October 23, 2017

The Coming Evangelical Collapse: A Statistical Review by Michael Bell

The Eclectic Christian, Michael Bell, is a long-time IM reader and commenter. He can also count all his digits, which puts him way past me when it comes to the statistical evaluation of the ARIS data and the Evangelical Collapse posts. Welcome Michael as an IM guest blogger and take note of his conclusions.

Michael Spencer has published a series of articles about a coming Evangelical collapse in the United States. One, published in the Christian Science Monitor, has stirred up a great deal of debate, both inside and outside the Christian community. As a person who is greatly interested in statistics, I was very interested in seeing if Michael’s claims could be borne out by statistical analysis. Let’s look at some of his statements and see if these ideas can be statistically supported.

1. “Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.”

Let start by looking at the present day numbers. Michael says that between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelical. According to the recently released American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), of the 228,182,000 adult Americans in the survey, 77,747,000 self identify as “Evangelical” or “Born Again”, a number equivalent to 34% of the adult population. These numbers come from across the theological spectrum and include a significant percentage (18.4%) of Catholics who identify themselves as Evangelical as well as members (38.6%) of mainline denominations. So when Michael says that a maximum of 35% of Americans are Evangelical, he is pretty much on the money.

If you only want to count those Evangelicals who are not attending Catholic or mainline denominations you have a number of 56,500,000 who identify as Evangelical or “Born Again”, a number equal to 24.8% of the total adult population. So it would appear that Michael’s range of 25-35% was an extremely accurate starting point.

2. “Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants.”

While certain segments of evangelicalism will remain strong, as affirmed by Michael in his article, much of Evangelicalism will see significant decline, particularly among the Baptists, who currently make up over 50% of American Evangelicals.

Consider this: In the general population, 22% of adults are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine, while 28% of adults are between the ages of fifty and sixty-nine. When we calculate the ratio between these two groups we come up with a ration of .785 to one. This means that if you want to keep up with the general population trends, for every 1000 adults you have between the ages of fifty and sixty-nine, you will need 785 adults who are currently between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine with which to replace them.

So how do the Baptist fare? For Baptists 11% are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine while 37% are between the ages of fifty and sixty-nine This calculates out to a ratio of .297 to 1. In other words there are only 297 adult Baptist between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine for every 1000 adults between the ages of fifty and sixty-nine.

When we compare the numbers of 297 with 785 we find that Baptists are only reproducing themselves at 37.8% of the rate at which the general population is reproducing itself! While people who call themselves Baptists are 15.8% of the population today (according to ARIS), in less than two generations we are looking at Baptists potentially being only 6.0% of the general population (15.8% times 37.8%).

We should note that the actual number of attendees of Baptist churches may be slightly higher than the numbers would indicate as you will likely see Christians who do not self identify as Baptists going to Baptist churches. (I would be one who falls into that category today.) Admittedly there will also be other factors involved: People also have a tendency to come back to the church later in life. Other Evangelical Christian groups are statistically healthier than the Baptists are currently, so Evangelicals as a whole will likely not fare as badly as the Baptists. What this does tell us though is that at least for Baptists, less than two generations from now they will likely be less than half as strong as they are now. Michael’s prediction is looking pretty accurate.

3. “We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity.”

According to ARIS, currently 21% of adult Baptists are over the age of seventy. (I keep using Baptists in my examples as they are a good representation of evangelicals and it helps to keep things consistent for now.) In ten years, based on what we know of life expectancy, roughly this number of Baptists will have died. Yes, some of those who are currently older than 70 will still be with us, but at least a corresponding number who are currently under 70 will also have died. They will be replaced by the children of those Baptists who are now in the eighteen to twenty-nine year range, which as mentioned previously is 11% of adult Baptists. Assuming that those who are in the eighteen to twenty-nine year range roughly reproduce themselves over the next ten years, you will have a net decrease in Baptists over the next ten years of roughly 10%.

So as Michael has said, the next ten years should be the beginning of the collapse, and as was shown earlier in the article, this collapse should continue for several decades until half of the Baptists are gone.

4. “This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. “

I did an interesting study a number of months ago entitled Southern Baptists in Decline – Where will it end? In the study I looked at the ratio of attendance to membership in denomination both in Canada and the United States. In doing so, I made the interesting discovery that:

Generally if your attendance is under 50% of your members and adherents your church will likely decline over the next ten years. Conversely if your attendance is greater that 50% of your members and adherents, your church will likely grow over the next 10 years. There are of course exceptions to the rule.

Almost all mainline churches were under the 50% ration, and almost all had experienced significant decline. One of the interesting exceptions to the 50% rule was found in the Southern Baptists, who despite having an attendance to membership ration of roughly 28%, managed a small growth between 1990 and 2000. I attributed it at the time to a positive “Evangelical” factor. What I did not realize at the time was that the Southern Baptists had not yet reached what Michael Spencer calls the “generational horizon.” The Baptists were a generation behind the mainline church in terms of the age of their members, and while the mainline churches have already experienced significant decline, the Baptist are only just beginning their decline. I should note that from the ARIS data we can see that the mainline churches now have a much healthier distribution of members (especially compared to the Baptists), although one that still indicates that decline will continue in relation to their proportion of the general population.

5. Despite some very successful developments in the past 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism.

One statistic that really jumped out at me when going through the ARIS data was the statistics on Education. In the general population, 27% of those of the age twenty-five and older were college graduates. In Baptist churches the figure was 16%, and in Pentecostal churches the figure was 13%. I am seeing more and more of the Western world viewing Evangelicals as ignorant and uneducated and not worthy or participating fully in the public square. Unfortunately the education numbers seem to support their thesis. Are there Evangelicals who are going to rise to this challenge?

This ties into the last point of Michael’s that I wanted to look at today:

5. This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

If you want to know what the America is going to look like in forty years, and how Evangelicals will be treated, look at Canada today. Here are some numbers on Canadian Christians. If my statistical analysis up to this point has been correct, then Evangelical numbers in the USA in forty years will be very similar to Evangelical numbers in Canada today. Much of what Michael has said about the way Evangelicals will be treated in the USA is already true in Canada. Michael also talks about the rise of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement and it is these churches, along with moderate charismatics like the Christian and Missionary Alliance who are leading the way in church growth in Canada. I do not have the time or space to go into further details, but forty years from now it will be a much different world from what you are currently experiencing.

