The Barna Group conducted 42,855 random interviews in America from 2005-2012, asking 15 questions related to belief in God, importance of faith, prayer, commitment to Jesus, view of the Bible, church attendance, and so forth. The survey measured both belief and behavior.
Thirty-seven percent (37 percent) of Americans rated highly or moderately post-Christian. The age breakdowns:
• Seniors (67+) = 28% post-Christian
• Boomers (48-66) = 35% "
• Busters (29-47) = 40% "
• Mosaics (18-28) = 48% "
Younger generations are increasingly becoming post-Christian in America. This appears to be the trend across The Global North, i.e., European nations and North America. However, in the Global South, i.e., Africa, Asia, and Latin America, Christianity is spreading rapidly. To speak of a Post-Christian World, therefore, may be premature. But it is certainly fair to speak of an increasingly post-Christian America.
Christians are members of a new group -- community, nation, church -- called to live like Christ. We believe our Lord's teachings such as love of God, others, and enemies, forgiveness, humility, faith, obedience, mercy, non-violence, repentance, prayer, freedom, equality, and helping the poor show us the best way to live life. Therefore, we invite others to join us in following Christ, while we work to help our communities and nation live according to His principles, which translate into secular society as values and ethics. Life lived contrary to the principles of Christ is destructive of persons and community.
How might we think and live Christianly in a Post-Christian world? Two prerequisites:
First, we become a Christian, a member of the team, the group, the church. The best way to think like a parent is to become one. We best then understand the thinking behind sacrifices of love for the infant, the changing of foul diapers, the middle-of-the-night feedings, the changed lifestyle, etc. The best way to understand Christian thought and ways is to become a Christian. When we become Christian we are given the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and lives.
Second, we understand that as followers of Christ we and our group are called to live differently, to think not of ourselves first, but of God and others, for what is best for them. As the prophet, Micah, said, and Jesus lived, our goals are humility, justice, and mercy, i.e., we seek fairness and loving help for others. This new way of living is light for a world in darkness.
The four Grand Cosmic Movements are: Creation, Corruption, New Creation, and Creation to Come. God created all that is, and it was good. Humankind corrupted creation and corrupts it still with sin, making a woeful mess of this world. God acts to correct the corrupt world through Christ and His new community of followers, which represents a New Creation. As Richard Hays puts it, God is re-creating the world through Christ in the church! In the end, God's redeeming work results in a creation to come, a New Heaven and Earth, where all is good again.
As Christ was the visible image of the invisible God, so the church is the visible image of the invisible Christ. The church is what God is "up to" in the world. God is love and we are His voice. Laryngitis is unacceptable.
So, how are we to think about torture of our enemies? Race? War? Abortion? Gay marriage? Poverty and Hunger? Capital punishment? Nuclear weapons? Assisted suicide? The environment? And other pressing issues?
May I recommend 5 questions, which might help us think and act Christianly? These could be viewed as ingredients in a theological stew. We might chew on each individually, or we may toss them together for a much more tasty, filling treat.
1. WWJD? What would Jesus do? Let us reason through each issue.
2. WDJD? What did Jesus do? The Bible provides His teachings and example as a guide.
3. What does church tradition recommend? Thinking Christianly is not new to believers. After all, we have 2,000 years of Christian intellectual thought. What did Cicero or Augustine think about the morality of war?
4. What does personal experience advise? E.g., How did you feel being cruel?
5. Has listening to the Holy Spirit through prayer been tried?
How should we "think Christianly" about ethical issues? Humbly. Intentionally. Prayerfully. We may not be right in our views. We listen to and learn from others. On complex issues there is no such thing as the Christian position. Christian views may vary greatly on war, abortion, the death penalty, gay marriage, etc. Our position represents a view, not the view. My lament is not that Christian views vary, but that often, for many, intentional Christian thinking is altogether missing.
For example, when the U.S. first went to war against Iraq well over a decade ago, "only 17 percent of people who attend religious services at least once a month say their religious views influenced their opinion on the war with Iraq." Among mainline Protestant pastors, only 52 percent addressed the war, and 43 percent took no position on it.
In recent revelations and subsequent national debate of CIA-led torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Americans supported torture by an almost 2-1 margin (59 percent -31 percent). Among White evangelical Protestants and White Catholics only 11 percent and 12 percent, respectively, believed torture was never justified. What does the Gospel of Jesus Christ have to say about Ferguson and New York? Do we have, as Rick Warren asks, a skin problem or a sin problem? Who has a Dream?
What an opportunity we have to make a difference in a world stuffed with information but starved for values. Oh, for laws, policies, practices, and movements based on love for God and others! Sure seems to me that's something worth thinking about.
*17 percent of worshipers saying their religious views influenced their view of the War with Iraq: The Baptist Record, March 27, 2003, p. 2., citing the Pew Research Center and Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
*Statistics on Post-Christian Americans can be found here.