The future of US Christianity

I’ve been seeing a number of posts recently in various forums lamenting the future of Christianity in the USA. The recent ruling on same sex marriage being the most recent catalyst for this angst. This has been a topic on my mind the last few years and I’ve come to a few understandings:

  • A big part on the perceived drop in US Christianity has much to do with a peeling back of the veneer of Christianity as a universal tenant of US society.
  • Christianity in the USA has to get over not being the default in US culture, it wasn’t always this way in US history, we just got used to it.
  • Years ago people said they were Christian often to differentiate that they were not Jewish.
  • Many baby boomers experienced the biggest peak of church attendance in US history. I’d surmise much of this was due to a drive to get back to “basic family values” after the difficulty of the Great Depression, fighting “Godless Communism”, and especially the horrors WWII.
  • A number of people went to Church because it was socially important in the community, not for religion itself.
  • Church attendance is now about what is was in many parts of the 1800s.
  • People (especially rural) in the 1800s held non-Christian superstitions and alternative beliefs in proportion to the people today who are “non-religious”, “spiritual”, and so on.
  • The Founding Fathers were not the most religious people.

And there are a few thing needed to move forward:

  • Christianity needs to find ways to make itself reverent in this current culture, not the one you remember or wish for.
  • Pick you battles. Things like abortion involve human life and merit higher priory (abortion is down due to evolving views on the topic). LBGT issues are basically a losing battle socially for churches opposed to them. If you are against such issues, compassion will get you further than anything.
  • Be known for the good the church does, not a few topics it opposes or frets about.
  • Invigorate what you do have. People want to join organization that are going somewhere and have a sense of direction.
  • Move on from things that are no longer relevant.
  • You church cannot be a closed social club for it to last.
  • Church is not about a beautiful building, it is about doing God’s work out in the world.

Church is about doing God’s work out in the world. It is also about sharing God’s whole message, and all of the Bible. The argument that we should only focus on what’s “relevant” sounds like code for “only focus on what people want to hear,” which I’m sure you don’t mean.

Parishes are growing where they have priests who openly defend what the Bible says about the issues of the day. Parishes are dying where the priests stay silent about current issues.

This more than likely not the time to say this, after all of these astonishing blows to Church Doctrine, to which I believe and subscribe to. What you say is correct. Many people who follow, believe, and accept Catholic Doctrine, find it hard to believe that it is possible to spread the good news of Christ / the Church without first stating at the same time, "You must first believe this, that, and the other, before conversion.

I didn’t subscribe to all of Catholic doctrine when I attended my first Catholic Mass. However, I could feel the love for God and Church all around me from the congregants. The Homily was astounding. I was hooked. ALONG the Way, in my classes, and in my reading I began to learn about doctrine. I had faith in the process. The Church had faith in the process. I began to realize and accept Catholic Doctrine. When I took that first sip during the Easter Mass, I was in full acceptance. What a wonderful journey that was.

Why deny others this chance? If at the end of a “seekers” journey he or she cannot accept doctrine, then they can still attend until such a day comes that they CAN accept doctrine. It is not up to us to “bar the way” into the church.

Call me a liberal if you wish. You would be wrong. I feel the OP makes an excellent point. We can be sensitive to the ways of society and still gain followers who can eventually, given time, embrace the ways of the church. When treating an illness, we administer treatment slowly. Why do otherwise? Why would I deny a seeker to take the cure for a sinful life in such a way that he can himself can tolerate and finally embrace and accept the teaching?

Also prayer is good too.

By relevant I mean having people understand that Christianity is something that is important in their lives

That may be a bit of a generalization. It’s both being clear about the values of the church, but also delivering the message though relationship. I’ve seen enough Priests rant about various topics in a way that communicates fall in line or you’re wrong. It’s hard to really change someone by simply telling them to. That’s where the hard work of building relationship and meeting the person where they are at makes all the difference if you want them to take on your position.

People may not want to hear it in light of recent issues, but a reminder that knee jerk fears and responses is not going to change anything is important here I think.

Your personal story is exactly my point.

Don’t forget that before our country started spending billions in tax dollars on social programs the Church was the place for people to get help.

And before we began spending tax dollars on social programs, there were work houses and poor houses, child labor and families that were split up.

This - very much.

In terms of abortion vs gay marriage, agreed with OP that whilst abortion/murder is a far, far graver sin, I think this latest development bodes more ominously for the future of the Church than Roe vs Wade.

Christians will be seen as hateful in the new climate. With the power of the media this will only increase. As opposed to abortion, where their views are tolerated, this looks like a watershed where the Church in America may be persecuted like never before.

Very true and good, PJH!
:thumbsup:

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I read this book some 20 years ago, and it still applies today.

fee.org/freeman/detail/book-review-the-tragedy-of-american-compassion-by-marvin-olasky

Jon

That Does sound like a good plan.

That may be a bit of a generalization. It’s both being clear about the values of the church, but also delivering the message though relationship. I’ve seen enough Priests rant about various topics in a way that communicates fall in line or you’re wrong. It’s hard to really change someone by simply telling them to. That’s where the hard work of building relationship and meeting the person where they are at makes all the difference if you want them to take on your position.

:thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

I think you and I are on the same page and agree that that is the wrong approach. We don’t need to lead with controversy.

I didn’t subscribe to all of Catholic doctrine when I attended my first Catholic Mass. However, I could feel the love for God and Church all around me from the congregants. The Homily was astounding. I was hooked. ALONG the Way, in my classes, and in my reading I began to learn about doctrine. I had faith in the process. The Church had faith in the process. I began to realize and accept Catholic Doctrine. When I took that first sip during the Easter Mass, I was in full acceptance. What a wonderful journey that was.

Why deny others this chance? If at the end of a “seekers” journey he or she cannot accept doctrine, then they can still attend until such a day comes that they CAN accept doctrine. It is not up to us to “bar the way” into the church.

Call me a liberal if you wish.

I don’t think that’s liberal. I think that approach goes all the way back to St. Thomas Aquinas.

It might also be worth remembering, fwiw, that if you look at it closely, the country hasn’t always been as religious as it is right now. It waxes and wanes.

I haven’t seen the statistics recently (and it would very by demographic) but there were periods of the 19th Century that had surprisingly low adherence and again in the 20th Century. While it wouldn’t be true of Catholics, the middle part of the 20th Century from the 20s up through the 50s saw, if I recall correctly, some surprising statistics. Politically, the 1930s are the most “liberal” we’ve ever experienced, but those views hung on into the 1950s much more than our romanticized view of that era would have us recall. The 1960s fairly obviously are problem ones and I’d argue form the root of our common problems now.

I’m very much upset by the judicial coup that happened last week, but it might indeed be a wake up call. The Protestant denominations seem intent on committing suicide by accommodating everything, while in contrast real adherents are increasingly attracted to the Catholic and Orthodox faiths. It’s not very hard to find pretty sincere converts in most orthodox Catholic churches. But we still have a problem in that there are large elements of very weakly catechized Catholics that don’t know what the Church stands for, and there are plenty of clerics remaining who went to the seminary when the seminaries were not doing a very good job. So we’re at a cross roads where we can follow the German and Dutch examples that have proven to be such bad ones, or the examples of the orthodox Catholic churches that have.

One thing that this does is that it puts all the messages flatly out there. We have been there before, and we see what is going on now. Islam is gaining ground in Europe as it doesn’t have a squishy message. We don’t either, and if we stand firm and get it out, there will be a good chance that we come out much stronger.

But we need not to hide our message. And we need to stand firm against our own fellows who will wish to accommodate any social trend within the church itself. And in the immediate future, as the social experimenters, fresh from victory, will want to go further and will try to do so. When the wrecked lives of the experiment start washing up on the beach, we’ll be there to pick them up and show them who really loves them, and that’ll go a long ways. But we aren’t there yet.

Christians will only be seen as hateful if they express their views in hateful ways. Westboro’ Baptist is, rightfully, seen as hateful. People realise that the vast majority of Christians are not that bad. However, if you travel part way along that route, then you may be seen in that light,

Divorce and remarriage (i.e. adultery) is as sinful as same-sex marriage. Maybe even more so, since adultery is directly covered in the Ten Commandments. Those churches who are against divorce make their views clear, but they do not generally do so in a hateful way. So long as Christians can express their disapproval of SSM in the same tone that they express disapproval of divorce and remarriage then there should not be a big problem once things have settled down.

For Catholics it might just be a matter of putting more emphasis on climate change and countering the death penalty. There are many areas where the church can make itself felt that will not be seen as hateful.

$0.02

rossum

We’ve cultivated a radically individualistic society in the USA.
Recent court decisions merely confirm that. The effects are seen on both sides of the political spectrum.

We have “absolute tolerance” of individual whims.
And we know that individual whims cannot be absolute without disastrous consequences.

However, the world is not even remotely interested in what the Church has to say on those issues. Anything that isn’t bowing down to the rainbow flag and worshipping gay couples is seen as bigotry and intolerance. The sex fascists have abandoned all reason and logic. Anything that doesn’t fetishize their barnyard genital behavior is an affront to them.

Don’t buy their rhetoric. We’re not dealing with critically-thinking people here.

To me, political conservatism and religious conservatism are two different things, but to a lot of people they aren’t. From what I understand, it’s an uniquely American phenomenon. (If it’s not, then please share your experiences.) They are very much intertwined and Climate change is really a good way to start a political fight, not unify people. That’s just the reality of where things are in America.

What a lot of people are startled by is the fact the Left’s hatred for Christianity (or conservative religion) is much more overt now that SSM has been legalized.

All we have to do is be alive and still breathe and say we are conservative Christians (or conservative politically - or both) and people “hate” us these days. That’s all you hear about. Westboro is the face of conservative Christianity is a lot of people’s eyes. It is literally that bad in some circles.

