Three Kinds of Christians (Continued)

In my last post I claimed that there are three kinds of American Christians – the Moralistic Therapeutic Deist (the majority), the Professional, and the Die-Hard, and that in about twenty years the second two kinds will be the only ones left.

Of course when I say there are three kinds of Christians I don’t really mean that there are three and only three kinds of Christians, that would be ridiculous. It is a hyperbolic statement intended to describe trends and expose dangers.

But the three trends I outlined do exist: most ordinary Christians see God as a therapeutic tool for their personal journey to niceness. Moralistic Therapeutic Deists will not be Christians for very long; the church is shrinking. Church leadership tends towards liberalism in both politics and religion, while church membership tends to be conservative in both.

The result will be (and in some places already is) intense bickering between the leadership class and the pew-sitting class about who is to blame for the shrinking church, when in reality it is the very nature of contemporary American culture and education to render people shallow and spineless and therefore incapable of being Christian.

Whatever shall we do?

One obvious thing is to keep politics in its place. Politics is the art of making prudential decisions about how to manage this passing world, it is relative and has to be kept that way. Professional Christians need to stop acting like the whole reason Jesus lived, died and rose from the dead was to establish a Universal Healthcare System and the Die-Hards need to stop thinking that the Geniuses of the Republican Party care about anything other than counting their money. Nations and political systems come and go, some are more humane than others and can command a degree of loyalty, but they all pass away.

The second is to recognize that while Die-Hards and Professionals both have their flaws there are broader social forces behind the phenomena of the incredible shrinking church. As I said above, the shallow and spineless humans who make such excellent consumers make for poor Christians. The real project for the church in the 21st century will be creating forms of community that help create people with depth of mind and character. I doubt those institutions will look much like those of the 19th and 20th centuries, huge brick and mortar affairs staffed by Professional Christians. They will not look like the community substitutes of the early 21st century either – they will not be virtual or purely spontaneous.

 

 

 

 

 

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4 comments

  1. Hmm, you always post some interesting ideas.

    “The result will be (and in some places already is) intense bickering between the leadership class and the pew-sitting class about who is to blame for the shrinking church,…”

    Quite true, but here’s something else to ponder. This alleged shrinking church is really just a matter of perceptions. As far as numbers go, we are fast approaching a time when there will be more Christians on earth than the sum total of all Christians who have ever lived. The church,the population of the world and the number of people claiming Christ’s name has expanded exponentially, so rather than a shrinking church, we actually have a rapidly expanding one.

    If you look at statistics in the US going back only a few decades, we see a slight decline in church attendance,in those professing Christ. But if you go back farther and look at the data over a few hundred years, even in the US you will see what actually amounts to amazing growth.

    Of course, I can’t speak to the “quality” of those beliefs, but as to quantity, the church is actually flourishing.

    1. Its true that globally there is an increase in Christians – if present trends continue China will be have the world’s most Christians in a few years, for example.
      As for the U.S. we may simply be seeing a return to historical norms – but with the difference that American Enlightenment culture and American religious culture were never deeply at odds (except for maybe in the 20s and 30s) but now they are. There is a very real opposition.
      There is no reason to think the high levels of attrition we see in Europe will not be reflected in America over the next few years and my guess is that the appearance of religiosity is less strong than it seems and it is headed for a collapse.
      If there is to be some kind of religious revival (and eventually there probably will be, history is long) in the U.S. there are currently no signs of it. So the question becomes how to build a community that can resist the coming winter.

      1. Of course religion is collapsing. That’s because at its core it’s a system of deception. One that creates delusional people like Insanitybytes who don’t understand statistics. At all. She just repeats things she’s told by people she thinks are authorities on the matter.

      2. My assertion is that Christian belief is on the verge of collapsing in the United States and the status of the faith in Europe is well documented but I’m not going to make that claim about other regions of the world.

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