It’s not a small detail, but for most in the media, including Newsweek, the difference between the words “religious affiliation” and a “faith in Christ” (Christianity) does not exist. Apparently unaware that a relationship with Jesus Christ is not about religion or religious affiliation, the words have become interchangeable…especially if they can be used to indicate a decline in faith.
The non-denominational tag that many Christians take while knowing that having an “affiliation” is not the key, also appears to not have been a factor in a recently released survey and subsequent opinion from Newsweek. The “scoop” has the publisher waving the “The End of Christian America” banner headline.
Newsweek staff and writer, Jon Meacham, took the liberty to interpret that a 2009 American Religious Identification Survey showing that “the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent,” means that Christianity is on the decline in America.
Sucking blood out of a rock, Meacham leads his opinion piece by framing a prominent Baptist school president as being “despairing” and someone who had “grown even gloomier” since the poll results…and since, more than likely, the president began fielding questions from Meacham, who appears to have hedged his interview with pre-conceived notions and this Christian-shattering survey.
Meacham uses plenty of drama in the lead of his story, garnering some geographical data from the poll to illustrate some seismic shift in the “religious” makeup of the United States. Too bad he didn’t investigate further into the movements of the “non-denominational” or growing number of “born againers”…two affiliations missing from the story.
Meacham’s lead in Newsweek, published online April 4th:
It was a small detail, a point of comparison buried in the fifth paragraph on the 17th page of a 24-page summary of the 2009 American Religious Identification Survey. But as R. Albert Mohler Jr.—president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the largest on earth—read over the document after its release in March, he was struck by a single sentence. For a believer like Mohler—a starched, unflinchingly conservative Christian, steeped in the theology of his particular province of the faith, devoted to producing ministers who will preach the inerrancy of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means to eternal life—the central news of the survey was troubling enough: the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent. Then came the point he could not get out of his mind: while the unaffiliated have historically been concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, the report said, “this pattern has now changed, and the Northeast emerged in 2008 as the new stronghold of the religiously unidentified.” As Mohler saw it, the historic foundation of America’s religious culture was cracking.
To be a Christian is not about being “steeped in theology” or being defined by a “particular province of faith.” To be a Christian is not about proclaiming affiliation to a religion…especially in a survey. A Christian proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ in many ways, mostly by the life he or she lives.
The “historic foundation of America’s religious culture” maybe “cracking,” but the power that moves people to shout the Good News of Jesus, to give up all to further His kingdom, and to live in any part of the country or world to do so is unshakable…regardless of the prevailing media or social thought.
It’s a bit early in the game to be smash-mouthing Christians…especially when the Newsweeks of the world want to be a part of tweaking America in the wrong direction.
…to be continued in part two.