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Friday, November 1, 2019

Declining Christian Influence Redux with Mark Galli

Declining Christian Influence Redux

More on the recent Pew study that showed, again, that Christianity is declining in America. The first piece is by Rod Dreher at his alarmist best. I’m not convinced that “The crisis is here. The crisis is now,” because it’s been here and now for some time. Dreher nonetheless does a good job of pulling out the stats that show the depth of the continuing decline. And despite the self-serving nature of his post—at the end he tells people to read his The Benedict Option), I nonetheless encourage GR readers to read his book.
The second piece is a blast from the past. (By the way, last week I failed to tell GR readers that the piece Against Innovation was also a blast from the past, thus all the references to President Obama). This one is from 2002, written by the preeminent sociologist of his day, Robert Bellah. He argued that American culture has a fundamentally Protestant structure, and that to lose this would be a disaster:
I am arguing that something is wrong not on the surface of American life but deep in the core of our common culture. So the real mission of cultural pluralism would be to offer an alternative to the radical Protestant individualism that has dissolved the Church into the messianic nation, such that once the messianic mission is lost, there is nothing left but the individual as the preeminent being in the universe, nothing left but “What I have is mine, and it’s mine because I deserve it, and I have a right to it.” We need the non-Protestant traditions, and the most thoughtful and self-critical sector of the Protestant tradition, to remind us that we are citizens of a deeply flawed city of man and that we badly need to recover an idea of the common good toward which we can aspire in the face of the disintegrative tendencies not of cultural pluralism but of radical individualism.
On the Other Hand…
It’s easy to find evidence of declining Christian moral sensibilities in America, so it’s delightfully surprising when we see a turn in the other direction: More of Us Say No to Abortion. Why?
First Church of Disney
By that, I don’t mean that Disney World shares features of religion. It may; but that’s not what interests me. What does is another example of something evangelical Christians do better than anyone else IMHO: find a spiritual need and figure out a way for Christian faith to fill it. In this case, it’s about a ministry of the Evangelical Free Church starting a congregation just for Disney World employees. Given my theology of church, there is something very wrong about this. Given my desire that all may come to know the saving grace of Jesus, there is something very right about it.
At any rate, my colleague at CT, Ted Olsen, has given us a wonderful glimpse into such ministries.
The Size of the Universe
I’m still in a fascination-with-size phase. This video shows not just the solar system or the quantum world, but the whole universe. Well, at least The Known Universe. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1) is, well, an understatement.
Grace and peace,

Mark GalliMark Galli
Mark Galli
Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today

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