The answer is really getting back to radical love. Actually loving our neighbor. Actually being charitable. Walking the walk as well as talking the talk. Not being the person who talks a good game by attending Mass, but the person who attends Mass and applies the principles learned in their waking lives everyday. American society is very cold and cynical these days (w/good reason). We need to be the light more than ever.

In a lot of ways, the church needs to get back to basics and stop accommodating secular culture.

Yes, I agree that a lot of people need to learn how to speak compassionately about what we believe, but we also shouldn’t water down what we believe either.

I recently heard a commentator say that in troubled times, people return to what they grew up with - what they know - and become more of it. This makes perfect sense to me as it’s become a priority for me to be a better Christian, which in part, led me to become Catholic.

America and the church are going through troubled times. I don’t claim to know the future, but until there’s an overwhelming event that unifies all the people, despite our divisions, our divisions will continue to grow.

Our moral code used to be a source of unification. Even though our founders weren’t particularly religious, they understood that the people were and they used religion (practice and language) to bring people together through fasting and prayer. People may not have strictly adhered to the standard, but people knew what the standard was.

These days, the church is so divided that you don’t like what one church says, you can go down the block and the next church will tell you what you want to hear. In the same denomination.

A few of my friends are passionate Christian Liberals and they really don’t relate to the anxiety I (and others) feel about SSM and the direction of society because they were directly advocating for this change. They really think that I’m heartless because I don’t support “love”.

It’s not “love” that I have a problem with, but the “slapping God in the face” part of all of this. I support equality and treating people fairly, but I love God more. That’s where a lot of Americans actually are.

Apparently, I’m supposed to decode a secret message when St. Paul talks about how “a man shouldn’t lay with another man and a woman shouldn’t lay with another woman”. However, I never got the secret decoder ring. I can’t just pick and choose the parts of the New Testament that I’m going to follow - as Jesus fulfilled the Law of the Old Testament. So, unless he said it, but didn’t mean it, I’ve got to take St. Paul at his word.
(And I don’t get the impression that he was just saying it to say it, but actually meant it.)

American Christianity is in for a bumpy ride. Pray for us. Lord have mercy.

Absolutely! It was one of the points I made originally that was one of the main reasons I started this thread.

I’m not too sure how long those “liberal values”, e.g. the New Deal, hung on. The New Deal was losing its luster for people by the late 30’s from what I understand. The 60’s I agree are still with us in some form and probably the result of the conformism of the 50’s.

As far as the Protestant denominations, they cover the entire spectrum of liberal to conservative. The main 3 Lutheran denominations, ELCA, Missouri Synod, and Wisconsin Synod run the spectrum for fairly liberal to pretty conservative.

“Real adherents” is a very subjective term. The stark reality is basically ALL denominations have been losing members in the USA. This includes Catholics members of European decent, only the influx of Mexican immigrants is masking this.

Islam is gaining ground in Europe mainly through demographics. Turks in Germany, Northern Africans in France, Pakistanis in the UK, and so on have emigrated while “native” birth rates have dropped below population sustainability.

A solid message is quite important. But the delivery and relationship is extremely important.

Exactly! I’ve been wanting to call Same Sex Marriage on this forum as either Same Sex Distraction or Same Sex Obsession. No one is forcing the Catholic Church to change its stance on marriage, I’d fight against something like that for any church. What HAS changed is the SECULAR view of marriage. I’d argue the Catholic Church has many more things of higher social value to fight for. Becoming so renowned to the general pubic for being very visibly against gay social progress has been diminishing the Church’s ability to address other social issues.

Westboro is bad period. They give conservative Christians a really bad name and hijack solder’s funerals to spread their message.

Absolutely!

It’s interesting how one era’s definition of a time of unity and foundation is another’s liberal experiment. The idea of separation of church and state was very radical in a time of state churches and the Pope literally controlling much of Italy.

Personally, I’d argue the Reformation as being a time of much more division. The Thirty Years’ War is a prime example of the conflict.

As one of those more liberal Christians I don’t think you are heartless, You are clearly a very deliberate, thinking person by this post alone. We may interpret the Bible differently in some areas and concentrate on some areas more than others, but we all are trying to follow the same God. In the end we are more allies than opponents. I’d argue people with no faith are more of an issue.

To start off, you are completely entitled to your reading of such verses. But take one of the most popular verses used to make a case against Homosexuality, Romans 1:18–32 and verse 27 in particular. The book is written to the Romans and Rome was the evil empire of the day, known for acts of intra-male sex. These male relationships were far from equal however with one often being a slave and one the master with the slave being quite young. Young men of the day were young enough for us to call them kids or teenagers in many cases. This sounds more like Pedophilia to me than anything else, which I’m sure we can both disagree with.

In the end we certainly do choose what verses we place emphasis on. One of the chapters of the Bible I like to illustrate this with is Deuteronomy 22. We violate many of these verses in modern life. I especially like verses 20-21 (executing non-virgin women), 22 (executing a cheating couple), 23-24 (executing an engaged woman who was raped in a town but didn’t report it), 25-27 (but she’s OK if the rape was in the countryside).

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