So, as you may have heard, not only are we in a post-racial America now that Barack Obama has been elected president (yeah, right…), we also may be on the brink of the End of Christian America (cue up the ominous music…and go here if you want to read an article about this matter).
OK, so fewer Americans self-identify as Christians. More people identify as having no particular religious beliefs or profess to be atheists. And “only” a third of Americans think of themselves as born-again.
And I say: So what?
What is the frickin’ problem here? Why are so many Christians so up in arms about this? As a Christian myself, who is born again, this trend strikes me as neither a surprise nor, in fact, even a real issue.
I say this for two reasons: one of them political/social and the other biblical.
The Political and Social Aspect
Regardless of the ranting and ravings of the more froth-at-the-mouth conservative commentators, the United States of America is not a Christian nation, and never was. It doesn’t matter that our money says “In God We Trust.” It doesn’t matter that the Founding Fathers were either Christians or Deists. It doesn’t matter that the government added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, (62 years after the pledge was first introduced, incidentally). We are not a Christian nation.
The Founding Fathers expressly dictated that there should be no state religion. They were trying to escape the tyranny of a government that told them what to believe and taxed them from afar while giving them no say in the running of their nation. And even if they had put Christianity into the Constitution as the official religion of the the land—which they didn’t—they had designed the Constitution so that it could be amended later to change with the times and evolve. Even if they secretly desired everyone in the nation to be a Christian, they left open the intrinsic right—and expectation—that not everyone would be so.
If we are going to insist that this be a Christian nation because the Founding Fathers were Christian, we should still embrace other notions they had at the time, such as the idea that only white landowners should vote. We should therefore revoke voting rights from all women, most of the men in the nation, and all non-whites. If that sounds good to you, you scare me and should immediately hole up in your bunker until you starve to death.
In a nation that embraced immigration and encourages people all over the world to come and enjoy our “American Dream” by becoming citizens of our nation, or at least fans of it from overseas, it is ridiculous to think that we would remain overwhelming Christian. There is more than one religion in the world. And two of the other biggies, Judaism and Islam, come from essentially the same roots as Christianity, so we should expect them to stick around too and even grow.
I don’t want a nation to base it policies and laws on a single religion’s belief system. So, frankly, I’m glad that conservative Christians aren’t calling all the political shots and able to freely frame laws around their specific religious precepts.
The Biblical Take on Things
But beyond the political and social reasons why should neither be surprised nor frightened by a lessening of the “Christianity” of the United States, there is the biblical aspect.
Jesus and the writers of the New Testament have all told us, multiple times, that people will ultimately turn away from God for the most part. It has been made crystal clear that a time will come when Christians will not necessarily be in a position of prestige or even safety. “Men will become lovers of themselves and not of God.” Furthemore, “we will be persecuted for Jesus’ sake.” Need I go on?
If you’re Christian and you’ve read the Bible at all, you should expect that the world will gradually drift away from Christianity. We were never promised a world in which folks would mostly be praising God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost and just a few people would be lost. God would prefer that no one be lost, but the fact is that the world is supposed to go away from God’s away. That’s is what we’ve been told to expect.
To fret about gradual movements (or even seismic-level ones) toward that and to argue about how wrong it is strikes me a lot like complaining that teenagers often don’t listen to their parents or like their decisions. Sure, it’s a valid topic of conversation, but the core fact you’re addressing is only going to come as a surprise to someone who’s totally clueless about reality.
This doesn’t change the fact that we should be ready to share the Gospel with those who are interested or who don’t really understand it. But to be surprised that Christianity would fall by the wayside should be no surprise at all. That road was predicted more than 2,000 years ago for us.