This is not a post on politics. This is not a post on race. Nor is this a post on right and wrong. If your reaction as you read below is, “Well that’s not how it should be,” then you are missing the point entirely and this world is going to leave you in its dust.
This is a post on change or, more specifically, the rapid change occurring in American culture.
I recently posted a picture of a book I’m reading to my social media feeds; which received a lot of interaction. The book is titled, “The End of White Christian America,” and was written by Robert P. Jones. Jones is the CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute and I recently had the opportunity to hear him present the data from the book along with his perspective on what the research is showing us about our culture at an event here in Charlotte.
Perhaps the single most telling data point that best portrays the rapid change in public opinion is that of the same-sex marriage debate. Again, this is not a post about same-sex marriage. These are just the numbers. Resist your urge to internally opine, whatever your personal stance, and consequently miss the big picture.
In 2004, 59% of the American population was White Christian and 32% of the population were favorable to same-sex marriage. In 2016, those figures were almost exactly inverse of each other. Last year, the American population was 43% White Christian and 59% of the population was favorable to same-sex marriage. These percentages almost flip-flopped in just 12 years!
As you can see from this blurry picture of a slide I snapped during Jones’ presentation, as of late, the number of Americans who are White Christian is falling by 2% each year.
During the third year of Obama’s presidency, the percentage of White Christians fell below 50%; which means that White Christians are now a minority for the first time in the history of the USA. Fewer whites identify as Christian and fewer Christians are white. This is a shift of which we should all take note, especially those of us who are on the same mission no matter what the statistics tell us.
Although our mission as the church never changes, perhaps these figures and narratives should cause us to rethink, as well as help shape, our methods.
This data has to be contextualized according to each region. For example, I live in the Bible belt. All of my immediate neighbors are white and almost all of them would at least identify as Christian even if they are not active in a local church. Therefore, the influence of White Christian America is still prevalent in much of the demographic that makes up my local community. However, this is changing rapidly. More than likely, there is a similar shift in your community.
Jones provides a fascinating historical narrative detailing the relationship between religious movements and political movements over time here in America. He also touches on how even our cities’ architecture illustrates the shift in public understanding of religion and the marketplace. For example, in telling how the erection of marketplace edifices began to tower over the church steeples already in place during the late 1800’s, Jones writes, “Instead of market transactions happening under the watchful eye of the church, these exchanges literally take place over its head and beyond its reach.” He also creatively opens the book with an obituary for White Christian America and concludes with a eulogy.
I suggest you pick up a copy of The End of White Christian America. Jones’ writing will open your eyes to the changes occurring in how people in our country view the world around us.