E.J. Dionne reports in Truthdig:”Are we witnessing this Easter season the decline of Christianity in America, or is this rather a moment of reform and renewal, a time when the deterioration that has been under way is arrested?
The death and resurrection of religion, if not of Jesus Christ, has been a favorite subject of newsmagazines ever since Time, on April 8, 1966, momentously asked: “Is God Dead?” This Easter week, Newsweek doesn’t pretend to know God’s state, but its cover offers a stark declarative statement positing “The Decline and Fall of Christian America.”
The article by Jon Meacham, a thoroughly knowledgeable student of these issues, offers some POWERFUL data, notably a near DOUBLING since 1990 of the number of Americans who claim NO religious affiliation, from 8 percent to 15 percent. Meacham also points to a 10-point DROP in the share of Americans who self-identify as Christian, from 86 percent to 76 percent. here has been a long, steady GROWTH in the proportion of Americans whom pollster Andrew Kohut calls “the seculars,” those DISCONNECTED from religious institutions who may or may not describe themselves as atheists. Yet the United States still runs well BEHIND Western Europe in moving in this secular direction.
Immigration has also made us far MORE diverse religiously, which will inevitably REDUCE the size of the country’s Christian majority. Indeed, immigration long ago reduced the dominance of Protestantism, with Roman Catholics NOW constituting the nation’s largest single religious group… In fact, the United States has gone through many periods in which religious enthusiasm and affiliation waned, only to be renewed… But, yes, something is CHANGING, and that change will strengthen rather than weaken the Christian church over the long run. For nearly a quarter-century, Christianity in the United States has been DEFINED to a large degree by the voices and the ideas of a VERY conservative strain of evangelical Christianity that, over time, became highly politicized and closely allied with a SINGLE political party.
These conservative Christians had as much right as any other group to bring their core concerns to politics. But in doing so, they NARROWED the Christian message. They sometimes BECAME APOLOGISTS for politicians whose behavior and attitudes could NOT easily be called Christian …Religion is ÄLWAYS corrupted when it gets too CLOSE to political power. It’s possible to WIN a precinct caucus and LOSE your soul, to mistake political victory for salvation itself. It is THIS approach to Christianity that is decidedly in decline…