All is not lost however, Michael and many of his commentators have talked about what can be done. I am pleased to report that Evangelicals in Canada are starting to show signs of health and growth again. Perhaps too, Michael has given a wake up call that, like in the story of Jonah, if not ignored can lead to significantly different results.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Comments

  1. Patrick Lynch says:

    As always, a sobering analysis.

    I wonder what new accelerants of decline the economic and scientific future will purvey? It seems to me that over the last 10 years especially, the media has gotten “serious” about advocating a rather agnostic morality as a least common denominator, and I wonder what the cumulative effect of all that generally ‘non-Christian programming’ will be on the next generation, especially after the hokey failure of all the Christian programming we’ve already made for our little enclave.

    Just like the internet changed radically both our relationship with both information and with our sexual culture in 15 years, I think we can expect future technologies to do similarly unexpected things to us. Just think about how subtly the sensibility of computer has affected our epistemological assumptions!

    I wonder how us demurred and diffident Christians are going to hold on to our faith against a flood of counter-explanations. Post-modernism already isn’t going well.

  2. In Fall of the Evangelical Nation, Christine Wicker deconstructs the numbers of actual, real world, evangelicals down to 5-15 million.

  3. Canada’s Evangelicals seem to have stabilized at between 8% and 19% of the population depending on how you define evangelical. This is roughly between one third and one half of where American Evangelicals are now. Both these definitions include Pentecostals/Charismatics and Fundamentalists inside the Evangelical camp. A definition that considers them as separate entities from Evangelicals would then have Evangelicals as a much lower number. How does Christine Wicker define her terms?

  4. Mark Borzillo says:

    I’m really kind of amazed at the figure of 34% evangelical right now. My unofficial determination based on 25 years in the business world leads me to think 10-15%. There are a lot of people that say they’re christian, but I don’t see those same numbers acting like it. A little persecution has never been bad for the church.
    M

  5. greenstuff says:

    “It’s the end of the world as we know it.
    It’s the end of the world as we know it.
    It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.”
    ~REM

  6. She doesn’t chase a definition. She looks for who are the minority within the numbers that actually care enough to do more than check a box. Who gives, teaches, passes faith on to children, alters life according to beliefs. She is very skeptical of the SBC 16 million number (which is an outright lie and a complete delusion) and the NAEs 35 million. I’ll loan you the book if you come and get it.

  7. Is that a vacation destination offer Michael?

  8. Michael, It is true though, if Evangelicals were truly “Evangelical”, then we really wouldn’t be having any sort of talk about decline.

  9. Mark,

    The regional differences in the number of Evangelicals is quite startling. They also vary greatly by industry and by age. Your estimates might be very accurate for the area in which you live.

    Check out this post for a regional breakdown.

  10. Re. evangelicals in Canada, I think you have to keep in mind that it’s a different country. Christianity in Canada is *not* intertwined with politics in the way we’ve experienced here in the US since the 80s.

    I’m willing to bet that, overall, the climate’s healthier in Canada than here in the US. At least, that’s the sense I’ve gotten from talking with some Canadian Christians (evangelical and otherwise), and I may be misreading things.

  11. I wonder, do we even need evangelical Christianity? I have a soft spot for because of all my years in the southern baptist church. But you say that Canada has only 8-19% evangelicals. the USA nearly 25-35%. Canada seems like a better place to live than America, and the parts of the USA with the most Evangelicals (the south) are much more violent, crime ridden and teen pregnancy(ier?) than the west and north east. If Christians are the salt of the earth, maybe evangelicalism fails to live up to that standard. What religion does the rest of Canada follow?

    I thin evangelicalisms greatest challenge is it intellectual bankruptcy followed by its growing moral bankruptcy. Its advantage is it’s spiritual richness.

    I feel that the decline of mainline protestant Christianity here was its promotion of political progressiveness and abandonment of religious principles. a unitarian has better thing to do than go to an irrelevant church, he could protest the government or organize a union.

    the evangelical movement might get caught up in the same trap in a different way. instead of pursuing progressive causes to the exclusion of the spiritual, it defends the old status quo to the exclusion of understanding Christ radicalism. Is big business and free markets and underpinning of Christianity? is it more important to marginalize sexual deviants or heal the sick?

    Intellectually, a lot of evangelicals still cling to a poor understanding of the scripture that leads them to embrace scientific principles more at home in the Iliad or Norse mythology than our own very technical world. their are still people arguing for a 10,000 year old earth, that debate ended in scientific circles like 200 years ago. scientific circles like the people who made rockets and nuclear power, and airplanes and computers. What break though has a creationist scientist produced? Its like the story of Elijah and the 400 prophets of Baal. only we are like the prophets of Baal who can’t make our poor understanding of God’s nature bring fire. Its no wonder that the more educated you are the less likely that moder evangelicalism will appeal to you, often it is an affront to reason. if this trend continues Christianity in general might be viewed as we view the polygamist cults of the west, ignorant, immoral, and a threat to common decency.

  12. “In the general population, 27% of those of the age twenty-five and older were college graduates. In Baptist churches the figure was 16%, and in Pentecostal churches the figure was 13%.”

    Here’s somewhere where Australia is a lot different. 13% of Australian adults have a university degree. Of church attenders, this is 23%, or 28% in baptist churches. (NCLS 2001) This is despite churchgoers having an older age profile and uni degrees being more prevalent among the young.

    Over here the church is rather middle-class, having often articulated a gospel that is more abstract than practical. The American figures reflect a church which has retained large numbers in rural areas.

  13. Hmm, I have to take exception to “public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.”.

    You jumped from a statistical study to a completely unsupported statement. Where’s the evidence and statistical analysis for that?

    Even when I was a Christian, I never felt any undeserved hostility. “Focus on your own da**ed family” was just about the political activism of that ministry – particularly the push for bans on abortion, bans on stem cell research using discarded fertilized eggs, muzzling unpopular science study results, a fierce increase in bowdlerizing of all forms of media and attempting to force students to learn a “Christian” view of how life began.

