Is Christianity in America Changing?

Last month, Newsweek published a cover story titled “The End of Christianity in America.”  In the article, Jon Meacham cites recent statistics that show a decline in the number of people who are self-professed Christians.  It seems that in 1990, 86% of Americans identified themselves as Christian, whereas today only 76% do.  The number of people who claim no religious affiliation also rose in the same time period from 8% to 15%.

So, where does that leave us?  The Newsweek article seems to speculate that the trend will continue until the number of Christians left in the U.S. is a small minority rather than the overwhelming majority it has been (and still is at 76%).

Damon Linker has a different perspective that he writes about on the NPR.org website.  Linker believes that, rather than the eventual demise of Christianity, what we are witnessing is a shift in the type of Christianity that is mainstream.  He states in his article that there has been a battle between liberal streams of Christianity and more conservative forms.  In the middle of the 20th century, the liberal forms seemed to be the more dominant.  However, more recently the more conservative forms have been the more influential.

Since conservative Christianity is a Christianity that is much harder to swallow for a non-Christian or less fervent Christian, what we are seeing is a disassociation with conservative Christianity.

Where does that leave us as a nation?  Where is our main religious system heading?  Linker believes that we are heading toward what sociologist Christian Smith calls “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”  Here are the main tenants of this system:

  1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

How do you feel about this?  Would you welcome this form of Christianity?  Linker acknowledges that some will not be thrilled.  He writes,

Theologically speaking, this watered-down, anemic, insipid form of Judeo- Christianity is pretty repulsive. But, politically speaking, it’s perfect: thoroughly anodyne, inoffensive, tolerant. And that makes it well-suited to serve as the civil religion of the highly differentiated 21st century United States.

So, is Linker correct in his assessment of the future of Christianity in the U.S.?  If so, is he right that this is a welcome change?

Read Linker’s entire article here.

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4 Responses to Is Christianity in America Changing?

  1. Kelsey says:

    I think Linker is right. In fact, I think his “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” is already the dominant religion in the United States, but for the time being, it is often simply called “Christianity” by those who practice it.
    In general, I’ve recently been hearing frequently that the United States is a “post-Christian” nation. I have to disagree, for two reasons. First is that, in terms of sound orthodox Christian practice, America was never a “Christian nation” to begin with, which means we cannot be “post-Christian” now. If, however, we’re speaking in terms of nominal Christianity, then we are not “post-Christian” because the vast majority of Americans still call themselves Christian.
    In any case, it will be interesting to see where this trend leads.

  2. Jeff says:

    Too bad that your headline “Is Christianity in America changing?” doesn’t read “Christianity is changing America.”

  3. Brian says:

    “Is Christianity in America changing?”
    Yes! It is! Not for the better.
    As more of these national meetings of church leaders happen in the USA then the more
    changes I have seen in churches across USA or at least what I have seen first hand.

    It used to be going to these meetings you could rest assured that those among you are all true christians but cult leaders have infiltrated these meetings to press their own agendas and the biggest one that has hit America really hard was one that held many meetings coast to coast across the USA and their #1 goal is to remove the cross of salvation inside many churches. I find that to be Satans work. The humility and shame that Jesus died for me in which otherwise would have resulted in not just me but possibly thousands or perhaps even millions of people committing suicide.

    When a person who preaches false gospel then the very ground he stand is not firm.
    They change words in the Bible update them to new meaning or they add their own books as to further solidify GODS word.
    But a true christian knows the Bible needs no help.
    I question church leaders who act in obedience to the words of cult leaders.
    Has your church removed the Holy Cross in accordance to the teachings of the Moonies?

  4. Tim Farley says:

    Brian:

    Thanks for commenting. You asked: “Has your church removed the Holy Cross in accordance to the teachings of the Moonies?”

    Absolutely not! We are not supportive of the Unification movement.

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