Declining Christianity: The Sheep and the Goats
Much has been made recently about a Pew Research poll released in May which indicated the number of Christians in America is falling.
But while this was met with great glee by the secularist Left and other God-haters, it bears noting that even after over half a century of lies and vilification of Christianity from the Left, still more than 70% of Americans identify with Christianity.
In a recent discussion of these findings on Fox News, Dr. Richard Land of Southern Evangelical Seminary pointed out that vibrant, living Christian groups have actually grown during this time. The decline was seen more in the “stiff” Christian groups that rely more on rote and ritual rather than living relationship with Christ.
And there was a decline in liberal “mainline” groups that have demonstrated that they are more interested in following flawed pagan ideology than in teaching God’s truth to pagans.
The decline, as Land put it, has not been in authentic Christianity, but in “cultural Christianity: Christianity by habit, Christianity by habit, Christianity by inheritance, Christianity by preference.”
And really, why should a person waste their time on groups that are dedicated to little more than ritual and habit? Why should a person waste their time hanging out with a bunch of fakes and hypocrites who on one hand claim to believe in a God…that on the other hand they refuse to obey?
For someone who isn’t meaningfully connected to their God in the first place (i.e. an authentic Christian), there are much better distractions out there (Facebook, Netflix, sports, etc.) than hanging around with a bunch of fossils or hypocrites.
But thankfully, it wasn’t this kind of “Christian” who founded the nation that became America.
The first Europeans who came here were mostly Christians who wanted to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and have the religious freedom they did not enjoy back in Europe.
The pilgrims said in the Mayflower Compact — what was probably the first governmental document crafted in the New World — that they had come across the ocean “for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith.” Indeed. Most of the colonial charters spoke of the Christian faith, the glory of God, and taking the truth of Christianity to the ends of the earth.
When the colonists came together to formulate a response to the oppression of the British Crown — an action that would culminate in the birth of a new nation — one of the first things they did was pray together.
Later, after our new nation’s independence was won, having set out on that course “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence,” one of the least religious of the founders reminded the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that they owed their independence to God:
In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. — Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered.
All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity.
Indeed, Benjamin Franklin was so impressed by the power of prayer to the Christian God that he made a motion at the Constitutional Convention “that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service.”
Our nation’s first president, George Washington, also realized from whence national greatness comes.
He told us in his farewell address after serving two terms as president:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.
The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ?
And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government.
Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?
Our nation’s second president, John Adams (a signer of the Declaration of Independence) also recognized that our nation was designed to be a moral and religious one, and that if we ever spurned that foundation, we could not expect to retain our free constitutional republic:
We have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
A hundred years later, the U.S. Supreme Court did a review and found in the 1892 Holy Trinity Church v. United States case that America was indeed a Christian nation:
If we pass beyond these matters to a view of American life, as expressed by its laws, its business, its customs, and its society, we find every where a clear recognition of the same truth.
Among other matters, note the following: the form of oath universally prevailing, concluding with an appeal to the Almighty; the custom of opening sessions of all deliberative bodies and most conventions with prayer; the prefatory words of all wills, “In the name of God, amen;” the laws respecting the observance of the Sabbath, with the general cessation of all secular business, and the closing of courts, legislatures, and other similar public assemblies on that day; the churches and church organizations which abound in every city, town, and hamlet; the multitude of charitable organizations existing every where under Christian auspices; the gigantic missionary associations, with general support, and aiming to establish Christian missions in every quarter of the globe.
These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.
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