    I’d really like to see documented cases of actual hostility by non-Christians that weren’t a response to the above. Would you please provide some links to actual government actions or laws passed here in the US?

    thanks,
    Chris

  14. Michael (iMonk) & Michael (EC) –

    While I think Baptists/Southern Baptists can give us some general understanding of American evangelicalism, I am not sure it is always best to judge things by this mainline denomination. I believe a shifting, or shaking, is coming, but I believe a more faithful understanding of American evangelicalism will come by also looking at the typical interdenominational, larger church that has no strong ties with a traditional mainline denomination. I don’t mean looking a Saddleback or Willow Creek, but smaller versions of these churches that are longing to some day be another Saddleback or Willow Creek. It is those 500-1000 member interdenominational, suburban churches that need to be assessed.

    iMonk, I think you are predicting that these megachurches, or 500+ member churches longing to be megachurches, will also get a shaking. And I think that is also plausible as Americans get tired of capitalism and consumerism driven, program-filled Christianity.

    Also, as a side note. iMonk, I know you are mainly writing to Americans. That is your heart and passion, and so I would expect you to do so. But, as an American living in Europe, I am aware that your thoughts might not always come across so easily understandable to non-Americans that read your blog. I passed along your ‘collapse’ articles to some friends over here and it didn’t all click for them. They were left wondering what really is American evangelicalism. So, while I am not asking, nor do I expect you to change your writing style in any major way, I just share those thoughts with you that you might be aware that non-Americans are probably reading your thoughts, and especially after the Drudge Report link, etc. You might just want to clarify every once in a while with certain things that might be cliche for Americans.

    Thanks again for all of your words.

  15. Also, most know you came up on the Drudge Report a few days ago and Christian Science Monitor, but the senior editor of Christianity Today as wrote a piece about your articles.

  16. “The coming evangelical collapse” reminds me of the state of Evangelical Christianity in Canada over the last generation or the evangelical evaporation in Great Britain two generations ago. In both cases, a state church first supported a (relatively) shallow faith and then withdrew that support.

    While I’m concerned about this prediction, I’m not so sure it’s accurate. American evangelicalism has been in “combat mode” with the culture in general and the government in particular since the School Prayer cases in 1963. An anti-Christian public policy might scare off a significant number of people, but it should fire up just as many.

    That doesn’t mean America’s post-modern pew-warmers are going to learn sound doctrine, of course… it would take more than persecution to make that happen!

  17. So Mike and Michael, you guys make a great team! So all this being said, can the Great Criticism now be heard? Is it possible that many of the people who make up part of the statistics are not true children of God, but followers of their religion? That, to speak as a baptist, are just not saved?
    Mark B just posted,
    “There are a lot of people that say they’re christian, but I don’t see those same numbers acting like it” Me too Mark.
    What if great numbers of people just “say” they are Christian? They have never opted for a Jesus Shaped Spirituality, they may not even know the concept.
    It sure would explain a lot. They may have joined a church, but perhaps in body, not in soul. It is the only explanation for numerical decline and basic meanness prevalent in so many Fundy and Evangelical buildings. The path is narrow.

  18. Thanks for the analysis Michael Bell, and for giving him the space, iMonk.

    I continue to be gobsmacked by the flurry (blizzard?) of reactions prompted by the Collapse of Evangelicalism discussion.

    I understand the relief and rejoicing from some quarters outside of Christianity. It’s the shock and/or resistance, and condemnation coming from inside this county of Christendom that has me surprised.

    To me, the movement has been dead (or dying, I guess) for a long time. Once it became a brand, and once it could easily be confused with or substituted for politically conservative, it lost its only important meaning (for me, at least). I can’t believe so many people are so het up about the naked emperor, and that so many people still see him in royal purple, despite the fact that he’s starkers.

    In the strictest sense of the word, Christianity is an evangelical faith. Christ gave us his great commission and sharing his Good News with the world is part and parcel of what we are and do. In that good and true sense, evangelism will not die out, because it’s not powered by us in the first place. But…once evangelism became more about evangelICALism, it started digging its own grave, and more often than not, I wish it would just lie down, so we could shovel soil back over it and plant some pretty flowers.

    I don’t think I’ve ever linked to my own stuff here, but this is something I’ve thought a lot about, even before Michael’s Prediction entries and the CSM publication of his article. And I riffed on it, here, back in August, after Michael (Spencer) linked to a discussion of Heather King’s Redeemed (which, sadly, I’ve still not had time to read).

    Here’s to keeping your sanity, iMonk. Thanks, as always, for all you do.

  19. I linked to something in my post and it seems to have sent the post to the “awaiting moderation” pile. I’m sorry if I gave you yet more to do, Michael. I can only imagine how badly you’re drowning in comments and e-mails, right now. I keep forgettng links seem to get caught, here.

  20. I know nothing about these numbers and statistics, except in the sense that I am a part of them. I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church. As I reached adulthood I left that church and followed many other paths, never forgetting Jesus, never forgetting my roots, never really finding my niche. Today I read the Bible in more than one translation, I dabble in learning Hebrew and Greek translations of certain passages, I give where my heart leads me to, and I am passing my faith on to my children. Do I attend a church every week? No. I attended my Uncle’s funeral recently. He was a lifetime member of a little Southern Baptist Church, where I often went whenever we visited him. He and his family are the pillars of that church. There was even a parking place that was made right outside the door with his name on it after he became ill and couldn’t walk very well. They said they had never given that privilege to anyone else. His pastor said at the funeral that he (my uncle) always told him that he was a Baptist because Jesus was a Baptist. When asked what about Methodists and Presbyterians, his reply was that they would be fine, because when they get to heaven they will be Baptists too. Everyone laughed, but my Uncle believed this, and I see that simple faith and acceptance in his family. It’s not that I don’t have faith, I just don’t have that simple, “don’t question anything, do everything that has always been done” kind of faith, and I really believe that many who have “left” the buildings and organizations are doing just that, not leaving Jesus, God’s Word and promises, etc., but just aren’t a part of a congregation. If I were answering a survey, it would be difficult, because I am a Christian, but I’m not what many perceive a Christian to be. My answers would all take explanations.

