This week I read an interesting article detailing a huge uptick in the rate at which Americans are distancing themselves from religious affiliation. The past decade, POLITICO reports, has seen an eleven point decline, marking the most significant shift to date.
More telling, however, is the following paragraph from a CBS News analysis of the most recent PEW data:
In the early ’90s, about 90% of people in the U.S. identified as Christians, the report said. In 2020, Christians accounted for about 64% of the U.S. population, including children. Meanwhile, those who are not affiliated with a religion has grown from 16% in 2007 to 30% in 2020, according to the research. All other religions, including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, accounted for about 6% in 2020.CBS News
Other than my general sense of sadness that so many people are missing out on the beauty and the glory of an active partnership with God in their lives, the reporting around these numbers begs comment because it reveals a fundamental perception problem that I want to address.
“Democrats,” POLITICO writes, “are making gains in areas where religion is fading… and Republicans are increasing their vote share in places where houses of worship are gaining new members.”
I have been an active, thinking, enthusiastic follower of Jesus for more than 50 years and I have never felt that any political affiliation leaned “more (or less) Christian” than another. Democrat, Independent, Republican, Conservative, Labor, Liberal, Socialist, Libertarian, etc. etc.
I understand that the article is simply pointing out the fact of correlation. But I believe the constant drumbeat of evangelical conservatism and its alignment with the extreme political right has contributed to a social climate where more and more of the religiously unaffiliated are receiving a false message about Jesus. Not only that, but those on the margins of faith are fed up with the blatant politics, shrugging their shoulders, and staying home.
Of course people want less and less to do with institutions that consistently conflate hard line political ideology and culture war issues with the winsome, redemptive, love-saturated teachings of Jesus and the identity of his body, The Church.
It’s not Jesus people are rejecting:
The religion that Americans are increasingly rejecting is not Christianity any more. Early on, when the followers of The Way were first called “Christians” it was because – quite simply – they reminded people of Christ.
Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.John 1:16-18
Grace. Grace multiplied by grace. Grace and truth.
Not just Americans identifying as culturally Christian, but people growing – as Paul writes in Corinthians – into the likeness of Jesus.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.2 Corinthians 3:17-18
So, yes, the institution known as The Christian Church may be in trouble and in decline. But Jesus is still Jesus. And Jesus – Emanuel, God made flesh – is still our invitation into a transformational relationship with our Creator.
Do not let the false witness of the past couple of decades keep you from the joy of experiencing Christian community in your local church. Try attending somewhere where it’s all about Jesus and not politics.
Then, “out of his fulness you will receive grace in place of grace already given…” – DEREK
I’m happy to say this is not the case where I live.The churches in Sarasota,FL. are full.Our church has 9 campus’ in 2 counties.Each location does 2 or three services every Sunday morning.My daughter’s new,largeMethodist church has three services that are packed. Most of the people at my church did not grow up attending church.Every week we have a call to follow Jesus and dozens respond.We have baptisms once a month.Our church is full of young people and young families.We do address cultural issues.We just had two sermons on gender identity and our identity in Christ and we do preach Life! People find a lot of freedom at our church from abuse and addictions.We minister in 5 jails and prisons every Saturday teaching 4 one hour classes.Gary and I know that group of people well.We did that for 3 years.These people come to our church when they get out because we’ve already established a relationship with them We testify in court for them etc.It’s really quite exciting to see this kind of transformation in people’s life styles.Sone plant ,some water,but God gives the increase.
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It’s been our experience too. Always witnessing life and growth. The good news is always good.
Well expressed, Derek. Thank you.