Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Challenges of the United States' Changing Religious Landscape: Three Articles

Evangelicals, Culture, and Post-Christian America

American culture is becoming less conducive to Christian values—it's a reality. The question is: what will the church do?

Whether we admit it or not, many evangelicals in America believe, deep down, that the church in America is the hope for Christianity and the spread of the gospel worldwide.

In some ways that's an unhelpful impulse, particularly when you consider how well the Global South church is doing compared to the church in the Western world. Yet, when you look at our actions, we seem to think we’ve got it all figured out, when that clearly is not the case.

For a number of reasons, I believe that there are actually a few countries not normally considered “evangelical powerhouses” from which Christian movements may be sparked that could affect the global spread of the gospel.I can’t point to the particular place it might occur, but I believe I could point to the type of church culture in which revival could easily break out. I could also point to where, at least for a while, it’s probably not going to happen—American church culture.

American evangelicals are facing important decisions as to who we are going to be and how we are going to address the constantly changing culture around us. However, I think that movements are more likely to happen in places where Christian faith is more marginalized, rather than battling for the center. Keep reading

The Evangelical Advantage

Leah Libresco has been digging deep into the Pew data sets, and has discovered that when Americans change religions, Evangelical Christianity is the religion most of them embrace. Excerpts:
If conversions went on as they do today and all other factors were held steady, America would wind up with the religious demographics of the stable distribution.

Unaffiliateds would wind up modestly gaining ground (from 23 percent at present to 29 percent).1 And Christian denominations would drop a little (from 69 percent at present to 62 percent at equilibrium).2

But there would be substantial redistribution among Christian groups, with evangelical Protestants gaining (26 percent at present to 32 percent) and Catholics losing more than half their current share of the population (21 percent to 8 percent).

Why do evangelicals wind up ahead of other Christian sects in this model? They’re better at holding on to the people born into their tradition (65 percent retention compared to 59 percent for Catholics and 45 percent for Mainline Protestants), and they’re a stronger attractor for people leaving other faiths. According to Pew’s data on conversion rates, 10 percent of people raised Catholic wind up as evangelicals. Just 2 percent of people born as evangelicals wind up Catholic. The flow between mainline and evangelical Protestants is also tilted in evangelicals’ favor. Twelve percent of those raised evangelical wind up in mainline congregations, but 19 percent of mainline Protestants wind up becoming evangelical.
Leah, a recent convert to Catholicism, also looked at the role fertility has on increasing (or not) the size of each religious tribe. She found that the Nones — those without a religion, or without religious affiliation — are effectively infertile, having children at below the replacement rate. The news is bad for Orthodox Christians either way: my tribe isn’t having enough babies or converting enough people to replace ourselves, and are therefore declining overall. We are already a tiny minority, and because we are neither effectively evangelizing nor having children beyond the replacement rate, we are on track to extinction. Mormons and Muslims, as it turns out, do vastly better relying on fertility to increase their numbers, rather than conversions.

But the worst news is for Leah’s own tribe.... Keep reading

Three Reasons Why Christianity Might Be in Decline

It’s hard to miss all the latest news articles and blog posts detailing how Christianity is on the downturn in the United States. The Pew Forum’s latest research points toward that conclusion, saying simply: “The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining”.

Responses to Pew’s opinion range from heartfelt admissions of Christianity being in trouble by journalists like Michael Brendan Dougherty to very analytical replies like the one penned for CNN by Ed Stetzer. Other research by Pew says that Islam will likely overtake Christianity as the #1 world religion by 2100.

If Pew’s data is correct - and it appears that it is - I’d like to offer three possible reasons that may be contributing to the problem. My apologies ahead of time if some of you find that a bit of the language I use is, well, blunt. Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

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