The End of Christian America

The End of Christian America is, of course, not about the end of Christian America. It is about the end of the evangelical right’s dream and vision of their Christian America which is rightly identified as one of the temptations that Jesus said no to but one that the Church said yes too. As much as I agree about this article, I can’t help but question how much of our religious and cultural history is tied to the fact that we value rebellion, stressing it even more than the article above.

It reminds me of a story I read on another blog about how a mega church had discovered that their young people were now seeking high church services – services that were the opposite of the services their parents were participating in. The pastor of that story had success learning about liturgy (which was something he never heard of before). He went to discuss his findings at a conference only to be confounded by others from high church services who’s young people wanted low church/contemporary services. The pastor said that young people were “complicated”. Or maybe it has less to do with complication and more to do with our inherent desire, as young children, to seek out what is different from our parents.

The trick, of course, is that most revert back to their parents in some way as the years go by. But Americans have always valued the young and as our young generation now looks different than the old – more multicultural, more brown, less family oriented (even though the religious right tried to create a generation against that; they failed), the gen xers and millennials are now reverting away from what their parents wanted. And why? Because not only does America value rebellion (within a specific guidelines of course), America also tends to rewards them as well with a stable life. Societal mobility does not only mean that one is no longer limited to the status of ones birth – it also allows one to escape and move beyond the status of their childhood and life. As mainstream Protestant Christianity faded from the public eye and was replaced by the evangelical right, a large generation has begun to rebel away from their evangelical right traditions. And with the cultural makeup of the United States changing as well (when a town like Irving Texas has 70% of their elementary school students of hispanic descendent, that is a large cultural shift), there are currently other cultural and societal shifts that can consciously and subconsciously occupy our time.

The Evangelical Right’s political muscle broke in 2006 and started to fade as quickly as it had appeared. And it’s definition of what religious tradition is in the United States is going to fade as quickly as every other blowback has in the US tradition from various other Great Awakenings. The culture wars of the last decades does not necessary have to be defined by morality, judgment, class or race. It is, actually, defined by the fact that Americans are focused on the individual. We dislike “others” telling us what to do. And that, like the author says, is the United State’s real religion which is something that many people, on both sides of the aisle, don’t want to agree on because if everyone hates “others”, then we’re all the same. And if we’re all the same, the demons of our society are far too close to home.

2 thoughts on “The End of Christian America”

  1. Thanks for the links and information. Really, really compelling stuff.

    While I agree that rebellion may play a part in this trend, I don’t think it’s the only factor, or even the key factor, coming into play. Correlation? Yes, possibly. Probably, even.

    My brother, my fiancee, and I each stepped away from organized religion in our own ways, on our own paths and in our own terms, and we each took great time and care trying to figure out what made the most sense to us.

    My brother spent YEARS researching different religions/ religious texts in sorting out his views on religion, and he is now an Atheist. (This started when he was in college, and ended a few years after he graduated.)

    For me, I decided that I officially was no longer a Christian a few months ago after seeing the many MANY similarities in the Christian faith and numerous ancient astrology-based religions.
    Prior to that revelation, I didn’t completely believe in one religion over the other (although I leaned Christian, since that was what I was raised), but my overall view was that all religions were inherently flawed because they were man’s interpretation of God; and of course there were going to be differences amongst denominations, sects, and cultures. One wasn’t necessarily more “right” than the other in my mind…each offered great lessons and taught values and virtues. I am still spiritual and believe in a higher power/powers. I’m just not sure what to label it anymore.

    Anyway, you could say that my brother is able to let all of the spiritual part go because he is more of a free-thinker. (This is what he would tell you.) I’ll be the first to admit that he is far more comfortable rebelling against the norm than I am, so like I said, there could be a correlation between views on rebellion and views on religion. However, I don’t think there’s ground for causation. He took this way too seriously to come to these conclusions just to rebel against “the norm.” Same goes for me, and for my fiancee.

    Just my thoughts…love to hear what you have to say in response to this.

  2. Funny, I’m kinda the opposite of your brother. I grew up very lax Catholic, was agnostic/atheist for awhile and then, as I grew older, did quite a bit of research and thought and am now Christian, specifically a Lutheran. My experience shows that being a “free thinker” tends to not limit you to being one way or the other and can lead to many different destinations.

    I agree that rebellion probably isn’t the only reason but I was trying to be rather general and span my thoughts across two specific, and sometimes antagonist sides, and show that “young people”, who are usually viewed that the primary targets/victims in the religion/secular “struggle”, tend to go away from their parents and how that’s intrinsically built into our national conscious. I know I wasn’t being rigorous or being in depth with my analysis or examples but it’s something that tends to be more prevalent in how Americans handle religion when compared to other regions of the world.

    Even for those who follow the beliefs of their ancestors and parents, there is a tendency to want something different. That, to me, is also one sign of rebellion and an cultural embrace of the idea behind individualism. You, your fiancee, and your brother might not have rebelled in the strict sense of the word but you did participate in the cultural process of individuality that encourages, and supports, your choices (even if your specific choice is sometimes viewed as negative by the prevailing social norms). It’s doing this that helps create economic markets, keep the US a melting pot while allowing us to maintain our Little Italy’s and Chinatowns, and keeps the cultural wars still being fought because “we don’t like being told what to do”. I should have focused more on that point of view in my post rather than in how I framed it in terms of rebellion.

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