE! Jesus his the final word..and IT CAN ONLY SEEN IN SCRIPTURE……Nowhere else! Jesus is The Word……Don’t buy into the darkness of the web on these sites. Trust no man with your salvation..Only Jesus and His word is only in Scripture..that is why the Bible exist!!!

  • Uhm…..huh?

  • Matthew

    Thanks so much.

  • John Smith

    You live in a democracy, do you not? If you refused to vote against Trump or his ilk, you helped him get into power, and bear responsibility for that, and every single tear and drop of blood that resulted. All it takes for evil to win is that good men do nothing, and all that.

    No, you aren’t on my side. I vote on every election. I am on the side of the side of the poor, weak and ostracized. You had a chance to be and blew it. Actions speak louder than words and yours say, at the absolute best, “I don’t care”. And that, right there, is where heresy turns from something you could laugh off with “sorry, my bad” into something that gets you sent straight to Hell. From its fruits a tree is known; American Christianity’s is Donald Trump. Salt that loses its saltiness is thrown away; “I don’t vote”. You want to preach the Gospel? The Good News is that people like you – people who don’t care, who think that that is optional – are destined to lose in the end. And it seems that that end – at least for your particular branch of the Kingdom of Hell – is happening here and now.

    Like I said, you’re going away forever, and won’t be missed, because why would you be?

  • Guy Norred

    Seems to me that it isn’t post-Christian so much as it is post-Christendom. It also seems that the Gospel was never particularly well known in Christendom.

  • Brianna LaPoint

    People reject christianity based on experience. Some will never return, but to me that is not something to mourn, but to celebrate. Think what you will, but everyone stays and leaves for personal reasons. The infighting among christian sects was a good reason for me to join the Dones.

  • Brianna LaPoint

    Pentecostals are hardly boring. But, i was one a short time. Other than that its not my thing

  • Ivan T. Errible

    After a while, yeah, they are; there’s only so much shouting and jumping around the average person can tolerate.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    Or they have nothing to teach?

  • Ivan T. Errible

    Why do I have to believe in an invisible being to do that?

  • ashpenaz

    I’m spending the summer as a “None.” If I like it, I might become a “Done.” The election of Trump destroyed my faith in the Church–if people could go to church week after week and study the life and teachings of Jesus, and somehow vote for probably the least Christian person to ever run for office, then church is not very effective. I’m not sure what the church does, but if it produces Trump voters, it’s not producing followers of Jesus. I’m pretty sure even Nostradamus is thinking, “Hey, I didn’t think Antichrist would be this bad–or this stupid.” So, I’m out for now. I’d like to see what group or movement actually produces people who actually do what Jesus wants people to do.

  • Good_Samaritan

    People stopped using the word “Christendom” un-ironically over a hundred years ago, when all the Christian Emperors went to war against each other for basically no reason.

  • chemical

    I’ve been an atheist for a long time, and welcome to our world. We’re not perfect over here, but at least when someone of questionable character gets high up in the ranks we remove him or her from authority. See David Silverman, for example. I’m just some random jerk on the internet, so I don’t really have any impact on your choice to be “None” or “Done”, but Humanism is the closest you will get to people actually advocating for the less fortunate. I’d recommend checking out the American Humanist Association — I’m a member of a local AHA chapter.

  • ashpenaz

    I still believe in Jesus. He is my Lord and Savior. I just don’t know where to find other followers of Jesus organized into any sort of visible group.

  • Yes, the connection between Christianity and conservative politics is a problem. In fact, if there really is a God, shouldn’t his religion be progressive? Shouldn’t God be dragging us into a more moral future, despite our negative tendencies? Why did it take 1800 years for the church (and then, only part of the church) to demand that slavery be overturned? Why is the Church the one looking backwards, determined to keep things the way they are?

    In fact, you did find a strong progressive Christianity in the US in the 1900-timeframe, the Social Gospel movement. Christians were leaders in prison reform, child labor laws, child education, alcoholism, poor living conditions, and on and on. It’s easy to make an argument that Christianity today is the aberration, with its conservative bent.

  • Good_Samaritan

    A man wrote the Bible, so you got to trust someone bro.

  • John Barton

    Ditto! It’s is nice to know I’m not the only one thinking this way.

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    It’s easy to be a conservative right wing christian. You get to hate everybody who is difficult to love, and pretend you are loving them, while pretending to be a follower of christ.

    People always go for the easy way. It is easy to understand the appeal to it,the lucrativeness of it all.

    Having ones cake and eating it too, I suppose.

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    You are taking the slippery, easy way out.

    The most important thing in the bible is to love your neighbor – and to do so the way Jesus did.

    The people who think they are following ONLY SCRIPTURE are the blindest people, who have no eyes to see or ears to hear. They are the ones who corrupt it, and who hate blacks, immigrants, gay people, and whatever they fancy to pretend they are not hating, but treating them like outcasts – something that Jesus never did. This is something all over the gospels.