    C. Hays

  21. SisterPhoebe says:

    I must say I’m with greenstuff here. ( “It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine”).

    “…strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and FEW there be that find it.”

    “Fear not, *LITTLE* flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

    “”This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose NOTHING, but raise it up on the last day.”

  22. Martin Jack says:

    If the Charismatic/Pentecostal Community is one of the main churches left standing after the coming Evangelical collapse, could it mean that the collapse is God’s judgment on the rest of the American church?

    I’m not saying this is necessarily true. But it raises the question. Maybe quite a sectarian one considering I currently reside in the Vineyard.

    From a UK perspective, I think American Evangelism died when the Holy Spirit was pushed out, and legalism was pushed in.

    Martin

  23. Chris wrote:

    Hmm, I have to take exception to “public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.”.

    You jumped from a statistical study to a completely unsupported statement. Where’s the evidence and statistical analysis for that?

    Fair comment. I will try to show better support for this in a follow up post.

  24. *…Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism.*

    There’s a story about a man who shouted at the rising tide.

    *I am seeing more and more of the Western world viewing Evangelicals as ignorant and uneducated…*

    Are you suggesting that this is a skewed viewpoint? Don’t your own numbers suggest this is exactly how it should be? Are you a Palinist, suggesting that people with less education are *more* suited to leadership and/or to be the recipients of public trust?

    *…and not worthy [of] participating fully in the public square.*

    This is a loaded statement. In the rhetoric of “the public square”, strongly religious folk constantly complain of being “thrown out”. This is untrue. You are as free to enter and utilize the “public square” as ever. Christians (and Muslims and Jews and Hindus…) should entertain no idea that their beliefs “must” be “respected” once there. You need to be better sports if you don’t get your way in the public square or even if you DO get your way but people continue to complain about it and/or undo what has been done.

    *Are there Evangelicals who are going to rise to this challenge?*

    Rise to the challenge . . . how?

    1.) By shouting louder what we secular folk have already heard you say many times before?

    2.) Or actually, y’know, becoming more educated? And not by demanding a skewed “Christian” variation on any and all educational subjects or insisting that bible college curriculae trumps anything learned or taught by the State U’s departments of zoology or history…

    …but rather actually doing the heavy lifting to get PhDs in evolutionary biology and comparative literature and international relations and what have you.

    *If you want to know what the America is going to look like in forty years, and how Evangelicals will be treated, look at Canada today.*

    So . . . completely left your their own devices? Sometimes mocked, but more generally shrugged-at?

    Or do you mean not voted-for? Because that’s something different.

    Mr. Bell is perhaps slyly getting at something but I don’t really know what. I can only say that I’ve been to Canada many times and I am officially Not Scared. And neither should anyone else be.

  25. Nice job by Michael, I happen to like statistics.

    We are becoming an increasingly secular country. This means that our institutions and our media will reflect that increasing secularism. As a result, the previously dominant “Protestant” neé evangelical viewpoint will be less and less reflected in the opinions and editorials that we see.

    As the institutions of this culture reflect another viewpoint more often, Evangelicals may go from being a lauded group slowly to a tolerated group and may even go to being a despised group. I work within a Church whose roots are in Turkey and whose headquarters is in Damascus. The change in the perception of Arabs, from when I was a child in the late 1950’s to now may be a harbinger of the change that is to come for Evangelicals.

    But, as they go towards being a despised group, there will be less and less impetus for newer generations to become Evangelicals. In the 1950’s one could see stations signing off with a Christian prayer by a pastor. It was clear to the younger generations that the culture supported going to church. Now, it is clear that the culture does not support going to church, it supports being “spiritual.”

    Now, note that none of this is actual persecution, per se. Nevertheless, the experience of going from lauded to questioned may certainly be interpreted as persecution. And, as a group goes from lauded to questioned, privileges may be lost. For instance, privileged access to the schools is no longer part of the culture. For those who bewail the cancellation of prayer in schools, I can remember a time when the local Christian pastor could get free access to the students, but the local Jewish rabbi could not. We need to differentiate between persecution and the loss of privileged access which other groups did not have.

    I happen to agree with iMonk that some type of persecution will come once the status of Evangelicals drops from questioned to despised. That has not happened yet, though there have been some harbingers of what may yet come.

    But the likely coming trials will not necessarily be viewed by the culture as any type of persecution. Let me give you an example from the Arab side. I can remember Glenn Beck arguing for profiling at airports, that it should be allowed for the TSA to pick out Arab young males, at random, and simply search them. I can also remember pilots refusing to fly with Arabs on board. It was argued back then that this was not mistreatment, but simple sense and security. Arab young males experienced it as persecution and were very afraid.

    That type of argumentation is what will ensue in the future. You can already see it in Canada and England. The culture will not see itself as persecuting Evangelicals, it will see itself as defending freedoms and important cultural standards that Evangelicals wish to take away from people. And, just like there were commentators who had no problem with young Arab males having diminished rights, so will there be commentators who will have no problem with Evangelicals having diminished rights. And, as a result, the culture will not see any hint of persecution anymore than Glenn Beck saw any sense of bias. In that, both the culture to come and Glenn Beck will be/were deceiving themselves.

    So, I agree with iMonk and Michael. I see a coming collapse, not just for Evangelicals but for many types of Christianity in the coming years. I see a culture that will continue to go towards considering many types of Christianity neither privileged nor tolerated, but despised. And, I expect that, as the culture changes, sets of laws will increasingly be passed that will be considered appropriate but will be considered either morally challenged by Christians or will require Christians to accept that which we cannot within our own groups.

    In all this, the culture will not see itself as persecuting us, but rather, protecting itself from us.

  26. The ARIS is an interesting study, however, the Church has been in a state of flux since Pentacost and will continue to be. While the institutions of man will continue to change Gods love, providence and activity in our lives and the world will remain the same. So you and I have “church” in our houses, the early Church began this way. Maybe this organic worship/church is what America and the world need right now.

    Cheers.

