Sharp Drop in Christian Faith
St. Peter's Parrish Church near Talleysville, Virginia. Completed 1703. National Historic Register
A Pew Research Report released on October 17 found that the number of American adults who describe themselves as Christians has declined from 77 percent to 65 percent in a single decade. This research used surveys of 12,000 to 25,000 telephone respondents over more than a decade. In all, the Pew Research Report covered 88 surveys and nearly 169,000 American interviews.
In the late 1970s, 90 percent of American adults considered themselves Christians. Eighty-four percent of American adults today born between 1928 and 1945 identify themselves as Christians, while only 49 percent of “millennials” born from 1981 to 1996 identify as Christians. Of all American adults interviewed, 4 percent are atheists, 5 percent are agnostics, and 17 percent describe their religion as “nothing in particular.” The total non-religious has grown from 17 percent to 26 percent in the last decade. Of the millennials, ten percent identify themselves with other religions, and a whopping 40 percent identify themselves as atheists, agnostics, or “having no particular religion at all.”
A Barna Survey of several thousand from 2016 found that 73 percent identified as Christians, 52 percent strongly. Independent of any religious identity, an almost identical number of Americans, 73 percent, agree religion is very important in their lives, 52 percent strongly agreeing. Similarly, 75 percent of American adults say they have prayed to God in the last week. Thirty-four percent read the Bible on their own at least once a week. About 17 percent of adults attend a Sunday school, and 16 percent attend prayer or Bible study meetings during the week. Based on detailed questions, however, Barna classified only 31 percent as practicing Christians and 41 percent as non-practicing Christians. Based on a percent of survey questions describing Christian beliefs and practices, Barna classified 48 percent of American adults as “post Christian.” This means that they either had no real Christian faith or that a majority of their beliefs and practices were either in error or so highly secularized that “post Christian” better described their faith or lack of it. Barna classified 55 percent of American adults as churched and 45 percent as essentially “un-churched,” meaning they had either no association with or much accurate knowledge of Christian beliefs. In less detailed analysis, Barna classified 35 percent of American adults as “Evangelical” but only 23 percent as “Bible-minded.” Only about 7 percent met Barna’s criteria for very strong and consistent Christians.
According to the Pew Research Report, Protestants have declined in a single decade from 51 percent to 43 percent of the population, and Catholics have declined from 23 percent to 20 percent. Regular church attendance (most weeks) among Christians has declined from 52 percent to 45 percent, but there has been no decline in those who attend church at least once a month—a steady 62 percent, In absolute numbers, however, the number of adult Christians in the U.S. may have declined from a about 178 million to 167 million, although the total adult population has increased by 23 million. Meanwhile, the religiously “unaffiliated” have increased by 29 million from 39 million to 68 million. Thus the percentage of unaffiliated has increased by an alarming 74 percent. Non-Judeo Christian faiths have increased from about 3 percent to about 5 percent in just 10 years, a percentage increase of about 67 percent. LDS (Mormons) and Jews have both held steady at about 2 percent each. The number of Americans who say they never attend church has risen from 11 percent to 17 percent.
These trends away from traditional religious truths are already having social and political consequences. Denying truth deceptively and relentlessly leads to ever greater harmful consequences.
The social destruction is affecting both sexes and thereby the family, which is the stabilizing bulwark of nations and of basic human relationships. Christianity has fallen among American adult women from 80 percent to 69 percent in the last decade, and among men from 73 percent to 61 percent.
Christianity is still strongest in the South at 70 percent and Midwest at 67 percent, and is weakest in the Northeast at 59 percent and West with 60 percent. But all have been subject to sharp declines in the last 10 years. As recently as 2009, the South was 82 percent Christian, and the Midwest was at 77 percent Christian.
