Skip to comments.Farewell to the American Protestant Majority
Posted on 10/15/2012 4:41:39 PM PDT by rhema
According to a new study by the Pew Forum, Protestants are, for the first time in history, not a majority in the United States of America. I dont think thats anything for evangelical Protestants, or anyone else, to panic about.
Several years ago, I pointed out here that studies were showing a declining Protestant majority, and projections were being made for this very reality. Now, the surveys says we have a 48 percent plurality of Protestants. I wasnt frantic about that several years ago, and Im still not.
When working toward our God and country badges, my childhood Boy Scout troop was shuttled over to the neighborhood United Methodist church for sessions with the pastor about being good Christians and good citizens. I remember my Southern Baptist sensibilities being shocked when the pastor said, in response to a question, that he didnt believe in angels or demons. The reigning cultural presence of mainline Protestantism served the same purpose as the God and country badge. Give us enough Christianity to fight the communists and save the Republic, they said, but lets remember not to take it all too seriously.
That culture is over.
Frankly, we should be more concerned about the loss of a Christian majority in the Protestant churches than about the loss of a Protestant majority in the United States. Most of the old-line Protestant denominations are captive to every theological fad that has blown through their divinity schools in the past thirty years-from crypto-Marxist liberation ideologies to sexual identity politics to a neo-pagan vision of Godcomplete with gender neutralized liturgies. Should we lament the fact that the Riverside Avenue Protestant establishment is now collapsing under the weight of its own bureaucracy?
What we should pay attention to instead may be the fresh wind of orthodox Christianity whistling through the leaves-especially throughout the third world, and in some unlikely places in North America, as well. Sometimes animists, Buddhists, and body-pierced Starbucks employees are more fertile ground for the gospel than the confirmed Episcopalian at the helm of the Rotary Club.
Accordingly, evangelicals will engage the culture much like the apostles did in the first centurynot primarily to baptized pagans on someones church roll, but as those who are hearing something new for the first time. There may be fewer bureaucrats in denominational headquarters, but there might be more authentically Christian churches preaching an authentically Christian gospel.
We will be pained to see idolatries springing up where churches once were. In that we will have the same experience our brother Paul did two millennia ago in Athens (Acts 17:16). But like him, sometimes it is easier to gain a hearing among people who know they are ignorant (Acts 17:17), than with those who think they know. Paul listened to the pagan poetry about Zeus, and showed the Athenian philosophers how not even they could live with the kind of god-concepts they said they believed. Around us we hear the father-hunger in the hip-hop lyrics blaring down the urban sidewalk.
We see the fear of death in the plastic surgery clinics and health clubs springing up in the suburban strip-malls. We hear the despondency of sin lamented in the words of a country music song on the sound system of a rural gas station. Against all of that, we proclaim the only message that can answer these unconscious longings and these conscious resentmentsJesus and the resurrection (Acts 17:18). The pagans wont always listenbut they will know that we are saying something new (Acts 17:32).
The American Protestant majority is is over and to that I say, good riddance. Now lets pray for something newlike a global Christian majority, on earth as it is in heaven.
This study is flawed because it doesn’t define protestant.
If it continues the “anything not “catholic”, i.e., not Roman nor Eastern nor somewhat patriarchate”, then protestants remain by far the majority. That was the definition used during my years as a military chaplain, the military having a unique need to consolidate denomination whenever it could.
Despite Episcopal protests to the contrary, they don’t get lumped into “catholic” despite their smells and bells.
BTW, I agree with the basic premise of the article, and, from the Catholic side of the altar rail, have said the same thing for quite a few years now.
This Protestant isn’t concerned about being a minority compared to Catholics. A lot of us backed Santorum or Gingrich with no thought about it.
No fears. There are millions out there who are "Protestant" in the same way Joe Biden is "Catholic" -- cultural "Protestants" who aren't counted as such in these polls.
Most of the old-line Protestant denominations are captive to every theological fad that has blown through their divinity schools in the past thirty years-from crypto-Marxist liberation ideologies to sexual identity politics to a neo-pagan vision of Godcomplete with gender neutralized liturgies.
That's the sort of red-meat culture war rhetoric we expect nowadays. But really, how does that actually describe, say, ordinary Methodists in the pews?
The exact wording was: What is your present religion, if any? Are you Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Orthodox such as Greek or Russian Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, something else, or nothing in particular?
You can tell by the bolded text, what they consider as "Christian", "Other Faith", and "Unaffiliated".
Unaffiliated in this study = atheist, agnostic, nothing in particular.
Sadly, in their definition of Christian, it includes Mormon.
Excellent post...that is the heart of the matter.
I believe that we are experience a seismic shift and realignment of global Christianity with the lines of fracture between orthodoxy and homosexualist revisionism racing into every denomination.
The global south has become the powerhouse of orthodoxy: The counties to which we at one time sent missionaries are now sending missionaries to us to preach the unadulterated Gospel.
The faithful remnant and new conservative bodies are finding strength and courage from each other. Case in point: The Anglican Church of North America and the North American Lutheran Church will be sharing the facilities of Nashotah House and Trinity School for Ministry.
I read an analysis of this poll over the weekend. There is one big error/fallacy in it. If you say you believe in God, but then say you are non-denominational, the Pew people include you in the “athiest” grouping. Thus many believers who do not attend a mainline church are thus NOT counted as Christians.
Here is the beginning:
Pew’s latest survey declare that the number of people with no religion is dramatically increasing. The way the survey is being pitched by the media is that America is becoming less religious.