  27. *This means that our institutions and our media will reflect that increasing secularism.*

    Actually “our media” is rapidly going out of business in every venue and at every level.

    *…will be less and less reflected in the opinions and editorials that we see.*

    Yes. Because op-ed pages rule the nation, they do.

    *Nevertheless, the experience of going from lauded to questioned may certainly be interpreted as persecution.*

    It may certainly not be.

    *You can already see it in Canada and England.*

    No, you cannot.

    *I can remember Glenn Beck arguing for profiling at airports, that it should be allowed for the TSA to pick out Arab young males, at random, and simply search them.*

    Yes, and in the end, that idea was rejected.

  28. @Fr. Ernesto

    Could you have a larger persecution complex?

    Secularists only seek to keep religous laws from becoming government laws. They strongly believe in free speech, and they strongly believe in free practice of religion. No one is trying to put you down, they just don’t want your laws to govern everyone who may not agree.

    In the mean time you need to accept that you do not have the right to not be offended

  29. What about the Mormons?

  30. The answer lies in prayer for the Third Great Awakening. Since the darkest hour, as the adage goes, is just before the dawn, it follows that this decline is the indicator of the closeness of that Awakenng Hour. Prayer, along with resposnible evangelism, is also the indicator.

  31. Michael

    The key to understanding what is going on is in the definition of terms. What is an Evangelical Christian? There is no good definition. Barna inserts his definition into the argument for statistics sake. However when you look at it, the basis for the definition is that it’s what people want to call themselves. As John Piper in his book Finally Alive, recently pointed out, an Evangelical Christian is someone who “says things” that are “Christian”, yet their life may not actually line up with what they say. If you comb through the data and look at lives that match up with mouths, the real numbers are about 15%.

    The marriage of so called Evangelicals and the Right Wing politicans in America is a marriage of convenience that was doomed from the start to fail. Right Wing politicans have used so called Evangelicals for their votes, in much the same way Left Wing have used their block supporters. Cultural evangelicals has relied on the Right Wing to push their agenda of moralism, which ultimately failed.

    The bottom line, whenever Christian’s, regardless of their label, place more faith in the structures of men than in the will and providence of God, they are doomed to fail.

    All of what you describe is just the cutting out a cancer. American evangelicals with consistent mouths and lives should find comfort in this cull. For when they are but a small minority it makes it clearer that God does all the work.

  32. SisterPhoebe says:

    J writes:

    “…And not by demanding a skewed “Christian” variation on any and all educational subjects or insisting that bible college curriculae trumps anything learned or taught by the State U’s departments of zoology or history…but rather actually doing the heavy lifting to get PhDs in evolutionary biology and comparative literature and international relations and what have you.”

    You mean like this?

    MODERATOR: List is too long. Link it.

    Creationist PhDs in science (as of 2007):

  33. Stephen Hermann says:

    Why is the issue of the failure of Christianity and its collapse such a bad thing?
    I grew up in a Baptist family and never felt better than when I didn’t have to hear that claptrap about “burning in Hell, accepting Christ as my own personal savior, getting baptized (twice!), and preachers condemning anti-war activists.”
    If there is a god, I thank it/her/him everyday that I got out of that monster.
    What I have witnessed coming out of the “Christian Evangelical Right” is heinous and a danger to our nation.
    I can’t think of anything better than the collapse of this hideous belief system.
    And all this blather about persecution…Christians really get off that crap even though they have money, own states like Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky and the like.
    Since when are Christians persecuted? Not since the days of Nero. Get over it, no one is persecuting you unless it’s those even more freaky jerks in Utah.

  34. Very interesting article. If what you say is true, it is in large part because certain remnants of the church made the fatal mistake of linking itself to a political party (ideology) that has no root in the Word of God. They have been giving lip service to HIS Word only. All one has to do is look at the disaster of the last eight years. Actually, the last twenty years!

    In the coming two years, people in this country will see the extent of the damage. But know this, The body of Jesus Christ WILL NOT SUFFER that which you allude to. We will not be here! GOD has promised us that.

  35. I’d be very interested in Christiine Wicker’s data as well. I suspect she’s right. It seems like the ARIS survey let people self-identify, which almost always tends to skew the numbers upward. Almost surely the number of Christ-followers who really live out their faith is lower.

    As for what can be done to turn the tide, there’s a lot — too much to put in a comment, but I think putting the love of Christ into actions more consistently and humbly and sacrifically would be one thing, and maybe the main thing. Imagine if even 10% of the adult population really did that. If historical patterns hold, becoming a minority and suffering some persecution might help this happen.

  36. The Christ centered church you are looking for is Christ’s Church. The Church that has everything it had when he was on earth. The church that is preparing a people for His return. The one that has apostles and a prophet. The one that is growing rapidly and nothing will stop it. The one whose members teach faith, repentence and baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
    The one whose worhty men hold the priesthood as brought back by Peter, James and John. The members of which have their own testimonies of strength enough to keep their children pure and clean, vessels of the Lord. Strong and full of the Spirit taht at age 19 and 20 go and proclaim His Gospel, with light and power throughout the world! It is a miracle everyday in this wicked generation.
    This church has been under attack since day one. Lies circulate continually by Satan to stop this great work.
    Many are deceived by the lies, but many humbly listen, study and pray for light and an answer from God. Only then do they know for themselves.

  37. Jim Mason says:

    I feel compelled to respond to mikelioso who wanted to know “What break though has a creationist scientist produced?”.

    Below is a list of creation scientists – or, at least, scientists who beleived/believe in the Biblical account of creation – together with their fields of study and, in some cases, their breakthroughs/ contributions. The breakthroughs of many of them are well know: e.g. Francis Bacon, Galileo, Keppler, Pascal, Robert Boyle, Newton, Leibnitz, Linnaeus, Dalton, Faraday, Henry, Morse, Joule, Mendel, Pasteur, Lord Kelvin, Reimann, Lister, Maxwell, Lord Rayleigh, Fleming, George Washington Carver, Maunder and Ramsey. Amongst the living creation scientists I would highly recommend looking up the bios of Humphreys and Hartnett both of whom have done some excellent work in cosmology which has resulted in an extension to the cosmolgy of Moshe Carmeli that has eliminated many of the issues associated with the Big Bang, such as the Horizon, Dark Matter and Dark Energy problems (see Wikkipedia) as well as account for other anomalies such as the observed quantization in redshifts.

