While the accuracy of that designation has been frequently debated, there is no question the founding and history of the USA was influenced by biblical Christianity like no other nation on earth.
A Nation With the Soul of a Church
The USA was founded upon principles of liberty, many of them drawn from an understanding of Scripture. In time, the core values of the Founders: self-evident truths that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and then property and free enterprise, equality before the law, justice, moral responsibility, no established religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof, freedom of the press and peaceable assembly became the American creed.
"G.K. Chesterton, the Brit, said 'America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.' He also said that America is 'a nation with the soul of a church.'" But that was then.
Biblical Christianity No Longer a Seat At the Table
There is now no question the influence of biblical Christianity has been rapidly waning in American culture during roughly the past 70 years, i.e., for me, my lifetime.
There was a time when Christianity, metaphorically speaking, sat at the head of the cultural table. Now, especially in public universities, news media, entertainment, corporate board rooms, and increasingly politics, Christianity is no longer even at the table. It's banished. As Os Guinness says, it's an ABC Moment, Anything But Christianity.
Evidence of Decline
"In Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 2018-2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians...down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or "nothing in particular," now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009."
Christian researcher George Barna, who has with sophistication long been at the forefront of surveying American Christian attitudes, notes that only 6% of Americans now possess a biblical worldview. The percentage of people evidencing a biblical worldview drops like a rock from seventy-somethings to teens. Indeed, "according to Barna's research, the younger the generation, the more post-Christian it is."
A biblical worldview is a philosophy of life that works to understand and apply biblically Christian theology to every aspect of culture, to proclaim the Lordship of Christ in all of life. It stands to reason, if an ever-smaller percentage of Americans actually understand and act on a biblical worldview, Christianity will recede in its cultural influence. This can happen in a generation, certainly two generations.
"The changes underway in the American religious landscape are broad-based. 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...The data suggests that Christians are declining not just as a share of the U.S. adult population, but also in absolute numbers...Today, 17% of Americans say they never attend religious services, up from 11% a decade ago."
Since Christianity, and specifically the King James Version of the Bible, undergirded every aspect of Western society including language, any decline or disappearance of Christianity will make an earthshaking cultural impact.
Competing Worldview Impact Upon Politics
Barna's research "findings show that that those who possess a biblical worldview are more likely to be consistently conservative (78%), preferring capitalism over socialism (83%), favoring conservative fiscal (80%) and social (91%) policies, opposing abortion based on clear biblical teaching (89%), and holding a more conservative, limited view of the size and scope of government (83%).
Conversely, only 5% of those with a biblical worldview are likely to adopt liberal views on fiscal, social and governance issues. According to the research, those without a biblical worldview are more likely to support liberal fiscal (26%) and social (40%) policies, do not believe the Bible is unambiguous in its views on abortion (38%), and favor a more liberal, expansive view of governance (26%). And a full 98% of those who prefer socialism over capitalism also reject the biblical worldview, instead adopting a non-traditional worldview."
Barna notes, "gay marriage remains a deeply divided issue based on worldview. Almost all those with a biblical worldview (95%) hold a traditional view of marriage defined as a bond between one man and one woman. Only one-third of adults lacking a biblical worldview (34%) embrace that position."
"Those with a biblical worldview prefer 'law and order' policies such as police neutrally enforcing the rule of law equally, while those who believe in the innate goodness of humanity more likely support defunding police and the military."
Those who lack a biblical worldview were five times more likely to argue that there are "no moral absolutes that apply to everyone, all the time." As a result, the perspectives of those two worldview groups varied dramatically regarding moral issues, i.e. pre-marital sex, drugs, drunkenness, gambling, divorce, and pornography.
American Culture, Christianity, and Living Christianly
Barna believes "the raging political wars in America, with the population seemingly irreconcilably divided, is not really the result of the divergent political platforms of the leading parties or differing opinions of the candidates, as much as it is about the worldview differences that separate factions within our country...In fact, recent battles over how to respond to the coronavirus and the urban lawlessness...are primarily outgrowths of conflicting worldviews...Over the past 40 years Americans have been gradually but consistently abandoning a range of foundational, biblical beliefs in favor of a human-centric, consensual, emotion-driven understanding of and response to the world."
So, for people who ask, "What's happening in America?" The answer in part is that American social cohesion, once grounded upon a Judeo-Christian value consensus, is breaking down – No, is no more. What's now happening daily is an titanic cultural tug-o-war of diametrically opposed worldviews. One is Christian, at least its roots, and the other is not secular per se but humanistic, morally relativistic pan-everything-ism.
How shall we then live?
Church pastors are wrestling with what to do. In another study, the Barna Group found 90 percent of pastors agree the Bible speaks about all of today's key political issues; but only 10 percent of them are willing to address these issues to their congregations. So, while many nominal Christians attend church sporadically, when they do, alongside the faithful, they are not always being taught how to apply a biblical worldview to the culture in which they live.
And, biblical illiteracy is increasing, so Christians do not even know Bible stories, let alone what they mean (theology) and how they might apply them to current culture.
Meanwhile, numerous studies indicate there is no statistically significant difference in many lifestyle behaviors and attitudes between the Church and the culture. Abstinence, for example, is all but dead. If this is so, then Christians or nominal Christians are living with a kind of practical deism. God is out there but he's not involved in our lives.
Churchianity is the Church's weak substitute for biblical Christianity. The Church cannot therefore change culture because it simply accommodates culture.
But remember, it is the American Church, Christians, and culture that have changed. God and his Word have not changed. He is still sovereign, still the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And he is able to work his will in the midst of any church drift, cultural upheaval, or unfaithfulness. Just read the Old Testament.
With that in mind, Christians who want to live "Christianly" need not fear, much less despair. They can go on with confidence that all things will work for good and God will bring all things to account. And they can continue to seek to live out their biblical worldview in the world while not of the world, even as they go into the world, (John 17).
Dr. Rex M. Rogers, President SAT-7 USA,
Forrest Church, The American Creed: A Spiritual and Patriotic Primer. NY: St.
Martin's Press, 2002., p. xii.
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