The reality of American Christian practices
In a recent study, the number of people who identify themselves as "unaffiliated" to any faith tradition rose to a total of 15%. This is double what it was just a decade ago. Keep in mind, that this does not count people who are marginally, or culturally part of a faith tradition, but do not practice or believe the tenets of that faith.
To many people, including the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, R. Albert Mohler, this is a startling revelation (see the excellent newsweek article at: http://www.newsweek.com/id/192583) However, I am not at all surprised. I believe that this is because, I would approach this statistic in an different way. I do believe that process of secularization that began in the industrial revolution has continued (the process of understanding that you have sacred and secular aspects of your life, and that which is sacred is getting smaller and smaller). For example, 100 years ago, relationships were considered within the sacred sphere and people often sought advice on relationships and marriage from pastors, spiritual counselors, rabbi's, etc. Now relationships are considered "private" but advice is more likely to come from peers and clinical care givers such as psychologists. This is because we simply resign our spirituality to smaller parts of our lives. Although this phenomena continues to occur, I believe that this is not the real reason for the rise of the "unaffiliated"
Here goes my theory: I believe the studies are just more valid than ever. What I mean, is that typically we presume that a majority of Americans live via a faith worldview. Thus, we have ideologies of America as a Christian country. I believe that America was deeply shaped by judeo-christian beliefs, but that its culture and conduct have rarely been "Christian" I am in agreement with Sociologist Robert Bellah that we have developed a sophisticated "American Civil Religion" that my be influenced by Christianity, Judiasm, deism, and more recently New Age and eastern religions. However, to say that America is a Christian nation is to say that the culture, history, and heritage of the nation, as demonstrated by its conduct and character, is lead and shaped by the historical Jesus. To say that America was founded as a Christian nation would be to say that the framers of the constitution's main aim was to follow Jesus and Glorify God. While the constitutional architects may have had lofty and honorable goals and ideals, following Jesus was not one of them.
So, I believe that if we are honest with outselves, the number of people unaffiliated with any faith tradtion is over 50%. Not just in the northeast and northwest, but on the street corner, down the block, and in our schools. This is not new, but people now have the freedom to reveal their truest convictions (or lack of convictions).
Will the authentic church of Jesus Christ ever have the courage to speak boldly about what it means to follow Jesus and what that fruit looks like. Will the authentic church of Jesus Christ muster the courage to speak prophetically and powerfully that the slaughter of First Nations peoples (Native Americans) was not a Jesus thing and therefore, not a Christian thing. Will the real church be able to stand up and say that the shackling, desctruction, raping, and dehumanizing of others in slavery was not lead by Jesus, and therefore, is not a Christian thing. Can we be brave enough to talk about the egotistical, and nearly maniacal myths of of manifest destiny and "Chosen Nations" that causes the exploitation and subjugation of others, as not led by Jesus and therefore, not a Christian thing.
These are part of the American history of which, by evidence of character and conduct (Mt 7:15-20), demonstrate that over 200 years ago, the evidence of high degrees of our population that were "unaffiliated" was already evident. Its just that now American feel enough freedom to admit it.
Take some time today and share your thoughts on this.
Pastor M Traylor