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Declining Christianity in America is an undying debate following research and surveys that support this notion. In this paper, the author looks at historical, empirical, and theoretical perspectives from different authors.
Although a considerable number acknowledge decline in Christianity, others view this as a modernization effect, which places Christianity at a turning point.
In acknowledging that most Americans have become less religious, a trend that is likely to continue, majority of the authors argue that Americans are still more religious than any other developed nation. The discussion spawns new frontiers where the authors delve into the issue of internal wrangles within and among churches.
This paper also discusses the issue of hypocrisy in churches and the effect of the former and the latter in the subsequent decline in Christianity. Finally, the author discusses the hidden truth about the supposed decline.
This paper critically analyzes declining Christianity in light of constant studies in the field, which continue to depict an institution that is losing its vitality as each day passes. Interestingly, Americans have not lost touch with Christianity completely. It is not representative to draw comparisons with other European nations.
In America, Christianity is still crucial though the fervor rates from disinterested to extremely Christian. The author also depicts a situation where dynamics in society has led to a Christianity impasse coupled by factors such as modernization, which has led to a change of style from the church to remain relevant (Weiss, 2010).
However, experts and enthusiasts offer different explanations of results from various surveys, which have led to divergent opinions regarding Christianity decline.
Hence, the paper looks at different experts contributions. Additionally, the paper looks at the chronological background of Christianity to explain the current decline (CNN, 2012).
History of Christianity Decline
Fox (2012) offers a chronology of the presence of Christianity and its significance in society. The author starts from a historical background referring to early predictions of Christianity demise by intellectuals in the 17th century.
The intellectuals had argued that science, modernization, urbanization, and rationalism would take the place of overall religion, which includes Christianity, in organizing the world.
However, as time went by religious groupings would mushroom everywhere and project their importance in society making them hard to ignore, particularly Christianity in America.
This would breed competition but would not stop Christian groups from becoming popular and getting deep into policy-making at a government level in the 20th century.
Recently, Christians would deviate from their core business of uniting the society and shaping social values by engaging in shameful acts leading to perceived decline, especially in the West.
Some of the churches that had deep roots but showing signs of a freefall are Methodist, Anglican and Catholic Churches (Kidd, 2012).
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Fox (2012) offers statistics to support the idea that despite this notion, there is a huge presence of religious groups (among them Christians) in the western nations with the lowest level of presence at 10%.
At an American context, many people still believe in Christianity despite recent decline in attendance among the mainstream churches.
A Decline, Stability or Improvement?
In an article, Briggs (2011) seeks to extend discussions regarding the question: is American faith really on the decline? Briggs (2011) interestingly uses a Duke University Sociologist professor’s (Mark Chaves) Book Title dilemma to bring this discussion to perspective.
Briggs (2011) acknowledges the recent interest in the perceived decline in American faith. The author alludes to evidence from surveys and researches. However, Briggs (2011) realizes that different researchers interpret survey results differently bringing about conflict of opinion.
For example, others perceive America’s Christian faith as relatively stable. Briggs (2011) finds that burden of proof of lack of decline is more astounding to piece together as opposed to the overwhelming pointers of decline.
For example, college students who would like to be clergymen has reduced, there are lesser number of Americans who say that they believe in God, more and more people who say that they are religiously ‘unaffiliated’ in surveys and the decline in confidence associated with clergymen.
However, Briggs (2011) concurs that America’s faith is more profound than in other western nations though the future looks bleak. Additionally, Briggs (2011) cites dissenting contributors who view possible future improvements in Christianity among Americans.
This includes evidence from improved racial relations and generational shifts. However, it is safe to conclude that interpretation of the overall religious outlook in the United States is a maze. This is because many experts interpret results differently and are highly opinionated on this topic.
Causes of Decline
Acknowledging the considerable shifts in the conglomeration of Christianity in contemporary America, Anderson (2009) seeks to account for these changes using different theories.
Generally, American Christians have reduced by an almost equal percentage (around 8%) as the increase in Americans who claim ‘no religion’ in the lasts two decades according to Anderson (2009).
