This morning a Robert P Jones piece appeared in The Atlantic with the provocative title of “The Eclipse of White Christian America.” Jones attempts to chronicle the “anxieties and fears” of White Americans through demographic changes that have, in Jones opinion, lead to the decline of both Evangelicals and Mainline Protestants. The statistics cited make for fascinating reading and are important two know.
Reading the piece frankly raises more questions than it answers. The piece seems to imply that Protestants, both Evangelical and Mainline are somehow racist. How’s that work? Are there no Black or Hispanic Evangelical or Mainline Protestants? And what about Catholicism? Certainly most Roman Catholics in America are white – are they not Christians? I could go on like that for quite a while.
But one question remains paramount from my perspective. The statistics regarding the two Christian expressions he does address are undeniable. Something is very wrong with a church in decline based on demographic considerations. The Church, while a shaper of culture, is a place of ideas and ideology. Ideas and ideology are without demographic division. Ideas and ideology are meant to be truth. If an idea or ideology is somehow associated with a particular demographic, then the implication is that it’s truth is relative to those demographic considerations. Relative truth is pretty feeble truth.
The decline of the church in the nation is apparent. It is being written about by those that applaud the fact, those saddened by the fact and everything in between. I am among the saddened but the source of my sadness has to do with the fact that such decline is a measure of the church’s failures, not some change in the society the church inhabits.
I’d really like to read a piece like Jones’ that is written as confession. What happens after that might just be really, really interesting.