There’s a big problem with numbers. If you torture them long enough, you can make them say anything. Even more important than that is if you look at them the wrong way, they can point you in the wrong direction.
The more recent numbers released by Pew Research indicate a few trends. First, the number of people claiming to be Christians is dropping. We’ll discuss why that is not a real concern here in a moment. The rise in other religious affiliations is a more important, though that’s not really the focus point, either. What the numbers do no say and what is becoming the biggest problem in America is what concerns me the most and the numbers do not reflect that at all.
Let’s look at all three.
Fewer American Christians
Taken at face value, this would seem to be a big concern. In just seven years, the percentage of Americans claiming to be Christians has dropped 7.8% There are two reasons for this, one that is a huge concern and one that is of no concern at all.
The big concern is that the biggest drop in Christians comes from the younger generations. There’s a dramatic drop between “Generation X” and “Millennials” claiming to be Christians – 70% down to 56%. The trend line moves up quickly as you go from generation to generation and it points to an upcoming generation that will be less than half-Christian.
That’s the big concern. Today’s students and young professionals are tomorrow’s leaders and they are not currently leaning towards the faith. That does not bode well for today, let alone tomorrow. We’ll discuss this huge problem in-depth in a future article.
The part that’s not a concern is the format of the survey. There have always been people in the church who claim the faith for secular reasons. It was “cool” to be part of the church. It’s social. It’s acceptable. The need for social interaction is diminishing and the acceptance of other faiths, including atheism and agnosticism, is increasing. The fact that fewer people are claiming to be Christians does not demonstrate a decline in the church. It simply shows fewer people are faking it.
The Rise of Other Religions
As strange as it may sound to those of us who believe in the One True God, we should expect the rise of atheism, agnosticism, Islam, and other religions. The foundations for a falling away have been strengthening in the world for centuries and communication technology makes it easier to spread disinformation. We are failing to get the Word out as readily as others but I’m hopeful that it will improve.
It’s more concerning than the decline in claimed Christians simply because it means that they’re gaining ground that we’re losing. Left of its own accord, the secular world will pull people away. This is what we’re seeing in the growth of unaffiliated Americans, but growth in other areas means the wrong message is making an impact on those who are falling away from the church.
To understand the distinction, it’s important to see why this is happening. The follies of many modern church leaders will have the natural effect of pushing people away while the distractions of the world will make them lukewarm and disinterested. When strong beliefs in other faiths rise, we’re faced with a bigger problem. Someone unaffiliated is lost for now but they can be easily brought back into the faith. However, once they become tied into other beliefs, the challenge increases. Moreover, they can become powerful tools for adversary. Those who were “once a Christian, now a _____” can help the adversary bring others away from the faith.
Losing the Youth
This is the biggest risk to America. It’s bigger than terrorism, climate change, and economic collapse. It’s the cause of other issues that are appearing today and that are on pace to continue to grow.
We are not properly educating children on the importance of the truth. What’s worse is that we’re allowing them to educate themselves within their own misunderstandings. Truth breeds truth. Lies breed lies. The reason that so many in older generations stayed true to the faith is because so many in older generations stayed true to the faith. It’s not doubletalk or circular reasoning. Within their circles, faith helped to strengthen itself. Unfortunately, every generation alive in America today did a progressively worse job of giving the truth to their children.
Now, we’re at a very dangerous point. We will lose all future generations until the second coming of Christ if something isn’t done. At this point, the only two things we can do is pray for the country (and the youth in particular) and educate them to the truth. That’s bad and good – bad because it doesn’t give us many options but good because it allows us to stay focused. It’s in the Lord’s hands (so we pray) but we are called to fight for the faith (so we educate).
Spread the Word. Keep America in your prayers. It’s easy to give up. That’s what the adversary wants.