Not With a Bang, but a Whimper…?

According to the Pew Research Center poll on Religion in Public Life, the Christian share of the US population is declining while the number of adults who do not identify with any organized religion is increasing. The percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians dropped from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014 and the percentage of unaffiliated (atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular”) increased from 16.1% in 2007 to 22.8% in 2014; the drop in the Christian population registered mostly among mainline Protestants and Catholics, each of which shrunk by approximately 3% since 2007. The evangelical Protestant share has also declined but at a lower rate of about 1% in the same time period. The unaffiliated are also getting younger; the median age has dropped from 38 in 2007 to 36 in 2014; contrast this with the median age of mainline Protestants at 52 from one of 50 in 2007 and that of Catholics to 49, up from 45 in 2007.

While the percentage of people who identify themselves as Christians in the US remains the largest in the world, the results of the poll indicate a definite downward trend that has provoked concern and alarm among the religious leaders of the various Christian denominations in the country. The results should not have come as a surprise; a cursory examination of the country’s religious landscape shows mostly complacent congregations entertained by music best described as mod and listening to mild and sometimes amusing sermons better suited to a safe and orderly world. But the world is neither safe nor orderly; while we listen to the occasional joke from the pulpit, in the Middle East Christians are being slaughtered for no other reason that they are Christians with nary a word of indignation preached to the congregations, with the exception of perhaps offering a prayer as an afterthought.

The fact is that today, the world’s largest group of people persecuted for their faith are Christians; they are being killed, brutalized, tortured and sold as slaves, robbed of their good reputation and threatened solely because they are Christians. Where is the outrage, where are the demonstrations and marches? Where are the thunderous sermons? Where are the pickets in front of the diplomatic offices of the countries that notoriously persecute, terrorize and brutalize Christians?

While we fret about political correctness, Islamic savages murdered 21 Egyptian Christian Copts in Libya by cutting their throats as if they were slaughtering cattle. In 2013, in Kenya, Islamic terrorists cornered people in a Nairobi shopping center and after instructing Muslims to leave, shot the remaining non-Muslims, killing 39 and wounding 150. During the 2014 ISIS offensive in Iraq, the savages issued a decree in July demanding that all indigenous Assyrian Christians in the areas under their control must leave the lands they had occupied for 5000 years or pay a special tax of $470 per family, convert to Islam or be murdered. Christian homes were painted with the Arabic letter nun for Nassarah, the Arabic word for Christian and declared them “the property of the Islamic State”. According to Patriarch Louis Sako, there are no Christians in Mosul for the first time in the nation’s history. While American churches were holding picnics or having coffee and donuts after milquetoast services, ISIS attacked the Assyrian town of Qaraqosh. The 5-year old son of one of the founding members of St George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad was slaughtered by the savages, who cut the boy in half.

The attacks on Christianity are not limited to the Islamic lands nor to the Communist controlled states, such as North Korea, China or Cuba; anyone who keeps abreast of the news will realize that there is a concerted and unceasing attack against Christians in the United States, especially after the 2008 elections. President Obama loses no opportunity to wag his finger and attack Christian audiences, as he did not too long ago during the National Prayer Breakfast, when he brought up the Crusades and the Inquisition, events that took place almost a thousand years ago for the former and close to five hundred for the latter while urging his audience to “get off their high horse” Recently, during an appearance at Georgetown University -a Catholic institution- he suggested that “Catholics and Evangelicals should focus more on helping the poor, instead of focusing on divisive issues such as gay marriage and abortion” This is the same president who, while never passing up and opportunity to verbally slap Christian audiences, opened a press conference with the following statement “Let’s make one thing very clear. ISIS is not Islamic” before fielding a single question. The same president who went to the UN a few days after terrorists murdered four Americans, including our ambassador, during an almost seven hour siege of the American consulate in Benghazi, and famously said in a very energetic tone of voice “The future does not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”. Apparently, the future does belong to those who slander the followers of Christ and the descendants of Abraham.

The two hot-button issues facing the churches today are abortion and gay marriage. What should have been a unanimous negative reaction based on the core doctrines of every Christian denomination, instead shows a fragmented response, especially among those “with it” and “responsive” denominations trying to adjust to a “changing environment”. While the Catholic, Orthodox, Mormon and Evangelical churches completely oppose abortion and gay marriage, there is a surprising number of so-called Christian denominations that favor either one or the other, or both.

Gay Marriage

Presbyterian Church (USA) Redefined marriage as a “commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman”

Evangelical Lutheran Church of America allows same-sex couples to be married but leaves it to the individual ministers of the congregations to decide . “There is nothing that prescribes who a congregational pastor can marry or not marry so long as it is consistent with state law” (ELCA Secretary David Swartling, 2012)

The Episcopal Church established a rite of blessing for same-sex couples in 2012 and prohibited discrimination against transgender people.

The United Church of Christ has allowed same-sex couples to get married since 2005

Abortion

Presbyterian Church The General Assembly reaffirmed its belief that the termination of pregnancy is a personal decision. While the church disapproves of abortion as a means of birth control or as a method of convenience, it seeks “to maintain within its fellowship those who, on the basis of a study of Scripture and prayerful decision come to diverse conclusions and actions” on the issue.

United Church of Christ “is a firm advocate of reproductive rights, including the right to a safe abortion”

United Methodist Church “sanctions the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures” but rejects abortion as a method of gender selection or birth control.

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations “support the right to choose contraception and abortion as a legitimate expression of our constitutional rights”

Wonderful, isn’t it? The ambivalence bleeds through all of the sanctimonious expressions. Are we firm, yet flexible? Do we worship at the altar of political correctness? I particularly like the statement on terminating a pregnancy after reading Scripture and praying and reflecting on it. I must have missed that part in either the Old or New Testament. I do not recall any incidents of same-sex marriage in either book of the Bible, unless they perhaps refer to the wedding at Cana, but somehow I doubt it. In the meantime, while some of our brethren cultivate a Slinky Toy for a spine, Christians in the Middle East are being slaughtered by savages who smell weakness.

Pope Francis denounced the murder and persecution of Christians in the Middle East and called them “martyrs, killed simply because they were Christians. The blood of our brothers and sisters is a witness that cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ”

Whereas the number of self-proclaimed Christians declined in the fat and prosperous lands, it actually increased in those places where the mere act of being a Christian is a potential death sentence. Revelation 3:16 reads: “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth”

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