Friday, March 20, 2009

Prediction: Evangelical Christianity Near Collapse

The Coming Evangelical Collapse
By Michael Spencer

We are on the verge -- within 10 years -- of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.

Why is this going to happen?

1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.

The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can't articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.

2. We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we've spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.

3. There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.

4. Despite some very successful developments in the past 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism. Evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself.

5. The confrontation between cultural secularism and the faith at the core of evangelical efforts to "do good" is rapidly approaching. We will soon see that the good Evangelicals want to do will be viewed as bad by so many, and much of that work will not be done. Look for ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.

6. Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.

7. The money will dry up...
Stories about the decline of various religions and ideologies rise up all the time. If each were true, we'd be living in a philosophically dead world. While this particular author may be crying wolf, in this particular instance, I hope he's correct.

I have nothing against people who wish to embrace evangelical Christianity as long as they don't try to shove their weird beliefs down my throat. And that's the rub. This is what such folks seem to live for!

It's one thing not to believe in the concept of gay marriage and not to allow gays to get married in your church -- it's quite another thing to work to outlaw gay marriage everywhere!

It's one thing to believe in "intelligent design" and to teach your children that the earth is only six thousand years old -- it's quite another thing to work to mandate that this pseudo-science be a mandatory component of all science education.

It's one thing to believe in an invisible man in the sky and to thank the invisible man for all your own glories and successes -- it's quite another thing to try to make everybody else kowtow to your imaginary "father".

So, I welcome the predicted demise.

10 comments:

  1. Well, well, I never thought I would see the words of Michael Spencer showing up on your blog RT. I hadn't thought of that guy in quite awhile. A blast from the past....

    And I wouldn't bet on what he says here. One form or another of willful religious ignorance with a "Christian" veneer (i.e. Evangelicalism) will continue. The buulshit is just too entrenched.

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  2. I don't wish for the demise of anyone's religion. I do hope for all people to live in love and understand that at the core of their religion, at the core of their very being is love. Love does not judge nor does it inflict rules on what is right or wrong in the name of God. Love is! May all of us re-discover the love, the divinity which is the core of all of us.

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  3. I wish for the demise of destructive delusions (not that I expect that wish to ever come true). If such delusion happen to go under the name of "religion", then so be it.

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  4. I probably have quite a lot to say about this.
    But being a taoist, I will not say it.

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  5. How nice of you to talk to tell us you're not going to talk. ;)

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  6. Crow,
    I don't understand your comment at all. What does being a Taoist have to do with saying or not saying?

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  7. Crappers. I really don't get it. Why all the fuss? What does anyone feel the need to worry about what anyone else is doing? Why judge? Why let it "get" to you? Everybody is on their own journey... Until or unless it affects you directly - and by that I mean bodily harm - why bother with any of this? No one can tell any other person what to do, how to change, how to be. It must come from direct experience.

    My favorite poet wrote: "It is life, not anyone's arguments that must change us."

    And I agree.

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  8. This predicted demise would probably not be a bad thing.

    Having grown up in this same evangelical, fundamentalist background, I think it would be healthy for American society as a whole if it did lose its sway. It's been an active movement for almost forty years (if you pinpoint its origins in the 1970s), and it has done about as it much as it can get away with socially and politically, without changing the fabric of American life (which it would love to do as a movement).

    The First and Second Great Awakenings in the US had a shelf-life, and the evangelical awakening will as well. Nothing lasts forever. I think it's done great damage to Christianity as a whole.

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  9. I worry about the next generation.

    There are two kinds of Christians, some balance their faith with what they know about the world. Some may say they are still delusional, but it is a harmless delusion.

    The second is the evangelical kind, the ones that try to spread their faith everywhere, and tolerate nothing that condradicts their religion. This is the dangerous kind, and I fear it is becoming dominant. I think there will be a seperation, where the Christians and non-Christians will see very little of each other. Then the Christians will become more and more dogmatic and evil...

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  10. Val,
    In answer to your question of "Why all the fuss?", see ASpieboy's remarks. He speaks my mind on this topic. CBL makes a great point too!

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