Monday, April 06, 2009

The End Is Near

I guess that Newsweek magazine knows that the end is near. At least that is what I have been reading this morning. In yet another round of articles that speaks to the fact that slowly this nation is turning away from and getting out from under the hold that Christianity has had on it for so many years.

In the last few months we have been reading more and more articles that address this issue. telling us how the numbers of Americans that refer to themselves as Christians is declining. How, as a Nation, the numbers are falling for those who say that they follow one religion or another. In reality the numbers are growing in the groups that ascribe to no religion and attend no church.

The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades."

Now, that may seem like a small and unimportant number, but the fact that the number is growing AND that people are reporting and talking about it IS important.

"It was a small detail, a point of comparison buried in the fifth paragraph on the 17th page of a 24-page summary of the 2009 American Religious Identification Survey. But as R. Albert Mohler Jr.—president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the largest on earth—read over the document after its release in March, he was struck by a single sentence. For a believer like Mohler—a starched, unflinchingly conservative Christian, steeped in the theology of his particular province of the faith, devoted to producing ministers who will preach the inerrancy of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means to eternal life—the central news of the survey was troubling enough: the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent. Then came the point he could not get out of his mind: while the unaffiliated have historically been concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, the report said, "this pattern has now changed, and the Northeast emerged in 2008 as the new stronghold of the religiously unidentified." As Mohler saw it, the historic foundation of America's religious culture was cracking.

"That really hit me hard," he told me last week. "The Northwest was never as religious, never as congregationalized, as the Northeast, which was the foundation, the home base, of American religion. To lose New England struck me as momentous." Turning the report over in his mind, Mohler posted a despairing online column on the eve of Holy Week lamenting the decline—and, by implication, the imminent fall—of an America shaped and suffused by Christianity. "A remarkable culture-shift has taken place around us," Mohler wrote. "The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered. The so-called Judeo-Christian consensus of the last millennium has given way to a post-modern, post-Christian, post-Western cultural crisis which threatens the very heart of our culture." When Mohler and I spoke in the days after he wrote this, he had grown even gloomier. "Clearly, there is a new narrative, a post-Christian narrative, that is animating large portions of this society," he said from his office on campus in Louisville, Ky."

The way I see it the religious culture is cracking because people are beginning to choose to think for themselves AND dislike the idea of being told how to live their lives by a church. Tired of paying a tithing for what!? Tired of the same old catty gossip. Tired of having to sacrifice every Sunday by being at church for hours when that time could easily be spent with family at home.

When I first left the last church I attended I had felt like there was something wrong with me. That I was just too much of a misfit to fit in and belong, Now I have met several folks from that same church who have also left or stopped attending. I don't bother to ask why, but the fact that it is not just me is finally beginning to set in.

We are beginning to see the tip of the iceberg here. Slowly but surely people are beginning to think for themselves. Maybe they are reading more. Maybe questioning more. Either way the numbers are showing exactly what some of us have been feeling and seeing for sometime. That people are getting tired of the stranglehold that the Christian side has had for far too long. It is time for the free thinkers to emerge. Finally the time is coming where those of us who feel detached from Christianity can speak up and see the numbers grow and not feel like such a small part of society.

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