- The Washington Times - Monday, September 19, 2022

“Christianity in crisis” makes for a sensational catchphrase. For that reason, it serves as the title of several books sold on Amazon and as the headline for numerous opinion articles found online. If the label overstates Christianity’s fall from its centuries-long position as the world’s preeminent religion, the exaggeration is only slight. The power of the Cross is clearly fading and, sadly, so is the observance of peaceful social accord it helped to institute in the United States.

A new Pew Research Center survey published Sept. 13 tracks the ranks of Americans who engage in “religious switching” — abandoning their Christian faith for a different one, or for none at all. The study found that in 2020, about 64% of the U.S. population claimed to be Christian. Individuals considering themselves atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” comprised around 30%, and followers of other religions – primarily Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists – added up to another 6%.

Looking ahead, Pew models several hypothetical scenarios to predict the U.S. religious landscape a half-century hence. Each studied trendline points to the continued deterioration of Christian influence: “Depending on whether religious switching continues at recent rates, speeds up or stops entirely, the projections show Christians of all ages shrinking from 64% to between a little more than half (54%) and just above one-third (35%) of all Americans by 2070.”

If Christianity’s current trajectory holds, the nation’s dominant faith is likely to comprise only a minority, 46% of the U.S. population in 50 years. And if the numbers of the religiously unaffiliated multiply along the line of Pew’s most aggressive forecast, the “nones” with no use for any brand of faith will constitute a majority, 52% status.

Additionally, followers of other faiths are projected to double their composite proportion of the U.S. population during the next 50 years – owing not to a switch of religious affiliation, but due to the persistent inflow of migrants with non-Christian beliefs.

To be sure, the world’s established religions enshrine in their sacred texts some variation of the “Golden Rule.” Readers of the Bible’s New Testament find it in the Book of Matthew: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them … .”

The common-sense admonition requires no further explanation for those schooled in reverence for the Creator and His creation which, of course, includes human beings. As familiarity with this most basic of religious values declines, though, the practice of peaceful social accord observably diminishes with it.

The evidence in today’s United States is beyond voluminous. Makeshift encampments shelter the purposeless along the streets of once-gleaming cities; vandal mobs pick clean top-name retail stores in the time it takes to dial 911; innocent pedestrians – often elderly – are sucker-punched senseless in broad daylight, all in unapologetic view of bystanders who only watch.

Christianity is indeed in crisis and, the presence of companion faiths notwithstanding, the venerable practice of treating others as one wishes to be treated is vanishing from sight in America. The Old Testament’s Book of Proverbs sums up the human cost: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

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