Christian America is disappearing. Only 4% of American adults follow a consistent biblical worldview. That’s down from 6% just three years ago. It feels almost as if someone flipped a switch and the world turned upside down.
It wasn’t that sudden, really. Some of us saw it coming, and we’ve trying to raise the alarm on it for years. Still, for all I can tell, America’s churches have gone on doing business as usual. I find that astonishing. How have we missed it? What blinded us to the rising spiritual dangers? How could we have missed the new opportunities for outreach that came at the same time? How could we have kept on doing business as usual?
Reality on the ground, here in the visible world, has changed beyond recognition. That’s only part of total reality, of course, for God has not changed. It’s real nonetheless, though, and to see danger with open eyes is better than to turn away and pretend all is well. The Israelites had to fight their battles with open eyes, too. They only lost when they forgot God was their guide, their protector, their one God.
God is the same today as He was when He opened the Red Sea and saved them from a catastrophe that appeared absolutely unavoidable. I see outreach opportunities growing, even in the midst of disastrous decline in Christian belief.
The One Thing I Would Change in America Today
Still, if I could flip and change something about this world, there’s one thing I’d do with it. I wouldn’t use it to do the expected, and “turn America back around again.” No, I would use it to sound a warning siren so loud it would wake up the church at last. We’re still napping drowsily somewhere in the 1970s, even as the world is snatching people from us right and left. From our own families even! I heard it just the other day: “My daughter just declared herself an atheist.” Oh, how that must hurt! Oh, that we would wake up and see how often it happens! And that we would do what it takes to stop it!
It’s not that complicated. Your church could flip a switch right now. It has to start with the alarm. Don’t ever forget that God is on your side, but raise the alarm anyway, just as the prophets did. Do it this week in your church.
How? I’ll show you right now. Actually it’s just the first of three or four ways I’m going to show you. It’s called a healthy exposure to reality. Start by waking yourself up: Look at what the world thinks of Christianity by way of memes.
Can You Hear It?
First, see for yourself how many there are (it’s a small sampling). Look at the kind of attack they raise. They cover hundreds of little topics, but they add up to one thing: Christianity is mindless, anti-science, anti-tolerant, ignorant, unethical, and stupid. It’s less about calling Christianity wrong, and more about embarrassing believers into submission or surrender.
This isn’t some obscure exercise. This is what your young people encounter online, every time they mention that they go to church. It’s ubiquitous. It’s well-informed, too, in a certain sense. Atheists (some of them) study the Bible carefully — not to learn from it, but to find problems in it. They put the word out, and moments later it’s circulating as a meme. They find it, they spread it. These people communicate. Some of them have studied the Bible know every possible problem in the church and in the Bible.
You might think no one cares about Leviticus (for example), but the most visited page on my old Thinking Christian blog is still, “Why Wearing Clothes of Mixed Fabrics (Lev. 19:19) Was Wrong.” Why so many visits? Because there so many atheists are out there saying, “That law is so stupid!” The same goes for embarrassing moments in the churches. If they find something they can make hay out of, they make hay out of it.
It’s everywhere. Come to think of it, I don’t want to flip some switch to sound an alarm. It’s blaring loud enough already. What we need is a church that will quit stopping its ears to it!
What Are You Going to Do About It?
Never mind that all these memes have good answers, answers that should satisfy a reasonable mind. It’s the barrage that matters. It may be a barrage of blanks, but it’s also a nonstop, loud, intimidating barrage, and it’s driving people out of the faith, away from Christ, away from His truth and His life.
So now that you’re looking at those pages of memes I linked to above (you are doing that, right?), ask yourself some questions: Do they bother you? In what way? Are you thinking, “What if this really is true? What if we really should be that embarrassed?” What you’re feeling now is the alarm rising right inside yourself. What are you going to do about it?
Or maybe it bothers you instead that messages like these can embarrass some people you love out of the faith? That’s great! It should bother you! Now, what are you going to do about it?
Or maybe it doesn’t bother you. You’re not doing anything about it because you don’t see a need to do anything. Don’t stop yet: Give yourself one more exposure to reality. Gather a group of teens from your church. Show them five or ten of these memes on a screen you can view together. Then ask them how it hits them. And how often it hits them. For example, “Does any of this bother you, as someone who’s a churched kid, possibly someone who’s made a profession of faith? Have you seen this kind of thing online? Do you know how to answer? Do you wonder whether there even is any answer? What happens inside you when you’re not sure about that?”
Listen! Please, Listen!
You have to give them freedom to answer honestly. Let them know it’s safe to speak, and hold to that promise. If you’ll do that with them, my work here will be over. Your switch will get flipped. You’ll hear the alarm blaring from teens in your own church.
So far this is only about memes, just one sample of the anti-Christian world we live in now. My next articles will take it even deeper. Christian America really has been disappearing. That’s not hopelessness speaking, it’s simple awareness. My hope isn’t in the state of the country anyway, but in God. And honestly, I see stunning new outreach opportunities coming from this alarm that we’ll be raising together.
Of course that’s assuming you’ll take the effort to look at and listen to reality as it is, here on the ground. If you discount it without testing it, then you’ve decided not to wake up. Again: What are you going to do about it?
If you’re wondering what I think you should do about it, I’ll keep it simple for now:
- Listen to God.
- Listen to the alarm.
- Listen to God again.
- Ask, “What do Christians do in non-Christian cultures?”
- Keep asking that question until you realize you already know the answer. (I’ll share my thoughts on that later, but if you ask the question the right way, you’ll get there just fine without me.)
- Sound the alarm with your friends and your colleagues.
Answers (For Use When the Questions Have Done Their Wake-Up Job)
I can’t leave without a final word about those memes. I’m hesitant to rush to answers, actually, because unanswered questions have a way of prodding us awake, which is the whole point of this article. But there are people at stake here, and if they have questions, they need to know where to find answers.
I recommend you give them a list of websites so they can search out answers in good places. Start with these. Every one of these sites is good for taking the questions and challenges seriously and answering them honestly and thoroughly.
All these sites have answers in text, audio, and video. The last one’s podcast runs under a different name here.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the highly acclaimed Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.
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