CHRISTIANITY VERSUS SECULARISM, WHICH SIDE WILL PREVAIL?
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits.”
Secularism seems to winning every battle these days. Christianity appears to be losing ground. In recent years, the Supreme Court has made rulings that seem to support secularism, none more famous than eliminating prayer in our schools. Our theological schools appear to be more interested in politics than the application of the Bible.
Corporations limit religious expression to being a private matter. Chick-Fil-A is harassed by the national media for its conservative Christian views. It appears where ever we turn Christianity must take a back seat to identity politics.
So is Christianity in decline because of secularism? Is this battle against secularism a new battle? Is secularism a real danger to Christianity?
Throughout our world, Christianity is growing and by 2050 the number of Christians will rise from 2.19 billion to close to 3 billion. However, most of that growth will occur in the southern hemisphere. More Christians are added every year, which has been a worldwide trend.
The places of decline are in the North Atlantic countries, like Europe and North America. A decline that started in the 60’s. Prompted by the elimination of the Blue laws in the United States, logistically challenged family lives and the recent scandals within the organized church.
However, at the time of the signing of the Constitution in America, church attendance was roughly 20% of the population, similar to today. While this is a decline from the 1950’s, it shows that our change in church attendance is very recent.
Yet Pew Research studies show no decline in religious thought. Today, 90% of all Americans believe in God. Similar to that of past decades. Two thirds of identified Christians pray on a regular basis. All this despite the drop in church attendance since 1960.
Many will blame this on the rise of secularism in our current society. However, when we look at the history of the fight between secularism and Christianity we will see this battle has been in existence since the start of Christianity.
Looking back at Christianity at the start of the 4th century, there were 6 million Christians in the Roman Empire, 10% of its population. While this may seem like a small number, consider what Christians encountered on a daily basis around 300 AD.
Christian’s were subject to periods of persecution. When a Roman Emperor needed to make an example, Christians were persecuted. Not only in their daily restrictions, but in a more violent form of being killed in coliseums. Early Christians that would not renounce God in favor of the Roman Gods were made an example of in the form spectacles like being thrown to the lions. Forcing Christians to worship under the city of Rome, in the catacombs.
However, over time Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire. In large part due to the conversion of the emperor Constantine. In fact, throughout the middle ages most of Europe was part of the Holy Roman Empire or called Christendom.
Fast forwarding to the 13th century, when Christianity had become deeply entrenched in everyday life. We still see the threat of Secularism. Religious expressions of this period are overstated. Far less people attended church on a regular basis. Many of the priests of that time had little knowledge of Latin that was used in the Sunday mass.
Bishops complained that the great cathedrals were often used as market places instead of church. To raise money the church sold indulgences to the rich to assure them of going to heaven.
Many will blame this on the Catholic church, but the reality is that secularism existed in both the Protestant and Catholic centers. Martin Luther himself was successful because of the support he received from the secular world. In the form of the German prince’s support, who were seeking to gain power using religion.
Throughout history, what we see today in the tug of war of secularism and Christianity has existed for many centuries.
Sure there are those who will say that Christmas shouldn’t be a national holiday. Sure there are those that believe in only the 1st part of the 1st amendment where there is a myth that there should be a separation of church and state, ignoring the second part of this statement, that all will have religious freedom. Including being able to pray and practice religious beliefs without recourse.
Today many church sponsored food pantries for the poor can not express Christian thought in their mission if they want to receive government assistance. A silly rule when you consider the constitution as a whole and the good that these organizations provide.
But Christianity will march forward as it has in the past. It will overcome the loud organized voices of a few. Christianity will always be tested, probably not as severely as the past, but it will be tested.
A new church is emerging in America. One that is not denominational, but independent. Non-affiliated church membership is growing. In the back seats of our country a new revolution is occurring. The growing lists of those who feel that they aren’t being heard are silently fighting back.
They want to practice their faith without fear of secularism, whose main weapon is political correctness. They don’t want to harm their neighbor, they want to say Merry Christmas without being scolded. They want to spend time helping their neighbor without becoming embroiled in political debate. We may not always agree with each other’s views, nor should we. But Christians will always move forward. For in Christ they find their relevance and purpose.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
Photo by Tim Wright
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