A recent survey reveals that 37 percent of Americans meet standards for having a post-Christian theology.
Jason Lee, the dean of Cedarville’s school of biblical and theological studies, said post-Christianity is the replacement of Christian language, ideals and worldviews in a culture with secular ideals, language and worldviews.
To examine the shift in post-Christian America, Barna Group, a research company aiming to integrate spirituality into culture, surveyed 42,855 Americans on their agreement with 15 statements describing religious identification and behavior. To qualify as having a post-Christian theology, a person has to agree with at least nine out of 15 questions in the survey. To qualify as highly post-Christian, a person must meet at least 12 of 15 of the criteria.
The opening statements of the survey are used to simply identify an person’s beliefs, such as the statements, “Do not believe in God” and “Identify as atheist or agnostic.” Following statements showed the person’s congruence with certain religious tenets. The survey explored aspects of Christian faith with questions such as “Agree that Jesus committed sins” and “Disagree that the Bible is accurate.” The remaining statements regard how much the person practices the faith they subscribe to. Some of the measures surveyors used are “Have not prayed to God (in the last year),” “Have not read the Bible (in the last week),” “Do not feel a responsibility to share their faith” and “Do not participate in a house church (in the last year).”
According to Christianity Today, 78 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians. However, the Barna survey found that 37 percent of Americans meet post-Christian criteria. Additionally, the survey found that 15 percent of Americans who identify as Christian actually fall into the post-Christian category.
“There may be many people who identify with their culture, such as people living in the Bible Belt, or their families as being Christian,” Lee said. “However, they wouldn’t embrace those Christian criteria. There are those that do have a clear understanding of the Gospel, are involved in life with other Christians and church, and look for ways to exalt God in how they’re living.”
The Barna study categorized Christian beliefs based on age groups. Barna breaks generations up into Mosaics (18-28 year olds), Busters (29-47 year olds), Boomers (48-66 year olds) and Seniors (67 years and older).
Mosaics showed the greatest congruence with the post-Christian mindset, with 48 percent identifying as post-Christian. Forty and 35 percent of Busters and Boomers, respectively, qualified as post-Christian. Seniors represented the smallest fraction of post-Christian adherents.
Lee said the rise of post-Christianity through generations is related to the circumstantial challenges faced by people throughout history.
“In the 50’s and 60’s, after WWII, there was a spiritual revival in America,” Lee said. “People were just happy to be alive, recognizing that God gave them the simple things in life and they appreciated that. Now, people find themselves considering other things to be important. We have lost the urgency to say ‘God is protecting, providing and fundamental to existence.’”
Post-Christian thought did not originate in the United States. According to Lee, the transition follows a common historical trend; when a movement begins in Europe, the Americans follow a few decades later. This can be seen in fashion trends, political issues and health care. Lee said that America has been influenced by European post-Christian ideas for around 50 years.
The post-Christian mindset is more prevalent in deed than in thought. While only four percent of people surveyed said they do not believe in God, an overwhelming 89 percent of people didn’t participate in a home church in the past year. Even though only eight percent of people would self-identify as atheist or agnostic, 57 percent of people said they haven’t read the Bible and 47 percent said they don’t feel a responsibility to share their faith.
“We wanted to expand the scope of secularization beyond what people call themselves,” Barna president David Kinnaman said. “Faith-oriented self-descriptions are fine, but they are really only skin-deep in terms of understanding faith. In addition to identity, we also wanted to account for two other critical aspects of faith: belief as well as behavior.”
While less than 10 percent of the U.S. population would openly identify as nonreligious, a high percentage of those who do identify as Christians live lifestyles that indicate the opposite.
Kari Morris is a sophomore English major and a reporter for Cedars. When she isn’t shooting for the CU pistol team, Kari loves playing Guitar Hero with friends and pulling pranks on her unit-mates.