    With respect to the age of the earth, there are many, many observations that are not compatabile with millions/billions of years such as too little He in the atmosphere, too much He in very old minerals, not enough Sodium in the sea, the rate of decay of the earth’s magenetic field, and Carbon-14 in “million-year-old” rocks and the eruption of Mt. St. Helens and its aftermath has clearly demonstrated that many geological formations that had been thought to have required lng times to form (e.g. the Grand Canyon) can be formed in a matter of days.

    I am of the opinion that much of the decline in Christianity can be traced to the perceived necessity of accommodating the evolutionary perspective that the earth is billions of years old and that life as we see it originated spontaneously from non-life followed by eons of evolution during which previously non-existent genertic information was somehow added, rather than as described in the Bible. After all, if yhe first book of thed Bible is not beleivable, then why is any of the rest of it. Jesus certainly seemed to believe it as fact and if He was incorrect or being deceptive then that brings into question everything else He said. If sin did not enter the world through Adam’s rebellion then then why is there a need for salvation by a “last Adam”? Interestingly enough, there is really no evidence for evolution – in the goo-to-you-via-the-zoo sense – and essentially all observations are compatible with the Biblical account.

    Finally for those interested in a Canadian perspective, as a Canadian I would say we are rapidly approaching a culture of hostility to evangelical Christian views. A judge pronounced that it was unacceptable for Christian members of a Board of Education to allow their beliefs to influence their decisions on public policy when they questioned the inclusion in required Kindergarten reading of books promoting homosexuallity. A Christian high school teacher who expressed his views on same-sex marriage in a letter to the editor of his local paper was disciplined by the Teachers Union despite it being recognized that there had been no indication of these views being promoted or even mentioned in the classroom. A Pastor who similarly expressed personal views on the same topic in a letter to the editor of another newspaper was found guilty by a Human Rights Tribunal of intemperate expression that might cause someone to feel offended.

    Jim Mason, PhD (Nuc. Phys)

    MODERATOR: I’m not going to publish a list that long. Link it please.

  38. Tim Pawla says:

    Regardless of all that is happening or not happening we as Christians have a lot more in common than not. There are a great deal of things that are debatable and have smart people projecting there opinions on both sides of any particular story. I enjoy reading and thinking about both those sides, yet I think we often would be better served backing other Christians in our core faith and agree to question and further investigate objectively those issues that are debatable without such anger as if we were dealing with someone trying to tell us that our Lord Jesus had never existed. I pray for both sides; both those that do not believe the truth of our Lord as well as my Christian brothers and sisters that often cannot get along. We have come a long way in terms of knowledge since the birth of our Lord in human form, yet ‘he who is’ will answer many questions we, at this time, cannot answer, but he may judge us more on the grounds of how we reacted to our brothers and sisters differences rather than weather you or I was completely right about a Biblical issue. Don’t get me wrong as I am well aware that there are biblical issues that are very concrete and hence non-debatable so I take those to heart, but why fight over the small stuff that is often a play in linguistics or just plain confusion. We bring up these issues because we are all concerned about our faith, hence we care. Be happy that your brothers and sisters are concerned to begin with and learn from their view and use it to do good in your life, your faith, but don’t get upset about that concern.
    So have faith, pray for those who don’t believe or don’t know, pray for those you disagree with, pray for yourself as you and I do wrongs constantly, pray that all people some day allow themselves to see Jesus and have faith, and last off never think of yourself as perfect because you are not by your own effort, but only by the grace of God. I pray for you all as I know we are all in the same boat trying to steer to the island of the Lord Jesus.

    God speed – Timothy

  39. What break though has a creationist scientist produced?

    Answer: Electromagnetic theory -James Clerk Maxwell
    Yes – it is sad that I have to reach back that far to find someone.

    There are others but the decline in educated Christians probably started over a century ago as more and more mainstream denominations began to embrace bizarre theology espoused in the “Left Behind Series”

  40. Hi Michael, my previous comment lost its numbering. Please try this one instead…

    A number of commentators have called me to account for not providing proper support for my last point.

    Michael had written:

    This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

    I responded by saying that:

    If you want to know what America is going to look like in forty years, and how Evangelicals will be treated, look at Canada today… If my statistical analysis up to this point has been correct, then Evangelical numbers in the USA in forty years will be very similar to Evangelical numbers in Canada today. Much of what Michael has said about the way Evangelicals will be treated in the USA is already true in Canada… I do not have the time or space to go into further details, but forty years from now it will be a much different world from what you are currently experiencing.

    My mistake was not going into details. I was not trying to say that Canada is a scary place. I was just trying to say that it will be different. Keep in mind that I am saying this as one who is engaging the culture. My kids all go to Public School in Canada, I served for a number of years on School Council. My kids all play soccer in the public league, even though there is a faith based league that they could belong to. I am the lone Evangelical Christian at an advertising agency which has about as secular a culture as you can get.

    So here are some of the things that I have experienced or seen happen in Canada that shows society’s increasing intolerance towards Christianity?

    1. I was told by management at my previous employer that a Christmas gift exchange game could not be played because it might offend somebody.

    2. At the same place of employment, Christian symbols were banned from the “Holiday Celebrations” unless they were accompanied by appropriate symbols from other faiths.

    3. My younger children’s school hosts a “Holiday Celebration.” Roughly equal time is given to the celebration of each Religion. Typically the “Christian” songs are about Rudolph and St. Nick, and not about the birth of Savior of the world.

    4. The public school board initially ruled that “Faith based clubs”, unlike other clubs, could not meet on School Property during the School day. When this was overturned, my son’s High School Principal demanded the right to review every topic discussed by the club, and the club had to meet off campus for topics that he deemed unsatisfactory.

    5. The Human Rights Commission ruled recently that Christian organizations could not restrict hiring to Christians.

    6. The B.C. College of Teachers tried to impose a requirements on those graduating with an Education degree from a Christian University would have to undergo a year of “deprogramming and sensitizing” before they could teach in the Public School System.

