A new study by the Pew Research Center concludes “the U.S. is steadily becoming less Christian and less religiously observant.”
The share of American adults who call themselves Christians has fallen by 12 percentage points in just the last decade and less than half of young adults consider themselves believers.
That view contrasts with 84 percent of Americans in the mid-70s and older who still consider themselves practitioners of the faith.
Some blame “mockery of Christians” as part of a “war on Christianity.”
Others say the blame lies within, particularly with conservatives evangelicals who keep those of faith from dealing with issues of the times.
“Pompous right-wing political chest-thumping, and an unwillingness to listen on matters like climate change or racism, has contributed to a perception by millions that Christianity is irrelevant, or worse yet, a threat to progress,” the Rev. Richard Cizik, the leader of a group of self-described “new evangelicals” with moderate views, told Nicholas Kristof, columnist for the New York Times. “That’s a real burden to carry going into the 21st century.”
“We’re less and less a Christian Nation,, and I blame some blowhards,” states a headline of Kristof’s column in this weekend’s Times. “Some intolerant conservative evangelicals have tainted the faith.”
Cizik was fired by the National Association of Evangelicals in 2008 for supporting civil unions for gay people. He says Christianity’s reputation suffers from “backward views on women’s issues and the unwavering support among evangelical hard-liners form President Trump.
“Trump has played them like a fiddle,” he adds.
It would be difficult to imagine a president more at odds with Jesus’ message than Trump, a serial philanderer and liar who has persecuted refugees, divided families, exploited the poor and allegedly committed sexual assaults. When Trump in 2016 was asked to name a favorite part of the Bible, he muttered “an eye for an eye” — a reference to an Old Testament passage that Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, specifically renounced.
That is the opposite of the Christianity whose heroic side I’ve often praised: A Catholic doctor in Sudan’s Nuba mountains … a missionary doctor in Angola … nuns everywhere. If they were the face of Christianity, its reputation would be golden. Likewise, Christian organizations like International Justice Mission, Mercy Ships, Catholic Relief Services and World Vision labor to make the world a better place. Across America, a crucial safety net comes from churches organizing food pantries and emergency shelters.
There’s nothing about faith that necessarily makes it a bastion of conservatives. Martin Luther King Jr. and many other liberal civil rights leaders were shaped by their Christian beliefs, Jim Wallis is a liberal evangelical writer with a large following, and Jimmy Carter is truly the unTrump, at age 95 still building houses for the needy. But today’s prominent evangelical leaders are mostly conservatives.
Pew’s report says nonbelievers are gaining round fast. They call those who subscribe to no particular religion “Nones” who are more than a quarter of America’s population and the largest growing segment of our nation.
“Adults coming of age today are far less religious than their parents and grandparents before them,” says Gregory Smith of Pew.
Notes Christine Emba of The Washington Post: “Millennials are leaving religion — especially Christianity — and they’re not going back. If we’re closing the church doors behind us, we’ll have to find somewhere else to tend to our spirits — and our hearts.”
Thomas Jefferson urged the nation to keep government and church separate and argued, in particular, against bigotry against Muslims and Jews.
America is supposed to be a diverse nation where people of different ancestries, beliefs and faiths can live and work together. An increasing number of Americans say Christianity preaches against such beliefs.