Shrinking Christianity in America: The long walk away from God
It is not a surprise to many people to learn Christianity is dwindling in America. As our culture moves steadily toward an open-minded mentality and conforms to political correctness, a cultural expectation has evolved that people should except or at least respect the beliefs, identity or lifestyle choices of everyone. However, in this shift to general acceptance, expressing one’s beliefs in God and the principles of Christianity are becoming taboo. It has become common place to hear of businesses, schools, teachers or students who are stigmatized, fired, boycotted and even sued if one dares to speak or uphold their beliefs in Christianity.
Within Christianity itself, its followers also face a crisis of holding onto their faith. Many people’s initial exposure to Christianity traces back to childhood having heard Bible stories at Sunday school. Yet, in the teen years through early adulthood when this age group need their Christian foundation more than ever, the drifting away from the church is significant due to the influences of our relaxed societal morals, and temptations to experiment with recreational and casual intimate relationships, drugs and alcohol with no seeming consequences. While some young married couples return to church when they have children, as the number of those who marry shrink, and divorce/separation/re-marriages are common place, church attendance once again wanes. The ones we now find in churches consistently are the older generation.
Is the Christian narrative like an old song we know the words to?
Many who have attended church for any period of time seem to “know” the story of Christianity that Jesus is the Son of God, He died for their sins and rose from the dead. Belief in his death and resurrection are the keys to salvation and eternity in heaven. We are told that belief in Jesus, who is both man and God is the only way to salvation and eternal life. Yet within this narrative are so many questions that, for the most part, go unanswered. Such as, why did God require death sacrifice for forgiveness of sin? How does this belief fit with Jesus’ statement that if you do not forgive, neither are your sins forgiven by God? If belief in Jesus is the only way to eternal life, why is belief in the God of the Old Testament not enough for the Jewish people? How is Jesus the Son of God? How did God have a Son? What does it mean when we say Jesus Christ/Messiah is our Lord and Savior? How can Jesus be both man and God and where is that in the Bible?
Why do people walk away from their Christian faith?
Even pastors and worship leaders seem to have their struggles with disillusion-ment and unbelief. So many people walk away from God feeling the God of the Bible is archaic, and old fashioned with the animal sacrifices. They are troubled with the exclusivity of one way to salvation and damnation to all others, the hundreds of rules and ancient customs that no longer make sense in our world today. We know the ideals that say we should care for those less fortunate. We protest the idea of war when we’ve heard we are to love one another, turn the other cheek and love our enemies. However, are we aware the Bible does not say it is the responsibility of nations or government to provide for the poor of the world? It does say that God’s people are to care for God’s people who are widowed, orphaned, ill, and poor. Do we realize the teaching to love our enemies was not a commandment to government, but to individuals in their interpersonal relationships? Then there is the age-old question: If God is so powerful and is a God of love, then why does He allow bad things to happen?
What we are missing?
On some level people know they are missing something. The yearning, gaping hole within us can only be filled by an ongoing relationship with our Creator we know and can understand.
The idea that God would only forgive sin through animal sacrifices was not new or exclusive to the Hebrew people. The surrounding nations of the Hebrew people also worshipped and sought appeasement from their deities through animal (and human) sacrifices. Yet in Jeremiah 7:22-23, God said He never commanded animal sacrifice. Instead God wanted His people to listen and obey His instructions for how to treat others. In Jeremiah 31:33 God speaks of His desire to write His instructions in the hearts of people.
From the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3 God spoke of His desire and plan to reveal Himself through Abraham’s descendants to mankind for a personal relationship. As Jesus is called Jesus Christ, the book Behold! The Jesus We NEVER KNEW: God from the beginning explains Jesus is not just the Anointed, but He was anointed (commissioned/consecrated) to be Prophet, Priest and the Jewish King in the line of King David with a Kingdom in Heaven that will never end. The book provides an explanation to what Jesus’ name means, and what the title Messiah or Christ tells us about who Jesus is. Passages from Isaiah and Jesus’ statements in the book of John unravel our misunderstanding about the relationship and identity of Jesus and Elohim Yahweh (the LORD God). Everything we thought we understood about why Jesus came, His being a man and forgiveness of sin through His death changes revealing an all-powerful God who profoundly love us and never gives up on His desires for us to know, love and follow Him.
What is the bottom line? Why do we fall away or walk away from the God of the Bible? The answer is we do not know God. Until we know the divine nature, power and character of God, like a blind person, we miss the incredible hues of the setting sun on a cloudy day. We will not experience the daily comforts and silent conversations with God; the prayers answered before the last word of the request is made. We miss the experience of our questions being answered with a truthful certainty that resonate in our soul, strengthening our hearts and calming our racing thoughts. Even darkness, disease and tragedy will not leave us lost and denuded. We discover our walk through the valley is never alone and contains only shadows of death for those who know and love the eternal God.
Santa vs. God in the hearts of Children
Sadly, many churches are not answering the questions that will make God not only relevant but essential to one’s life. Looking out at the dwindling people attending church and seeing a sea of grey-haired seniors, we do not want to ponder what will happen to Christianity over the next two generations in America. Already prayer is not allowed in schools, the Christian faith is ridiculed in colleges and universities across the nation, nativity scenes or crosses are not allowed on government property, retail stores who thrive on the Christmas shopping season will not allow their employees to say Merry Christmas. Mythical Santa Claus has taken the seat of the very real God. In one sense it is frightening to watch little children (who have been taught by their parents to believe in Santa) stand in the Santa Claus line to make their requests known almost like talking to or praying to God.
From the authors Anna A. Goodman with Jeffrey Goodman, PhD. of the book Behold! The Jesus We NEVER KNEW: God from the beginning available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple books.