Friday, June 5, 2009

Evangelical Leaders Optimistic About Global Christianity, Pessimistic About American Christianity

The National Association of Evangelicals conducted a poll to gauge evangelical perception of the current state of Christianity. According to the poll, evangelical leaders are very happy with the growth of Christianity worldwide, but have a grim view of Christianity in America. Money quote:
In the latest Evangelical Leaders Survey, released Tuesday, respondents said they overwhelmingly (94 percent) believe the number of Christians worldwide will increase in the next ten years. A mere four percent of respondents said the number of Christians will stay the same, while two percent said they are unsure.
When it came to the United States, most of the U.S. evangelical respondents said they believe the number of Christians will stay the same at best, but will more likely decline. However, they expressed hope for a national spiritual awakening spurred by the current economic difficulties and political uncertainties.

NAE's president further noted that while respondents are optimistic about the number of Christians in the next ten years, they held more reserved expectations on the influence of the religion. Anderson said many of the leaders believe that even though there will be more Christians, the group will have less influence because of secularization, Islam and persecution.

Not sure about the prosecution part (at least stateside), but while I think there is some unsettling trends with religion in America, I have repeatedly said that Christianity is resilient.


AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Drew, is it possible, also, that evangelicals define Christianity too narrowly? I know from personal experience that some of them do not consider some mainline Protestants "real Christians."

If you factor in the fact that a lot of the so-called nones, who aren't affiliated with formal religious bodies, hold non-orthodox views, many of them could actually be considered spiritual Christians. They may just reject literal interpretations of Scripture.

So, the picture may be less glum if you don't equate Christianity with only evangelicalism.

Drew said...

AIAW, great question. Truth is, I don't know and that I can only speculate. Intuitively, I would think that this factor is at play, but in a larger panoloply of factors. With an evangelical polling company polling evangelical leaders, I would think that this could be part of the larger picture.

But, while I think there are positive things happening with religion (the recognition of multiple pathways to salvation - or, to put it better, the dissolution of an exclusive or triumphalistic view of salvation), I also think there are some unsettling trend lines also (for example, the growing individualization and syncretization of theology).

And to an evangelical, the multiple pathways to salvation, the increasing size of "nones," the growing size and voice of atheism, the tipping-point losses in the culture wars, the threat of an extremist Islam, and the threat of new scientific inquiry - all those off the top of my head - would easily produce a gloomy outlook, one that I can empathize with, but not agree. I would interpret these trends much differently.