Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Christians a minority in America? Hallelujah!

     No, I'm not being facetious, or trying to stir up trouble... I honestly believe that this AP story by Rachel Zoll really is good news.  Here's why...
     As sinful creatures from the moment the doctor slaps our backside, our primary problem is not a lack of religion, or religious feeling.  Our monumental hangup is our continual creation of and affiliation with false religion.  God has seen fit to leave the indelible stamp of His reality on us by our fundamental makeup as religious beings:  all over the world, in the entire history of the world, 99.999% (not an actual scientific figure!) of folks have claimed some organized religion, and those who have disdained a church cling to a profession of being "spiritual", if not religious.  Even atheism in its truest sense is the deification of man;  hence, "the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols." (John Calvin).
     Let's start with what is still the most accurate source of religious polling and statistics:  the Lord Jesus Christ: 
"We're not the 'moral majority'?"
"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Mt 7-13-14)     "For many are called, but few are chosen." (Mt 22:14)
Terms like "many" and "few" are not as catchy and quantifiable as percentages, but we can be sure if Jesus thought we needed an exact figure, He would have given us one.  (Martin Luther famously estimated the percentage of converted folks to unconverted was 1 in 1,000, or .01%.)  The points I believe we can glean might be depressing at first, but then a relief: 

1.  We're not supposed to convert everybody.  If you look at the most godly, dedicated, passionate proclaimers of the truth in Scripture, often by statistical standards, they are the biggest failures.  Men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were not the Billy Grahams of their time (more on Billy Graham later!);  instead they were faithful in the face of almost complete rejection and did not fail to proclaim the whole counsel of God.

2.  If God providentially sees fit to lessen the number of "goats in sheep's clothing" in our country, we must praise Him for His grace.  Let's be honest:  since there has never been a "Christian majority" in America (remember what Jesus said!), unconverted phonies with a transparent profession merely heap up scorn and disgrace on the name of Jesus Christ.  I can't count the number of polls I have seen that present the claims of 71% of Americans to true religion alongside the 68% of Americans who cheat on their taxes, or the 78% who don't believe in hell, or the 84% who attend church twice a year, if at all (again, not the actual figures, but they can't be far off!).   Jesus had a word for such people:  hypocrites (Mt 23:13, 15, 23).  Isn't that what church discipline is all about, removing those who have disqualified themselves from claiming Jesus?  Can we be shocked if we won't love people through Mt 18, then Jesus will pick up the slack (and remove people Himself)?  So God be praised, we are now officially a minority hypocrite nation!

3.  This relates to #2, but might help with another facet of this:  the last 2 sentences of our article quotes John Green, a specialist in religion and politics at the University of Akron, "Part of what's going on here is that the stigma associated with not being part of any religious community has declined... In some parts of the country, there is a stigma.  But overall, it's not the way it used to be."  In other words, the people who in times past would be careful to go through the motions and keep up the external appearance of religion simply don't care anymore;  the general consensus of our society is that one can be good without God.  What this dismal reality creates is the opportunity for genuine believers and followers of Christ to "shine like the brightness of the sky above... like the stars forever and ever" (Dan 12:3).  The contrast between God-given faith and unbelief has never been more stark... will you be a Jeremiah?

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