    7. The courts forced a Catholic school to allow gay dates at the prom.

    8. Religious instruction is no longer permitted by most public school boards, even on an opt-in basis.

    9. Our politicians do not dare speak of matters of faith, or they will held up to ridicule. (OK, Sarah Palin can relate to this one) Our current Prime Minister, Steven Harper, is an Evangelical and attends the church my wife and I were married in. It appears that he has learned from the rough ride that his party predecessors took (Stockwell Day and Preston Manning) that he dare not utter anything remotely resembling the word “Evangelical”. Dennis Gruending has an excellent post of the differences between Canadian and American politics especially as it relates to matters of faith.

    Maybe you are OK with all these things. Maybe you don’t find them that “scary”. But I think they portray quite a different climate in Canada than Americans are used to. It is an attitude that says that Evangelical Christianity has no place in the public square.

  41. Michael Gallitelli says:

    Although I am lapsed Catholic, have an evolved Deist Philosophy toward God. I enjoyed your article. I am married into an Evangelical family and sometimes I attend services with them. From my secular view point here is what I see as being wrong with Evangelicals.

    1) Politics. Religion has no real place in politics. Fundamental beliefs are not shared by a majority of the population. The “Godly” society that is reported smacks of a Theocracy. Personally I am more impressed by someone who lives according to their professed beliefs, than someone who tries to force their beliefs down my throat. I would be more willing to embrace something I find attractive, rather than something heavily promoted.

    2) Science, where are you scientists bolster the New Earth Creationism theories? Where are your PhD holding biologists to back your claims. I will not speak badly about the Bible, but it is not Science Book. Packaging things misunderstood or unknown, (such as the potential of extra-terrestrial life) in the category of the Devil, is highly superstitious. Contempt for something prior to investigation breed ignorance.

    3) Social – Recruiting drives and being preached to on the street corner are major turnoffs. Damning “non-believers” to the ever lasting fires of Hell is not an effective means of attracting people. Charity work and environmental works on major boons. Show you are with the times, not living 2000 years in the past (im)patiently awaiting the second coming.
    Also there are far too many people who seem to talk the talk very well, but very few walk the walk that Jesus laid out 2 millennium ago. Do more to embrace Christ’s central message of Love, Faith and Tolerance; acceptance of people of who have different faiths works too.

    Again I am not an Evangelical, but I wanted to point out what I see as major detractors, with my secular eyes.

  42. “In the 1950’s one could see stations signing off with a Christian prayer by a pastor.”

    Civil religion in the 1940s and 1950s was mainline Protestantism. I don’t think Evangelical Protestantism was on too many people’s radar screens at that time. The period of time from the Carter administration until now has been a real aberration in that Evangelical Protestantism took over from mainline Protestantism as the default civil religion.

    I wonder if the election of Obama will not bolster the flagging fortunes of mainline Protestantism, especially as it is getting harder and harder to differentiate between them and the “evangelicals”

  43. Now that we read the Lord’s church and the number of His people is in decline in N. America, what are we going to do about it? Analysis is great, but instead of hand-wringing and proclaiming death and destruction to our ever-increasingly degenerate society, why don’t we try to find disciples in new ways (I wanted to say “evangelize,” but we’ve made that a dirty word)? Jesus told us to expect this, so if we are surprised, it is our own fault. “Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”

  44. Jack Wirtz says:

    Francis Shaffer warned of what has happened in his last book, THE COMING EVANGELICAL DISASTER, 1984.

    Evangelicals rejected the enormity of the truth that God’s relationship with man, from the very beginning, is covenantal, and rejected His New Covenant, sealed by the blood of Christ, to establish their own “NO covenant” religion. Having neglected the transcendence of God and abused His immanence, having sought Him not in the objective truth of his Word (“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?), but instead followed their own feelings and the nostrums of modern culture. “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.”

    If this were not true the tens of millions of Evangelicals would have turned not just themselves upside down from the world, but the culture itself. “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”

  45. Hmm, looking at some of the responses, particularly those by David and J, I realize I was not clear, for which I apologize. I was not arguing that we should return to some of the practices of the 1950’s, not at all! Let me be clear. I do not want to return to some of the practices from the 1950’s. I was simply giving them as examples of Protestant Christianity having privileged access within the culture, a position that it no longer has.

    For the person who said that I used the term Evangelical as an anachronism when I spoke of signing off from the TV. OK, I will buy that. The point still is that Christianity used to have a privileged access that it no longer has.

    For the person who said that there was no “persecution” in England or Canada, I would refer you to Michael Bell’s list. I could come up with a similar list from two other countries. They are within the European Community. In every case, there is not a simple secularism that simply says that we do not wish “Christian” regulations. In each case it goes farther to preventing a Christian from speaking or punishing that Christian if they express their opinion regardless of the setting. Please notice that each case fits right into my comment. The ones imposing the regulation do not see it as any type of persecution despite the silencing of another person. The person silenced views it as persecution.

    For the person who said I had a persecution complex, uhm, ?????? To the best of my ability, I was trying to give a sociological analysis of the progression of a group from privileged access to questioned to despised. Here is my deep dark secret, which will inevitably mean that some who post here will no longer trust me. I am a member of the ACLU and I have helped the Board of the ACLU when I was in Alabama. (Shh, I even voted for President Obama.)

    Are you all aware that the ACLU files several cases a year in support of religious freedom? The reason the ACLU has to file them is because even the ACLU has seen violations of religious freedom. Remember that in the USA there are TWO clauses in the Constitution that govern religious/state relationships. One is the Establishment Clause and the other is Freedom of Religion Amendment. The interplay between those two clauses is much more complex than simply saying that I have a persecution complex.

    You all may wish to study some of the Supreme Court decisions on the interplay between those two clauses. As a group goes from privileged access to questioned to despised, the pressure increases on the courts to change the balance between the two clauses to disfavor the group involved. It is here where the ACLU and other organizations get involved to prevent that disfavor from occurring.

  46. my honest resp is that we have known things had to change for sometime and that denominations reflected past issues whose significance had declined.