In reality, Americans are not becoming significantly less religious. The Pew data show that those who declare that there is no God — i.e., atheists — have gone from 1.6% of the population to 2.4% in the last five years — hardly a tidal wave, and within the survey margin of error.
An interesting aside is that nearly as many people in the poll didn’t know their religious affiliation as declared themselves atheists.
The media is distorting the survey by an odd use of the word “religion” — a use facilitated by Pew lumping people of faith who don’t belong to a church with atheists.
I would just observe that:
Churches that are both Biblically sound and culturally relevant, are growing like crazy. I attend one in my community.
Churches that Biblically sound, but culturally irrelevant, are generally stagnant, to varying degrees.
Churches that are Biblically false, but culturally relevant, are stagnant to varying degrees - because they become just entertainment, without have no eternal significance or truth.
Churches that are NOT Biblically sound, NOR culturally relevant, are dying rapidly, merging to cut costs, and are churches in name only.
I would love to see the break down of “white” Catholics.
I suspect the trend is similar to “white” Protestants, and if you look at second and third generation Hispanics, you will see a sharp drop off.
In other words, the culture is falling.
Part of the reason that the ranks of the unaffiliated have grown in recent years is that Americans who are not particularly religious at least by conventional measures, such as self-reported rates of attendance at religious services increasingly describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular.
In 2007, 38% of people who said they seldom or never attend religious services described themselves as religiously unaffiliated. In 2012, 49% of infrequent attenders eschew any religious affiliation. By comparison, the percentage describing themselves as unaffiliated has been flat among those who attend religious services once a week or more often.
The vast majority of religiously unaffiliated Americans are not actively seeking to find a church or other religious group to join. Leaving aside atheists or agnostics, just 10% of those who describe their current religion as nothing in particular say they are looking for a religion that is right for them; 88% say they are not.12
Nor are the ranks of the unaffiliated predominantly composed of practitioners of New Age spirituality or alternative forms of religion. Generally speaking, the unaffiliated are no more likely than members of the public as a whole to have such beliefs and practices. For example, roughly three-in-ten religiously unaffiliated adults say they believe in spiritual energy in physical objects and in yoga as a spiritual practice. About a quarter believe in astrology and reincarnation. In addition, nearly six-in-ten of the religiously unaffiliated say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth; about three-in-ten say they have felt in touch with someone who is dead; and 15% have consulted a psychic. All of these figures closely resemble the surveys findings among the public as a whole.
On the other hand, the religiously unaffiliated are less inclined than Americans overall to say they often think about the meaning and purpose of life (53% vs. 67%). They also attach much less importance to belonging to a community of people with shared values and beliefs; 28% of the unaffiliated say this is very important to them, compared with 49% of all adults.
I am not trying to claim that the methodology used in the poll was perfect, but it seems like most of the criticism I've heard about is people attempting to claim that folks who attend non-denominational churches were somehow grouped into the "nothing in particular" category. When reading the report, itself, I see no evidence of that.
Amount that "unaffiliated" are in a church:
Their beliefs in God:
Look, I'm not trying to point fingers. I know for a fact about the problems in the Catholic Church, as do any number of other people who love pointing fingers at us. But the point is, let's not drink our own bathwater.
I personally think the negative changes in society in the past couple of decades are pretty obvious.
They still want a higher hope, but something is pulling them from Christianity.
I believe the reason is the "softening" of Christianity. A strict dogma spoken in a logical way is for the young. The over-exuberance of some megac's is off-putting I believe.
At the same time, Pope John Paul II, for all his good points was not a stern dogmatist as Pope Benedict is -- we are truly blessed by God to have Pope B at this time, throwing out the liberals
We wrestle not against flesh and blood.
Psalms 143:1 "Blessed be the Lord my God, who teacheth my hands to fight, and my fingers to war."
Perhaps, but you need to step back a bit and think.
Did the media create the trend, or just reflect and amplify it? I think the latter. Divorce, fornication, and such were well established by the 90’s. Honestly if you look at the data, people slept around LESS than in the 70-80’s. The fear of getting AIDS kept some people out of other’s pants.
It goes deeper than that. For instance, in my brides bible study last week, one woman stated that you just have to be “nice” to be saved. That isn’t Lutheran or Catholic teaching, yet that is what a lot of people believe. Where are they getting that message?
Interesting question. Well, i was a teen in the 90s so can only speak of that time and the gradual morass-sinking of that decade.
If I put my logical hat on, I can see clearly that all human beings, in my opinion need a deity, something or someone to believe in -- when the Albanians or soviets outlawed religion they had to replace it with the worship of the state.
Did I tell you guys that earlier this year I went to a civil wedding in Poland (my first since I moved here) and it was funny because all the words were EXACTLY the same as in the Church except instead of God, there was "the State" -- so you made your promises to the state.
People who I knew personally as "athiests" or "agnostics" in the UK, Sweden and Germany (didn't know personally any agnostics in Belgium or France and don't know any in the US or Poland -- only ex-athiests) were those who "believed" in something else -- shopping or seeing the world or something, which in some cases was quasi religious (with an entire ceremony)
What went wrong? i do blame the media based on the experience of Bhutan -- before TV was allowed (yes, i mean allowed), there were no murders there for 70 years and no violent crime for nearly a decade. But the moment TV was allowed, there were a couple of murders the next year...
Case in point. In the recent mass shootings, I have seen witnesses start to smile when recounting the scene to reporters. They are more happy to be on TV, then sad or upset to see their fellow man blown apart. No rage, no sadness, but a kind of glee in being on TV.
A shrink I know said that it is because they don't relate to the killings as “real”, but do relate to the TV as “real”.