Updated: Oct 9, 2021
and thank God it is
A recent article was published on Medium that claimed, in its title, that Christianity is collapsing in the US.
It’s undeniable that the more religious and cultural aspects of Christianity, established, in part, by our forefathers and a foundation rooted in Greek and Roman thought, is collapsing from underneath our feet while many desperately try to uphold the statutes, morals and principles of a “Christian” nation.
Fewer and fewer people are want to call themselves a Christian, especially in dense city areas where many flock to unzip themselves from the zipped up, conservatism where the word word “Christian” is connoted to be judgemental, unmerciful, unforgiving, anti-hedonistic, inexperienced, close-minded, anti-feminist, patriarchal, homophobic, leaning sharply to the right of the political isle.
Here’s the beauty, though. Christianity cannot collapse in the US or anywhere else because Christianity is not a religion with its survival dépendant upon the number of followers it has or the upholding of its principles. We need to make the distinction between cultural Christianity which arguably is a religion in the hearts of men and women in that it is made up of religious acts consisting of weekly church attendance, “bless your hearts”, being nice to people, wearing certain clothing, abstaining from certain media, prayer meetings, becoming affluent in “Christianese”, abstaining from alcohol, disallowing dancing at parties, and generally holding a legalistic or hush hush position on controversial issues, a control over the media, upholding traditional family values; etc. prayer in school, the expectation of liturgical participation from all, and Christianity, the following of Christ.
That’s not to say that those practices, practiced religiously, or with repetitious devotion, are not part of the Christian walk. But cultural Christianity has been for many years now, imposed on the people of America, a mere veneer. This country was built upon Christian values, but by men and women who were admittedly mixed bag and influenced by their own preconceived notions and ideas, just as we. Some had true devotion to their Savior and Creator, or so we see in their writings, but some were simply religious and liked the clean values of Christianity. By Gods grace, we’re at the threshing floor now. As a country, we’re maybe a bit like the preacher in Left Behind who, upon experiencing the Rapture, finds he was not God’s all along.
We’re imploding and it’s scary and we should be praying for restoration and for God's peace to permeate, but be careful that we aren’t just praying for the veneer to be restored. This is the world. This is the reality, and as Christians we are called to live in it, face it, not turn or hide from it. In Jeremiah, God's people, taken into captivity are told to live there. To build homes, businesses, get married, not to go hide out until God gets them out. Christianity is not a faith of village people.
The more real it gets, the more Christianity, the faith, the evidence of Christ, is emerging. Fewer folks, sure, fewer people, but darkness is being brought to light.
Lord, send revival
You know, we pray for revival. But do we really know what revival looks like? It’s not just a weekend retreat or a night of emotional highs: it’s brokenness, pain, surrendering.
A revival of the truth requires darkness to be revealed for darkness. Sin to be revealed as sin. It requires the taking off of masks, honest admissions. The veneer has to fall.
That’s where God works. Be neither hot nor cold, so goes the warning in Revelation. Or as in Malachi when God laments, “Oh that one of you would shut the temple doors and not light useless fires on my altar!” (1.10) A lukewarm attitude and faith leads to death. So don’t be discouraged when you see people choosing sides. Because though there are fewer, the fewer are rooted more deeply and those who have chosen otherwise, well, aren’t honest people easier to converse with?
And this isn’t about winning arguments, it isn’t about expecting people who don’t know Him to act like Christians. It’s not legalism, it’s not about rules. It’s about deep abiding faith. It’s mercy, love, and justice. We are all like Ananias and Sapphira. Trying to keep up appearances. Well, America is fed up with keeping appearances and the shedding of masks is a painful, heart wrenching thing, to see who we truly are! But it is necessary so that God can meet us exactly where we are at. We will never find healing if we insist on hiding our wounds. It does no one any good to be brought to the cross pretending.
“Shut the doors. You’re not fooling me.” God says. “I want you. Exactly as you are”.
So let cultural Christianity fall in America, and let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice because He is not moved. America has been called a “Christian” nation, but a religion or faith cannot be set by a government and we’ve relied on that for too long. A country is made up of people and the hearts of people. We each have to choose. We can’t inherit the Christian faith by our family nor by our government. It’s a personal decision.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still fight for the truth. This isn’t an excuse to sit back with our feet up to watch our country burn. Love Jesus, love people, and plow a counter culture with the truth of scripture, but be careful that we’re not expecting or forcing a change in behavior over a change of heart.
We, like sheep
Why do we expect non-Christians to act like believers? We, who call ourselves Christians, can hardly even act like Christians ought to! And was it the work of our own morals that enabled us to act as a Christian ought to anyway? Are we acting like a Christian or are we abiding in Christ, being sanctified. It’s nothing we have accomplished for ourselves so why do we judge, press or expect others to change their behavior in accordance with our moral standard when they have yet to experience the sanctification of Christ’s work in their lives?
This country has prioritized behavior modification over heart restoration for far too long.
Know this, the endurance of the faith in America will not be accomplished by laws, behavioral modification, or anything like it. If that’s our focus, we will spin ourselves into a legalistic bind and distance ourselves from the grace shown to us through the gospel. And then how will America know Jesus?
We can walk with the confidence and the security of knowing that Christ reigns, no matter what. And then we won’t feel the need to bite off heads. We’ll walk in wisdom, holding to the gospel with all our might and loving others towards it. Our fight is our firm foundation, the unwavering truth of a gospel that shall not kneel nor fade.
Remember, it’s His kingdom come in America, not ours. Walk with Jesus, know Him and love others as you have been loved.