    What seems more pertinent is that the current crisis of crises and its popular association with the poisoning of the US’s democracy by the cultural wars, with an unfair amount of the blame going to the religious right, has accelerated things falling apart. Now, there may be a spell of making ‘evangelicals’ the scape-goat but I don’t see us ever going the way of Canada et al.

    Why? The enlightenment polemic against European Christianity was the product of the very much fallen state of affairs stemming, in large part, from the 30 years war and its polemical aftermath. Traditional US Evangelical Christianity was also a byproduct of this fallen state of affairs, and it became even more so after the Civil War/Fundamentalist-Modernist Schism and as the Cold War both provided a cover for a general slide into Hyper-Individualism in the US and a general stirring up of the cultural wars.

    So once we learn our history better, not just rehash the purportedly ahistorical theological args of the Reformation, and see a particular interpretation of history as a critical part of Christianity, with “secularism” itself being hardened disfigured versions of the experiential pietistic revivalist movements in European Christianity then I’d reckon we shall overcome and the more decentralized structure of the US gov’t will mitigate the effects of polemics.

  47. I’d also say that “evangelical” has long been a contested concept with a lot more diversity among those whom self-applied it. So we may see the Southern Baptist denomination (and some others) melt down, and denominations like, my family’s home denomination, the Baptist General Conference(formerly the Swedish Baptist Conference) will call themselves new names like “Global Converge” and either eschew the label evangelical or differentiate it.

    But evangelicals have generally been good peeps, even if their understandings of their faith weren’t so good and they collectively, as opposed to in their interpersonal relations, bore too much of the mean-spirited polemical spirit of the aftermath of the 30 years war. So I think enough people either come from an evangelical background with which they are sympathetic with or have personal relationships with evangelicals that this will limit serious public recriminations. Its important to remember that the decline of Christianity in EU/Canada stemmed in part from its centralization in state churches, the “evangelistic” enthusiasm of marxism/secularism whose irony was inadequately subverted and were deeply complicit in the ruling party coalitions of this past century.

    Well, in this century, you simply can’t say the same thing, we got a Christian as our currently popular president and he’s got a heart not unlike Abe Lincoln who wanted more reconciliation between the North and the South following our bloody civil war.

    My guess is that the current incarnation of the Republican party is going to melt down and then the Democratic party will split and it’ll be unlikely that neither of the two parties will dominate, both politically (as in the US gov’t) or demographically (as in the subcultures formerly known as “evangelical”).

  48. @Michael Bell

    I appreciate the examples you listed for Canada, but you still haven’t answered my questions or proven your point. You start out with statistical analysis and trending based on US data then jump to anecdotal statements about Canada.

    Where’s the corresponding statistical treatment for Canada? I still haven’t been shown a correlation between a decreased percentage of self identifying Christians and increased persecution let alone a causal relationship.

    I still haven’t been shown a statistical analysis that shows the key similarities between Canada and the US regarding these trends. So, I have to ask again – where is your reasoned proof?

    Regarding your above examples, you’ve not shown laws or regulations that affect all of Canada and some are even accounts of single individual’s actions rather than overall trending.

    Regarding the laws and regulations you cite,
    are they requiring that other religions also meet the legal requirements or just Christianity? Please give me links to the relevant laws and regulations that you believe do.

    All in all, I’m having a great deal of trouble with your assertions regarding persecution. This looks a lot more like an emotional reaction to loss of preferential treatment by a group that is no longer in power.

    Such a reaction is natural, but the use of the word “persecution” is grossly overstating the case. I didn’t see you post anything about Christians being beaten, strung up or run out of town.

  49. Keith Warren says:

    I just read the Monitor editorial and I wanted to expand on two points. I’m a former fundamental Baptist, currently a liberal and pantheistic Quaker, so I realize that many on this list might not consider me to be a Christian. Nevertheless…

    The fundamental thrust of evangelicals has been evangelism, which has often translated as rear ends (I usually use a less polite term) in seats. In my experience, this exists in a tension with asking people to seriously confront the states of their own spiritual lives. A lot of people don’t want to really look at themselves or the world around them. I should add that most social scientists who study religion think that more strict churches grow more quickly. Personally, I think that they don’t fully understand what counts as strict–more people are willing to quit drinking than pray/contemplate for half an hour a day–and they have to some extent been mislead by evangelical rhetoric.

    Second, you commented that evangelical identification with the Republican party has undermined the movement. Agreed. It would be nice if people understood that God is beyond our positions. If it makes you feel any better, those of us in the liberal denominations have a mirror image problem. We’re far too identified with the Democrats and sincere political conservatives shy away.

    One of the replies commented that various social ills are greater in many areas of the United States that are characterized by high numbers of evangelicals. While that is correct, it does not mean that evangelicals are causing the problem. It is at least as likely that the endemic poverty of those areas, particularly the American South, leads to social problems and that people join conservative churches as a refuge.

    Thanks, and peace be with you.

  50. I have seen this coming for quite some time. When I moved and began to look for a good church, I had a hard time. Sure, there were very nice people and the church community was very active, but what was missing was a basic teaching of fundamental theology. I’m just your average joe, but I desire to be more grounded in my thinking and the word. That demand is simply not being met ANYWHERE except by myself. I have resorted to teaching and that in itself will increase one’s understanding, but the church as anything more than a feel good mechanism is completely lacking.

    I would like this simple post to go out to those evangelical pastors out there as a stinging critique for their lack of foresight, their bowing to worldly pressures, and their lack of biblical teaching.

    For those of us evangelicals, where is the conviction? Maybe teaching in the church should hit home a little more and make us more evaluative of our own lives. I would welcome it. It is deafeningly absent. I am reminded of the parent who gives his child every toy, every perfectly expensive birthday party, the car at sixteen, etc. I knew these kids and parents. The kids inevitably hated their parents. Those parents who hold up a standard and require their children to be respectful, courteous, appreciative, obedient, etc, and are consistent about it result in their children loving and respecting them and finally doing so themselves once they are parents. The feel-good message can only fill seats temporarily but is indeed that lack of discipline in the church that eventually results in people leaving in droves.