Adding to my joy of late is a remarkable article predicting the demise of evangelical Christianity in our lifetimes.
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.
Do I believe it will happen? I confess that there’s a good bit of wishful thinking on my part that clouds my judgment, but I have high hopes, and I think it entirely possible. This particular article is especially interesting because it is published in the Christian Science Monitor, and it’s written by a Christian (well, more accurately, “a postevangelical reformation Christian in search of a Jesus-shaped spirituality,” whatever that means), writing as an insider with intimate knowledge of the evangelical movement. He’s not happy about it, either, which makes the article an interesting read just because every time he intones an article of woe in his litany of doom, I’m feeling like pumping a fist in the air and shouting “Yes!”
He places the blame on several factors. 1) Evangelicals hitched their wagon to conservative politics, and that cart is busted. 2) Christian media has been superficial and failed to teach them the basics of their belief (which I don’t think is quite as damaging as he thinks—teaching the actual scripture is a great way to make atheists). 3) Megachurches. Enough said. 4) Christian education has failed. 5) Christianity has become a taint rather than a selling point in efforts to do good works. 6) Confidence in the bible and faith are waning. And probably most importantly, 7) “The money will dry up.”
One caveat to his explanations, though, is that he is making specific predictions about a very narrow part of the Christian spectrum, evangelicalism. We still have to worry about the crazy Charismatics, the freaky Fundamentalists, the conservative Catholics, and all those weird little splinter sects all over the place. Christianity isn’t going to simply vanish, it’s simply going to submerge for a bit, be a little less flamboyant and openly money-hungry, and maybe be a little less politically influential. Those are good outcomes all around, in my opinion.
He also wants to predict that a new and vital Christianity can arise from the ruins. Let’s hope not — I want to see a clearing away of the detritus of superstition to allow for a new Enlightenment to shine forth, instead.