Fewer See Christmas as Religious

It should come as little surprise that Americans not only are seeing a decline in the “religious aspects” of Christmas in public life, but also that fewer of them have faith in the basic story as recorded in the Bible.

The Pew Research Center, which identifies itself as “a nonpartisan fact tank” that utilizes data to inform folks about “the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping the world,” released a study noting that 56 percent of Americans see the decline in public emphasis on the spiritual meaning of Christmas. Of that number, only 18 percent said they were bothered “a lot” by the change.

But only 57 percent of Americans surveyed in 2017 say they believe the Bible’s Christmas narrative “reflects historical events.” That’s down from 65 percent just three years ago. Only two-thirds of Americans surveyed say they believe Jesus was born to a virgin. Just 75 percent say the infant Jesus was “laid in a manger,” even though Luke and other gospel writers reveal that He was.

And the three wise men? Just 68 percent believe a star guided them to the Christ child. A mere 67 percent say that an angel announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks.

According to the Pew researchers, an increase in the number of religiously unaffiliated, which includes atheist, agnostic, and those who list “nothing in particular” when asked about their faith—people known as the “nones”—may account for some of the shift. These people “are much less likely than Christians to express belief in the biblical Christmas” account, Pew said.

Why these shifts? The Pew report offers some hints, but it’s also safe to suggest that a dramatic change in American culture may also play a role.

There’s the increased emphasis on the material aspects of the season, for starters. From “Black Friday” on the day after Thanksgiving, to the final “Christmas Eve” doorbuster sale, there’s little doubt that Christmas in America is far more commercial than in almost any other place on Earth. Focusing on getting the latest electronic gadget or “must-have” child’s toy distracts from the story of the birth of Jesus, the promised Messiah.

In the arts and entertainment world, Christmas is often the backdrop for a cheesy romantic tale, or yet another story focused on commercialism. In some recent years, the recitation of the Christmas story in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” had been cut from the show in order to make room for more advertisements.

And, of course, Americans are now treated to yearly spectacles of efforts to either have nativity displays removed from town squares or paired with displays honoring, believe it or not, Satan. Only 66 percent of Americans believe it’s okay to allow nativity scenes to be displayed on government property, down from 72 percent just three years ago.

All of this might make some people despair, but the truth of the events behind the Christmas story has never depended upon how many people believed. And however many people may disbelieve what God’s Word tells us, the testimony of millions of believers down through the ages can speak to our hearts and confirm its truth.

Should we observe Christmas? Click here to check out a Bible-centered perspective that might be useful reading this week.


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