A recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in which more than 35,000 adults were interviewed reveals some very interesting data about the position of religion in the United States.

  • More than 1/4 of adults have abandoned the faith practice of their childhood for either another religious preference or adopted no religious affiliation at all;
  • 1 in 4 adults ages 18-29 claim no religious affiliation at all;
  • The Roman Catholic Church has lost more members than any other faith tradition because of affiliation swapping;
  • On the Protestant side non-denominational churches are showing net gain in membership while Baptists and Methodists have netted significant losses;
  • Most “converts” to evangelical Protestant churches were actually raised Protestant;
  • More than 1/2 of American Buddhists surveyed were white, and most were converts from another faith tradition;
  • Nearly 1/2 of all Catholics under 30 are Hispanic;
  • 12% of the general population regards their religious preference as “nothing in particular”;

The statistic I found most interesting was that while 78% of those interviewed claimed to be Christian, the US is about to lose its status as a Protestant nation as only 51% claim to be Protestant (both mainline and evangelical), and that number is rapidly declining.

“The U.S. religious marketplace is extremely volatile, with nearly half of American adults leaving the faith tradition of their upbringing to either switch allegiances or abandon religious affiliation altogether.”

I wonder, why do you think that multi-generational faithfulness is becoming a thing of the past in the US? I read an article in The Tennessean just this morning about a former Baptist that has converted to Islam. One reason, I believe, is because most churches have adopted a marketplace mentality about church, and this has fueled an ethos of consumerism in the church that exhibits the same kind of banal, shallow advertising and targeting that we find in the open market. The gospel has been prostituted and the product being offered provides the same kind of commitment you might expect out of a one-night stand. The gospel, even in many “christian” churches is a message of tolerance, self-respect, acceptance and love that is contrary to the message of the cross. This isn’t to say that all of these “buzz” words don’t have some kind of meaning in relationship to the cross, but rather, it is to say that they don’t have the same kind of biblical meaning often found in today’s religious landscape. The message being offered in far too many faith traditions is a steady diet of TV sitcom “Christian-isms” designed to nurture a self-esteem gospel contrary to the teachings of Scripture. It’s a message of health, wealth, and individualism. And once the “show” is exposed as a fraud because the substance of the message cannot endure the testing of fire that comes in from of death, cancer, divorce, brokenness, abuse, disappointment, etc, people then shop around for another religious experience offering the same kind of shallow “truths”built on a foundation of sand. They just can’t see it for what it is.

This, of course, is the beauty of the message of the gospel. It’s a message where God is pursuing us in our brokenness. God wants to rescue us and has sent the Son Jesus to reconcile us to himself through his brutal death on the cross. God validated Jesus’ sacrifice by raising him from the dead in power. And now, the message of the gospel, is that God desires to remove the scales from our eyes by His Spirit so that we can see the truth of the gospel for what it really is: the only means of freedom, forgiveness and hope in this world and the life to come.