A recent survey by Pew Research Center shows that about half of U.S. adults believe the influence of Christianity on American culture is in decline.1 When our leaders pass laws that stand in stark conflict with God’s word, who could argue? Even more revealing is 56 percent of those adults are said to be Christians. The poll also shows that people think Christianity will not recover.
Another survey shows that 50 percent of Americans say the Bible should have some influence over the laws of the land. Some further say it should even take priority over what the people prefer.2 One cannot dispute that God was placed front and center in the Declaration of Independence by its framers. The keywords and phrases they chose to use in the text, such as “Creator” and “Supreme Judge, point directly to God.
How can two surveys, taken about one month apart, seem so polar opposite in their results? One says the influence of Christianity is in decline. The other says the Bible should be an influence in legislating law. One answer could be the difference between the two population samples used in each survey; however, there is another possibility to explain the differing results.
Suppose people are becoming fed up with the track record of organized religion. Suppose they are more drawn to a straightforward personal encounter with Jesus in the pages of Scripture. Church history is clouded with acts of adultery, fraud, and molestations by clergy just in the past few decades. All of which reflect the church, as a whole, in a poor light. For non-believers, it seems no different than the world in which they live, so why bother with religion.
Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites several times. You see, they had little regard for God’s law but strictly held the people accountable to the slightest letter of the law. However, not all of the Pharisees were bad, Nicodemus, for example, genuinely sought the truth about Jesus. Likewise, today, not all pastors, priests, bishops, and other clergy are bad people; instead, they are genuine servants of God who step out to proclaim the truth of God’s word.
In his book, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, Andy Crouch (2008) wrote, “Culture is what human beings make of the world” (p. 37).3 In other words, it is not the culture that defines us as a people, as one might think; instead, culture is determined by the people. In the 1960s and 1970s, Americans witnessed the beginning of a cultural shift within the church. It was called the Jesus Movement.
The Jesus Movement, with all of its flower-power, long hair, beads, and, of course, rock-n-roll, took the traditional conventions of the Christian church by storm. Crouch (2008) wrote, “American Christianity was cut off from cultural forms that were becoming the primary musical language. The Jesus Movement changed all that.” He further quotes Martin Luther as having said, “Why should the devil have all the good music?” (p. 67). Thus, the rise of Contemporary Christian Music was well on its way and has since changed what is culturally acceptable within the church.
So you might be wondering what this all has to do with the two Pew Research Center surveys I mentioned. It is to suggest that the results of the two studies are not in opposition to one another, but instead, they stand in agreement. As an organization, the church might be losing influence among the people, but God is not. It suggests that people have lost confidence in Christian leadership, but remain steadfast in their faith and trust in God. Hence their recognition that God’s holy word be an influence for man-made laws.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17
Since it is people who define the culture and not the other way around, where does cultural change begin? It begins by changing the culture within the home, the family unit. If there is one positive aspect of the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic, it helped draw families back together and closer than before. As a family’s culture changes, it will influence their neighbors, then their community, their town, their city, their state, and finally, the nation. What our country needs is a 21 century Jesus Movement.
Impossible? Jesus did so by changing His disciple’s cultural mindset that has since spread throughout the world. Our country needs is a 21 century Jesus Movement to put our nation’s focus back on Jesus Christ. The Lord said, “If… my people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chr. 7:14).
Therefore, let us set out as did the Apostles of the early church to bring about a cultural change within our sphere of influence, and by the grace of God, watch it sweep throughout our communities, across the nation, and around the world. As the old hymn says, “Onward, Christian Soldiers!”
1. Pew Research Center. (2020, March). Views about religion in American society. Retrieved from https://www.pewforum.org/2020/03/12/views-about-religion-in-american-society/.
2. Pew Research Center. (2020, April). Half of Americans say Bible should influence U.S. laws, including 28% who favor it over the will of the people. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/13/half-of-americans-say-bible-should-influence-u-s-laws-including-28-who-favor-it-over-the-will-of-the-people/
3. Crouch, A. (2008). Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.