Using explanations from enthusiasts, atheists, professors and ordinary students from University of Minnesota, the author exemplifies the divergent opinions relating to the decline in religion. For example, many Americans view religion democratically; a person has the option of joining or not joining because it is just the ‘right way’.
Second, other contributors attribute the decline to the dishonesty in church (Weiss, 2010). Apparently, many Christians do not tell the truth. Third, a contributor says that history (e.g. the 9/11 incident) may contribute to the decline owing to the manner in which a leader handles the situation according to Weiss (2010).
Other factors that may have led to Christianity decline are liberalism, the independent college life, manner in which partakers teach religion, availability of scientific explanations to existence of the world and some level of confusion, are also factors that have contributed to the decline according to the contributors.
Anderson (2009) concludes by saying that many Americans are waiting for justification of atheism (for example a sitting atheist president) and this will undermine Christianity in America further down (Weiss, 2010).
Lobdell (2010), seeking to answer the question of declining church attendance and affiliation across America, uses an example of a staunch catholic novelist who publicly announced she had quit from been a Christian because of the hypocrisy in the institution.
A study conducted by Family Research Council in 2008 depicts Americans as constantly dissociating themselves from Christianity for various reasons. Additionally, Lobdell (2010) uses evidence from pollsters to show behavioral similarity between churchgoers and the secular American society.
These misgivings in church, according to Lobdell (2010), alienate more and more Americans from Christianity and create a growing ‘unaffiliated’ category. Others include early sex among Christian teenagers, predator tendencies among clergy, stingy and antisocial behavior.
Lobdell (2010) concludes that in the face of the unbecoming Christian behavior, it is impossible for the institution to grow as many people paint it in bad picture. For example, affiliations with politics of the day deviates a church from core business.
People lose trust, as they feel alienated especially when the church takes unpopular stands. Additionally, Kidd, T. (2012) cites structural, cultural, individual and relational aspects as contributors to the decline of early church organizations such Methodist Church, Anglican Church and Catholicism.
Premising discussion on the 2009 American Religious Identification Survey, Meacham (2009) critically analyzes the Christianity in America situation currently and in the future.
The survey paints a dark picture of the religiosity of Americans in the future. Hence, Meacham (2009) looks into perspectives regarding the survey with possible explanation to the significant decline.
Modernism comes out as a critical factor. Others are political affiliation and independence minds because of a democratic society.
Thomas (2012) illustrates the notion of decline in churches and highlights possible reasons for this using the Anglican Church as a case study.
Thomas (2012) cites constant internal wrangling between different jurisdictions and incessant power struggles motivated by ideological affiliations as the main causes of consternation in the church.
This breeds hatred and divisions and alienates the church from the core purpose of spreading unity and love, which makes people to develop a bad attitude towards Christianity.
Thomas (2012) notes that this may be the reason for the sharp increase in ‘unaffiliated’ Americans, specifically. Conclusively, the church is failing in its mandate to unite the world as depicted by the manner in which they are handling internal issues.
This is a classical representation of an institution whose structures continue to crumble. The church was an organized institution, which would shape political decisions, legal, and constitutional changes (CNN, 2012). As time has gone by, greed and competition within and among the churches continues to undermine this authority.
Additionally, the society expects more from the church. Hence, they render harsh judgments on a religious person’s mistake, which makes a person not to want to live a life where some structure dictates the manner in which to do that.
Thomas (2012) infers a scenario where the church is at an interesting moment in history, though on the brink of a precipice. Evidently, the number of Christians in America has been decreasing gradually in the past two decades.
Thomas (2012) points out that the number of people claiming no religion in the United States has doubled in the last three decades or so.
The strength of political institutions, too much freedom among the young people, weakness of religious policies and school teachings are some of the factors that have contributed to the fall of the Christianity in America (Ardell, 2011).
Grossman (2012) agrees with Thomas (2012) and Lobdell (2010) about the causes of decline in Christianity in America.
