The United States will remain a Christian majority nation for the foreseeable future. However the Pew Research Center predicts that over the forty years between 2010 and 2050 the proportion of Christians will fall from over three-fourths (78.3%) to barely two-thirds (66.4%). Of this predicted 12 percentage point drop over 9 points will be due to the growth of “Unaffiliated” to more than a quarter of the nation’s population (from 16.4% to 26.6%).
However, it’s possible that the change in Christianity’s nature will dwarf its change in numbers. Anyone who has been reading this blog can’t miss my documentation of the PCUSA’s transformation from a denomination that was recognizably Christian to one that is at best led by post-Christian if not pagans. Of course many solid Christians and churches remain in the PCUSA, but they represent a shrinking minority.
Other Protestant denominations are also being challenged by the dominant secular culture. For example, the United Methodist Church is currently being riven by the same issues associated with gay ordination and marriage that split the PCUSA.
Another visible instance is the Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran church in San Francisco CA. This church is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), a Mainline denomination that is in “full communion” with the PCUSA. This means that these denominations can share clergy and officially claim a “common calling.” The following excerpt (misspelling not corrected) is one of many radical statements that have been pulled from the herchurch website. The photograph that accompanied this text is included, though the caption is by this author.
Embodying the Goddess
The liturgy, community and ministry of the congregation reflects diverse thealogical works and voices hoping to be a part of the prophetic voice of the divine feminine that will deconstruct Christianity and other patriarchal religions so that both a new paradigm and worldview may emerge that truly creates an egalitarian, just, society and eco-sensitivies that tend to mending the web of life.
Many Christians, even those who are a part of the progressive movement, often question the congregation’s Goddess focus. But more important are the voices of persons who had felt alienated and isolated by the church prior to learning about the work of herchurch. Pastor Stacy and the congregation who are embodying the Goddess are convinced that the nature of the sacred and divine presented in feminist-inclusive understandings can and will help facilitate a caring culture.
Perhaps the most radical denomination at this point is the Episcopal Church. For example, “The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church” preached a stunning sermon on Acts 16:16-2. In it the Most Reverend Jefferts Schori commented thusly on the Apostle Paul’s exorcism of a demon possessed girl:
But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness. Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it. It gets him thrown in prison. That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so!
There you have it! The concept of Christian inclusion means that a demon possessed girl’s spirituality is likely of a higher quality than that of the Apostle Paul’s!
Even the supposedly conservative Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has recently accepted “critical race theory and intersectionality” as “analytical tools” to be used in fostering racial reconciliation in the church. As discussed in this article excerpt, the resolution in question had been completely changed from one opposing these ideological tools to one in support and then rushed to a vote without due debate. This event should be a big Red Flag to orthodox Christians in the SBC.
In the original resolution, the language condemns critical race theory and intersectionality in no uncertain terms:
“critical race theory and intersectionality are founded upon unbiblical presuppositions descended from Marxist theories and categories, and therefore are inherently opposed to the Scriptures as the true center of Christian union…both critical race theory and intersectionality as ideologies have infiltrated some Southern Baptist churches and institutions—institutions funded by the Cooperative Program…critical race theory upholds postmodern relativistic understandings of truth and…divides humanity into groups of oppressors and oppressed, and is used to encourage biblical, transcendental truth claims to be considered suspect when communicated from groups labeled as oppressors.”
Clearly, all such condemnatory language was struck, and the “analytical tools” were held up and codified as “useful” by the committee so long as they were subordinate to the Bible. Put simply, Feinstein’s original resolution—condemning these philosophies—was transformed by the committee to endorse them.
Thus no Protestant Christian denomination is immune from this assault of deception, subversion and seduction.
The Catholic Church is experiencing an existential crisis in the area of sexual morality. As state Attorney Generals have become more aggressive in pursuing sexually deviant Catholic clergy it has become undeniable that there has been a longstanding, wide and deep coverup of pederasty. This scandal directly involves Catholic leaders at the top of the hierarchy. Potentially even Pope Francis has been credibly implicated in the protection of criminal clergy to advance the coverup. Unless the Catholic Church fundamentally reforms we could be heading for a crisis on the order of the Protestant Reformation.
Although most local churches operate outside direct influence of these issues, they are not immune from the same powerful cultural forces that have caused them. Nor are these scandalous situations isolated from the rank and file.
These (and many other) examples indicate that the Western Christian Church is in a crisis. In too many cases our leadership has become corrupt and heretical. Too few pastors and parishioners are paying the attention necessary to understand what’s happening, let alone to create effective counter-strategies.
So, even if in 2050 two-thirds of Americans call themselves Christian, the content of that characterization may have so radically changed that it is unrecognizable to a Christian of 2019.