While the regional differences are strong, the political differences have become immense and highly significant for the future of our country. Seventy-nine percent of Republican leaning voters identify as Christians, and only 55 percent of Democrats. Sixteen percent of Republican leaning voters identify as having no religion, but the figure rises to 34 percent of Democrat leaning voters. In fact, 68 percent of these self-described non-religious voters gave their support to Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump in 2016. .
The ethnic differences within the Democrat Party are highly significant. While 74 percent of Black Democrats and 71 percent of Hispanic Democrats identify as Christians, only 47 percent of white non-Hispanic Democrats identify as Christian, 42 percent identify as having no religion at all, and 70 percent say they rarely attend church. Of the 10 percent of Democrats who belong to other minority groups, only 40 percent identify with Christianity, and 25 percent claim no religion. Of Republican leaning voters, 81 percent of white voters identify as Christians. Moreover, 68 percent of black and 78 percent of Hispanic Republican leaning voters identify as Christians. Sixty-seven percent of other ethnic groups voting Republican are Christians as well.
The Hispanic vote has always been more complicated, and Catholics are no longer in a majority.
Seventy-two percent of Hispanics identify as Christian, but now only 47 percent are Catholic, and 24 percent are Protestant. The non-religious have risen from 15 percent to 23 percent in the last decade. Ethnic Cuban Catholics and Hispanic Protestants have tended to produce Republican majorities. A strong orientation to social-welfare politics, however, has traditionally made the “Hispanic” vote strongly Democrat, despite having conservative majorities on some social issues, most notably abortion. Republicans seldom get more than 35 to 40 percent of the total Hispanic vote. Thus beginning in 1965, U.S. immigration policy has strongly favored the Democrat Party up to the point where electing a Republican president is now very difficult. The Democrat Party’s astonishing recent trend toward radical social and economic policies and candidates, however, may erase their powerful advantage. This is particularly true because of President Trump’s astonishing economic success.
The African-American vote was once a near certain 90 to 97 percent for Democrats. This huge advantage is also in jeopardy because of radical social policies that contradict Biblical Christian teachings and Trump’s remarkable economic success, which has resulted in substantial gains in income and living standards for both African-Americans and Hispanics—the highest levels in U.S. history. Moreover, despite the large number of Christians who still identify with the Democrat Party, Democrat Party leaders, most Democrat office holders, and all but a few of its 2020 presidential candidates seem to be straining every nerve to marginalize and even persecute traditional Christianity. A tree is known by its fruit.
In Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book, the Gulag Archipelago, he relates the conversation of a group of diverse political prisoners loaded into a railcar and headed for Siberian work camps. They constantly bewailed their fates and questioned how all the evils of the Communist system had come upon the Russian people and them. “Why” and “how?” they asked. An elderly man listened and finally, said, “Because we have forgotten God.”
Much could be said of the details of our own forgetting of God. A Swedish friend once told me how the Left had triumphed in Sweden, where in the early 1920s about 23 percent of the members of the Riksdag belonged to evangelical churches and the vast majority of Swedes were at least nominally Christian. However, the Communists and Leftist Social Democrats were hell bent on marginalizing Christianity. Their strategy was first to gain control of the media, then education, and then the government, and then marginalize the evangelicals and infiltrate and seduce the Swedish State Church. We are seeing somewhat the same, standard Marxist pattern in the U.S.
It is now hard to distinguish most of the media from the dominant leftist wing of the Democrat Party. In addition, many establishment Republicans have not had the courage to oppose the media. Christianity is now an unwelcome stranger in most of our media and our public schools and universities. Political correctness, character assassination, and outrageous distortions and lies—all common Marxist tools of coercion—and corrupt law-fare and judge shopping have badly eroded our ability and will to teach and defend faith and truth.
Moreover, much of the fault is with our churches. They have not been bold in teaching and standing fast in Biblical truth or tested church traditions supported by Scripture.
They have leaned toward entertainment and social popularity rather than vastly more important Scriptural teachings and the spiritual needs of their flocks. May God see our self-inflicted wounds and in mercy heal them.
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…” Psalm 33:12 ESV