Citing the increment in population, more media coverage and a high education level, Grossman (2012) says that it would be logical for Americans to appreciate Christianity more.
However, the author notes that Americans are freelancers of religion who constantly give excuses to detach themselves from a certain religion, Christianity in particular.
On the other hand, trusting these institutions has become tricky because of constant wrangling, dishonesty, constant negative depiction by media and perceived hypocrisy.
Hence, many individuals decide not to associate with religion or choose the middle ground: unaffiliated. Grossman (2012) concludes that, generally, there is a feeling of consternation and confusion surrounding Christian matters.
Future of Christianity
Evidence from recent surveys paints a bleak future of Christianity in America. Using different authors’ perspectives Ardell (2011) takes a plausibly conservative look at the declining Christian faith in America.
The author delves into the concept of rapture and fall of religion in light of chronology of future occurrence (which one will come first?). Ardell (2011) refers to two historical authors who had predicted the decline of religion in modern times and marvels at how much Christianity continues to be entrenched in American culture.
For example, existence of huge amounts of untaxed church money in the economy, increased number of churches, media coverage (televangelism), and rapture books that are best sellers.
Comparatively, Ardell (2011) notes that religion in European countries religion in general has sharply declined over the years (CNN, 2012). Questioning the veracity of freethinkers, the author brings into perspective the decline of religious faith in America.
The author cites increased secularism, evidence from polls and surveys, decline in church memberships and declining power of religions in restricting personal, constitutional and legal choices as some of the evidence from freethinkers of fall of the religion in America.
Ardell (2011) concludes by saying that the prophesied eventuality of Christian decline will happen and that reason, evidence and science will take the place of Christianity.
Hence, more Americans will not affiliate themselves with Christianity or any other religion forming the largest group.
Recently, president Obama recognized Americans of no faith in a recent address to the nation extenuating the belief that the concept of ‘unaffiliated’ is on the rise.
Through analysis of experts’ opinion, Meacham (2009) finds that America’s culture in politics, social, business and family derives heavily from principles in Christianity, lack of which may render the society shambolic.
Meacham (2009) says experts remain tongue-tied regarding possibility of America sliding back to racial discrimination. They cite other social misdemeanors that were healed by religion and, in whose absence, may slowly come back.
However, the influence of Christianity in making decisions that would sometimes be enshrined in laws and the constitution has greatly reduced and will continue to reduce tearing down the moral standing of America.
Meacham (2009) concludes that lack of a Christian America is disastrous and capable of reaching catastrophic levels. However, the author concurs that past and recent trends indicate the country is taking this direction.
Historically, the Americans have had a good church relationship. However, studies suggest a decline in this affiliation. This paper is a description of findings of a survey conducted by Family Research Council in 2009 (among others) as a continuation of earlier studies in 2001 and 1990 on this topic.
The author uses the results of the survey to incorporate the views of experts, other surveys and researchers on the topic. There is a significant decline (more than 10%) in faith among Americans in comparison to more than two decades ago (CNN, 2012).
This is attributable to independent-mindedness among Americans, considerable rise in evangelical Christianity, and lesser religion/political affiliations according to experts and enthusiasts in the field, as cited by the author.
Additionally, the church has been associated with immoral acts, which has led to massive public dissociation (CNN, 2012). Although a considerable number acknowledge decline in Christianity, others view this as a modernization effect, which places Christianity at a turning point.
In acknowledging that most Americans have become less religious, a trend that is likely to continue, majority of the authors argue that Americans are still more religious than any other developed nation. There was a notable trend across America that shows that the ‘unaffiliated’ individuals were increasing.
However, many a clergy believed (according to the author) that Americans were still as religious as in 1990, showing stability, or were more religious. This scenario shows that Americans still appreciate Christianity though they fail to get deep into it because of a number of factors.
The paper paints a picture where the church is less significant as it was more than two decades ago and beyond (CNN, 2012). The findings indicate that America is rapidly becoming secularized and politicians do not place as much emphasis on religion as it used to be (CNN, 2012).
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