    The people who think they are the ones following only scripture, find reasons not to give directly to the poor, reasons not to provide healthcare to the poor in America, the people who think Trump is a christian worth of veneration.

    The people who think they are the ones following only scripture, drive the Other to suicide, by ostracizing them and making others feel bad.

    The tough part of what Jesus taught is to love the most difficult people the same way that you want to be loved, the same way that the father loves them. That is effing hard. NOT sitting on your scripture only pedestal, taking out verses like a cafeteria, choosing what is easy for you.

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    I see you used exclamation marks. Does that make you happy? That others are falling away!

    It always seems to get people who think that they are following the literal SCRIPTURE ONLY to think that other folks will be going to hell.

    YOO HAA!

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    Aren’t you excited when you think about others going to hell! C’mon! We know you are!

  • Dr. Mark E. Sommers

    I certainly understand what you are saying, at the same time there are many churches that are striving to follow the teachings of Christ which have little resemblance to the world of Trump. Hang in there!

  • Kathy Ruth

    I understand exactly how you feel. I left the Roman Catholic church MANY years ago over various teachings but the more progressive church I joined gradually morphed into one of the Right-Wing inspired anti-Christian churches (I call them “Radicalized Christianists”).
    I found my current church at a local Pride festival about 10 years ago and I couldn’t be happier with them.
    There ARE true Christians still out there and we ARE fighting the others. The others are just SO loud and we don’t want to stoop to their level so, please, come join with us and we WILL prevail!

    http://ecumenical-catholic-communion.org/

    https://www.gaychurch.org/find_a_church/

  • Kathy Ruth
  • Kathy Ruth

    You don’t get it, do you? There ARE true followers of Jesus out there. My church follows his words (as well as the wise words of ALL faith traditions).
    Those described in the article are NOT Christian!

  • Kathy Ruth

    Actually, if you didn’t vote, then yes, you, at the very least, ENABLED this presidency!

  • Steve Bailey

    Complete agreement here. American “Evangelical” civil American religion is the single biggest cause of the “Nones” and the “Dones”. Until this American heresy is thoroughly denounced and an alternative powerful Christian message is put forward, those identifying as “Christian” in the U.S. will continue to decline; ie. “who wants to be one of ‘those'”? As a Canadian, I’m puzzled at the seeming inactivity of committed followers of Jesus Christ in their lack of action. Lots of talk, but what can be done?

  • Tim

    Oh, you know. Just the typical fundie rubbish that is part of what is driving away the very people of which you speak in this article.

  • Mr. James Parson

    I don’t think they will denounce it. It is the key to their power.

  • Mr. James Parson

    It is OK to stay out.

  • Mr. James Parson

    “He is my Lord and Savior.”

    What does that mean to you?

    For that matter, you don’t see yourself as an atheist. What does that mean to you?

  • Mr. James Parson

    75% of Americans call themselves Christians. What percentage do you thing really are?

  • Ivan T. Errible

    Churches are pointless; they should lose their tax benefits and housing allowances immediately.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    How would you know? You and the Fundiegelicals both keep making it up as you go along to suit your agendas.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    There is no hell; stop trying to manipulate people with fables. It’s so medieval.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    What?
    That’s not even coherent for religious people.
    What ‘ilk’ are you talking about? I have no use for the Fundies, so please cast yourself as a martyr somewhere else.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    If that were so, Northern and Western Europe would have most of their churches full-they’ve had very few Fundiegelicals. Religion is shrinking because it’s boring and people now have other things to do with their time.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    Yeah, real strong leadership on alcoholism-they called it “Prohibition”. Another exhibit for keeping religion out of politics-and it was at least as much a “progressive” cause as a Fundiegelical one.

  • “The theology of the devil is for those who, for one reason or another, whether because they are perfect, or because they have come to an agreement with the Law, no longer need any mercy. With them (O grim joy!) God is “satisfied.” So too is the devil. It is quite an achievement, to please everybody! The people who listen to this sort of thing, and absorb it, and enjoy it, develop a notion of the spiritual life which is a kind of hypnosis of evil. The concepts of sin, suffering, damnation, punishment, the justice of God, retribution, the end of the world and so on, are things over which they smack their lips with unspeakable pleasure. Perhaps this is because they derive a deep, subconscious comfort from the thought that many other people will fall into the hell which they themselves are going to escape. And how do they know they are going to escape it? They cannot give any definite reason except for the fact that they feel a certain sense of relief at the thought that all this punishment is prepared for practically everyone but themselves. This feeling of complacency is what they refer to as “Faith,” and it constitutes a kind of conviction that they are “saved.””

    — Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

  • John Smith

    How can separating children from their parents for the sake of nationalism possibly be portrayed as something else than evil? Or do you perhaps think your precious wittle weelings are the only thing that matters, and certainly far more than the ruined lives of your victims?

  • John Smith

    Those are tough words for one naming himself after a particularly bad ruler of a nation still firmly stuck in them and proud of that.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    Celebrate your diversity!

  • “Canadian theology professor Douglas John Hall stated (1997) that “Christendom” […] means literally the dominion or sovereignty of the Christian religion.” Thomas John Curry, Roman Catholic auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, defined (2001) Christendom as “the system dating from the fourth century by which governments upheld and promoted Christianity.” Curry states that the end of Christendom came about because modern governments refused to “uphold the teachings, customs, ethos, and practice of Christianity.” British church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch described (2010) Christendom as “the union between Christianity and secular power.” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christendom)

    So while there is a sense in which the general term “Christendom” is passé by over a century, as societies secularize, but a large portion of American Christianity hasn’t read the memo yet. This is the crux of the “culture wars.” Conservative Christians want to “turn back the clock” to a time when Christendom was a valid descriptor of the US. Christendom ( a system where the government upholds and promotes Christianity) IS the goal of the likes of Betsy DeVos, Robert Jeffress, the tRUMP evangelical advisory panel, and evangelical politicians like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee.

    This is where it becomes necessary to understand that conservative, mainly white evangelical leadership, is not simply wishing for a more “Christlike” government, but is wishing a return to POWER. It is all about control, influence and power. In this war of words, the faithful (ordinary Christians) become pawns under the sway of these “false prophets” who fill their heads with untruths about the “good old days,” and the dangers of liberal politics and progressive faith. It involves half-truths, lies, conspiracy theories, fear mongering and hypocrisy.

    While the prophet, chosen by 81% of these sheep gone astray, has promised them the moon, the dream will fade as the reality sets in: the Republican Party has never fully delivered on promises to the Religious Right, and will not because the government has more in common with the powers that crucified Christ, not the powers that represent Christ. The marriage of church and state always favors the State. Religion suffers in the marriage. Religion becomes more like the state in the process, not visa-versa.

    As Stuart Murray states in “Post-Christendom,” he “celebrates the end of Christendom and the distorting influence of power, wealth and status on the Christian story.” Grieving “the violence, corruption, folly and arrogance of Christendom…” Anticipating “new and liberating discoveries of what it means to be a church on the margins that operates as a movement rather than an institution.” (P.21)

  • “Canadian theology professor Douglas John Hall stated (1997) that “Christendom” […] means literally the dominion or sovereignty of the Christian religion.” Thomas John Curry, Roman Catholic auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, defined (2001) Christendom as “the system dating from the fourth century by which governments upheld and promoted Christianity.” Curry states that the end of Christendom came about because modern governments refused to “uphold the teachings, customs, ethos, and practice of Christianity.” British church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch described (2010) Christendom as “the union between Christianity and secular power.” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/
    So while there is a sense in which the general term “Christendom” is passé by over a century, as societies secularize, but a large portion of American Christianity hasn’t read the memo yet. This is the crux of the “culture wars.” Conservative Christians want to “turn back the clock” to a time when Christendom was a valid descriptor of the US. Christendom ( a system where the government upholds and promotes Christianity) IS the goal of the likes of Betsy DeVos, Robert Jeffress, the tRUMP evangelical advisory panel, and evangelical politicians like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee.
    This is where it becomes necessary to understand that conservative, mainly white evangelical leadership, is not simply wishing for a more “Christlike” government, but is wishing a return to POWER. It is all about control, influence and power. In this war of words, the faithful (ordinary Christians) become pawns under the sway of these “false prophets” who fill their heads with untruths about the “good old days,” and the dangers of liberal politics and progressive faith. It involves half-truths, lies, conspiracy theories, fear mongering and hypocrisy.
    While the prophet, chosen by 81% of these sheep gone astray, has promised them the moon, the dream will fade as the reality sets in: the Republican Party has never fully delivered on promises to the Religious Right, and will not because the government has more in common with the powers that crucified Christ, not the powers that represent Christ. The marriage of church and state always favors the State. Religion suffers in the marriage. Religion becomes more like the state in the process, not visa-versa.
    As Stuart Murray states in “Post-Christendom,” he “celebrates the end of Christendom and the distorting influence of power, wealth and status on the Christian story.” Grieving “the violence, corruption, folly and arrogance of Christendom…” Anticipating “new and liberating discoveries of what it means to be a church on the margins that operates as a movement rather than an institution.” (P.21)

  • otrotierra

    Thank you for this lucid historical context. White Evangelicals still following TrumpPutin have more in common with Constantine and Boko Haram than with Jesus, the law-breaking Middle Eastern refugee crossing borders.