Friday, April 24, 2009

Welcome to the Fringe

Thank you, Jon Meacham, for bringing to light some fascinating statistics.  I have long sensed the declining influence of Christianity in American culture, but had no evidence to support that until reading your article in Newsweek .  Now I know, based on scientific studies, that "the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990."  More specifically, "the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 percentage points since 1990, from 86 to 76 percent," and that the number of people willing to describe themselves as atheist or agnostic has increased about fourfold... to about 3.6 million." 


Of course, coming from a Oneness Pentecostal tradition, I am used to being on the fringe--being one of those who lacks any serious cultural influence.  Speaking as one on the fringe, I would suggest that it is the best place for Christianity to be in a culture.  Looking at the history of Christianity we see that the Church thrives when it is not in fashion, and suffers when it can take cultural influence for granted.  The explosive growth of the first church, the sweeping conversions in Ireland led by St. Patrick, even the renewal and Reformation of the church all grew out of oppressive environments.  On the other hand, the Christian-Hellenistic syncretism of the fourth and fifth centuries, the pre-Reformation excesses of the priesthood, and such Holy Wars as the Crusades grew out of a Christianity that was closely tied to the secular power structure.


For some reason, God seems to prefer the underdog.  He uses the weak to confound the strong, the foolish to bring to nothing the wise.  Perhaps an American Christianity that is lacking in cultural influence will be a better venue for God to bring more glory to Himself.  Perhaps it will be easier for Him to move when we don't feel like we can handle things so well on our own.  I look forward to a deeper revelation of His glory, not through political powerhouses in the media spotlight, but way out here on the fringe!


josh r

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