The Decline of Evangelical America

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IT hasn’t been a good year for evangelicals. I should know. I’m one of them.

In 2012 we witnessed a collapse in American evangelicalism. The old religious right largely failed to affect the Republican primaries, much less the presidential election. Last month, Americans voted in favor of same-sex marriage in four states, while Florida voters rejected an amendment to restrict abortion.


Much has been said about conservative Christians and their need to retool politically. But that is a smaller story, riding on the back of a larger reality: Evangelicalism as we knew it in the 20th century is disintegrating.

In 2011 the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life polled church leaders from around the world. Evangelical ministers from the United States reported a greater loss of influence than church leaders from any other country — with some 82 percent indicating that their movement was losing ground.

I grew up hearing tales of my grandfather, a pastor, praying with President Ronald Reagan at the White House. My father, also a pastor, prayed with George W. Bush in 2000. I now minister to my own congregation, which has grown to about 500, a tenfold increase, in the last four years (by God’s favor and grace, I believe). But, like most young evangelical ministers, I am less concerned with politics than with the exodus of my generation from the church.

Studies from established evangelical polling organizations — LifeWay Research, an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Barna Group — have found that a majority of young people raised as evangelicals are quitting church, and often the faith, entirely.

Written By: John S. Dickerson
continue to source article at nytimes.com

21 COMMENTS

  1. “Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.” Internet is the ultimate grave for all superstitions. Wish you wake-up sooner from superstitious delusion.

  2. An interesting stance from John S Dickerson. It’s not often you read anything from the US that is negative in any way – “never is heard a discouraging word” and all that.

    He believes evangelicals are on the back foot for many reasons, but out of it will come a better but smaller organisation. Well, that’s exactly how all chuches see it at the moment. They are getting knocked back, but will re-form and try again. But this time, their fightback is not going to work. As they retreat to what they see as higher ground, it will also be smaller ground. Every step sideways is really a step back. I believe the US is about to move dramatically away from religion. I hope I’m right.

  3. I grew up hearing tales of my grandfather, a pastor, praying with President Ronald Reagan at the White House. My father, also a pastor, prayed with George W. Bush in 2000. I now minister to my own congregation, which has grown to about 500, a tenfold increase, in the last four years (by God’s favor and grace, I believe). But, like most young evangelical ministers, I am less concerned with politics than with the exodus of my generation from the church.

    Translation: “Aaaww, I thought Romney was going to win and I was going to get to be a regular at the White House and be important and sh*t and instead the only influence I’m ever going to have is over these 500 redneck losers.”

  4. “But, like most young evangelical ministers, I am less concerned with politics than with the exodus of my generation from the church.”
    Translation: “like all priests, I am worried less bums on seats means less political influence”

    You can’t stand in the way of progress forever (although you and many like you have tried)

    I only hope that the day when they tear down your church and build something useful (like a rubbish dump) comes soon

  5. That was so much like any marketing consultant brought in to address falling market share.  Can’t question the product, of course.  That’s beyond the Terms of Reference.   But how it’s presented, that’s fair game.

    It did include some words of wisdom for the “faithful” –

    …many evangelicals have claimed the role of moral gatekeeper, judge and
    jury. If we continue in that posture, we will continue to invite
    opposition…

    Ain’t that the truth.

  6. He said Evangelicalism is flourishing in places like Brazil, China and Sub Saharan Africa. Is he actually proud of that?
    You don’t think those nice christian missionaries intentionally go to the parts of those countries where people are so in need of basic services and education that they’re highly vulnerable- do you? That’s disgusting, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from those people!

  7. “The core evangelical belief is that love and forgiveness are freely available to all who trust in Jesus Christ”.

    Modern people have discovered that there are REAL places and REAL people where one can obtain REAL love and REAL forgiveness instead of from some supernatural wishy washy judgmental being who might forgive you when you die if you’re lucky but will send you to burn forever in a fiery lake if you haven’t prayed, praised and grovelled enough.

    Modern people are too educated to believe nonsense.

  8. I now minister to my own congregation, which has grown to about 500, a tenfold increase, in the last four years (by God’s favor and grace, I believe). 

    Yes, John. The all-knowing and all-powerful creator of the known Universe saw fit to put everything else on hold while he arranged for a few hundred Homo sapiens to come hear you speak.

    Imagine the arrogance, hubris and cognitive dissonance one must attain to believe such drivel.

  9. Evangelicals have not adapted well to rapid shifts in the culture — including, notably, the move toward support for same-sex marriage. The result is that evangelicals are increasingly typecast as angry and repressed bigots. In 2007, the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, in a survey of 1,300 college professors, found that 3 percent held “unfavorable feelings” toward Jews, 22 percent toward Muslims and 53 percent toward evangelical Christians.

    Surely, John S, you are not suggesting, God forbid, you adapt the Lord’s absolute morality?

    It’ll only end with people putting the pee pee thing in the poo poo thing, and you know it.

    Shame on you.

    Anvil

  10. Dickerson quotes Chesterton:

    Simple faith in Christ’s sacrifice will march on, unchallenged by empires and eras. As the English writer G. K. Chesterton put it, “Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.”

    Gosh isn’t Jesus so wonderful! He knew his way into the “grave” and he knew his way out again, and all so as to free us from sin ! Not very successful, was he?  If Chesterton is the best Dickerson can offer, then no wonder Christians are deserting ship, at least in the more educated countries.  Dickerson claims it’s not the message but the tone of the evangelicals that puts people off them.  Perhaps he could tell me that I’m going to hell for not believing in Jesus, in a more diplomatic way?  That would really attract me to Christianity !

    (Eyes roll skyward)

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