Toward the end of Holy Week NEWSWEEK magazine published an article on the declining influence of Christianity in the U.S. The article was entitled, “The End of Christian America,” and reported the findings of a new poll conducted by NEWSWEEK. According to this poll, though the percentages of people professing strong religious orientation (even overtly Christian values) remain high, the influence of such an orientation seems on the decline. At least, that is the sense or the feeling of those surveyed. Hence, we may be seeing the end of “Christian America.” Let me tell you why this doesn’t bother me.
First, assuming the full integrity of the survey method and findings, it simply registers the feelings or sense or opinion of respondents. But consider this: They could be wrong! It is their opinion! Even if everyone agreed, that would only demonstrate that they agreed (which may be remarkable in its own right), but not that they have a grip on reality.
Second, whatever value the erstwhile religious orientation or Christian sensibilities had, they were not powerful enough to keep our culture from what many recognize as serious moral and spiritual decline. Contrast this sober reality with the powerful images Jesus uses for the presence of his followers in the world—salt and light! Therefore, the loss of this ineffectual orientation may not be much of a loss. It would seem that the so-called influence didn’t!
Third, we have strong reason to wonder about the way in which America was “Christian” but is not now, the loss of which should be lamented! Do we really want to “go back” to a way of being and living that has such a track record? On what basis could we claim the future would be better than the past record?
Fourth, though I personally doubt that our nation and culture was ever “Christian” in the way that Christ calls people to be, I am quite convinced that as long as we focus on reclaiming or reconverting our nation, we will not focus where we should—on ourselves and the way we have (or have not) been authentically the church. The church is the community of Christ-followers who follow Christ to the cross—that is, give up their very lives in the process, relinquish their claim to call the shots on their own, find freedom from all agenda other than His, and die with Christ—all in order to be enlivened by God’s Spirit to live Jesus’ way. It was that way that led to such enormous impact on the ancient world. It was that way that brought great awakenings in the past. It is that way that will lead us to whatever hope we have of seeing our part of the world showcasing powerfully and beautifully the likeness of Jesus. To the degree that His followers follow him in that way, we will not need surveys to tell us the difference it makes!