Is America Losing Its Christian Faith?

By Richard Young | Posted September 27, 2022

Most Americans know well what happened on July 4, 1776. That was when the American colonies declared independence from Great Britain. Most Americans, however, are not familiar with the significance of June 21, 1788. That was when, after a long and arduous process, the colonies ratified the U.S. Constitution, making it the governing document of the newly formed nation. Today, it remains the supreme law of the land.

Not long after it was ratified, however, a group of concerned clergymen went to George Washington, America’s first president, with a complaint. Nothing in the Constitution, they said—correctly—acknowledged the Lord Jesus Christ or His sovereignty over the new nation. In fact, God is not mentioned at all in the founding document. (The famous words “endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights” are in the Declaration of Independence.)

A Christian Nation?

Many people find this omission in the Constitution surprising because it is widely assumed that America is a “Christian nation.” Yet how could that be when its founding document in no way acknowledges, promotes, or elevates the Christian faith? 

The answer is in how you define a “Christian nation.” 

For most of America’s history, most of its inhabitants have professed some form of the Christian faith (there are hundreds of Protestant denominations in the United States, along with Catholics and various Orthodox groups). Even more to the point, a great deal of America’s social, cultural, and ethical mores and practices have been impacted by the Christian faith far more than any other religion.

So, in that sense, America could be called a “Christian nation.”

Losing Our Religion

What would happen, however, were all that to change?

According to a recent poll, the Christian religion in America is declining at a rapid rate. An article reporting on a Pew Research Center study began like this: “America’s majority faith has an uncertain future—the share of Christians is set to fall to as low as 35 percent by 2070 as millions become agnostic, atheist or unaffiliated, a study of religious trends shows.”

That’s astonishing! 

The research shows that the number of those professing the Christian faith went from 90 percent in the 1990s to about 64 percent today—a steep decline. If this trend continues, Christianity will become a minority faith, especially as other non-Christian religions, such as Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, are expected to grow.

Also adding to the decline is the steady exodus of Christian believers to what has been called the “nones.” This category is a mixture of atheists, agnostics, and those who, while claiming to be “spiritual,” do not want to be associated with any organized Christian faith.

“The changes underway in the American religious landscape are broad-based,” said the Pew Report. “The Christian share of the population is down and religious ‘nones’ have grown across multiple demographic groups: white people, black people and Hispanics; men and women; in all regions of the country; and among college graduates and those with lower levels of educational attainment. Religious “nones’ are growing faster among Democrats than Republicans, though their ranks are swelling in both partisan coalitions. And although the religiously unaffiliated are on the rise among younger people and most groups of older adults, their growth is most pronounced among young adults.”

A Non-Christian America?

Why is this decline happening? The reasons are complicated and varied. 

For one, mainstream Christianity’s support of conservative causes, such as limiting abortion amid a harsh and toxic political divide, has alienated those who are pro-abortion and generally more left on the political spectrum. Furthermore, secularized entertainment, educational institutions, and culture in general are undoubtedly starting to bear their fruit. And the scandals involving high-profile Christian leaders certainly don’t help—however ultimately irrelevant their misdeeds are to the truth of the gospel and to the character of God.

Some have expressed concern that, given the extensive amount of charity work done by the churches all over the country, this steep decline could have a negative impact on the needy. “Bob Smietana, the author of Reorganized Religion, said Christianity’s decline may imperil ‘faith-based institutions that play a central part in community life’, which, he added, could be ‘weakened or disappear. …’ They would include the ‘food pantries at churches, the shelters, or robust faith-based disaster relief’ efforts that assist the needy in the U.S. and abroad.”

The Great Commission

How, then, should Christian believers respond to this disturbing trend, which is happening not just in America but in other lands in which Christianity was once the majority faith? 

Perhaps more than anything, this decline should cause individual Christians to examine themselves first, to look at their own lives, and ask, “What kind of witness is my own life to Jesus?” As Jesus told His people, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). What kind of works are we presenting “before men”?

Second, it should cause us to take even more seriously the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19, 20). Jesus said we are to evangelize the world, including those in our own land.

Not everyone is, of course, going to accept the gospel; we know that many, even the majority, won’t. But that does not mean we should not continue, now more than ever, to let the world know about Jesus and what His death on the cross means for us—and the hope it offers everyone who opens their hearts to Him. 

Those religious leaders who complained to George Washington missed the point. The gospel must be inscribed in human hearts, not in human political documents, to make a real difference.

Atheists in Foxholes?

As we have all heard, “There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole.” Let some kind of disaster, man-made or natural, devastate the land, and it’s amazing how many people start “getting religion.” We saw this happen, for instance, after the terror attack of 9/11.

In other words, these poll numbers could change quickly and dramatically again. In the end, only God knows the heart and motives. At the same time, whatever the disturbing trends, one thing never changes: the love of God as revealed in the everlasting gospel. 

Watch Pastor Doug’s presentation on “God’s Everlasting Gospel” to learn more. 

Richard Young
Richard Young is a writer for Amazing Facts International and other online and print publications.

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