The World’s Most Christian Country
Vol: 100 Issue: 29 Friday, January 29, 2010
There is an old joke about the Christian who dies and then finds himself standing at the Pearly Gates before St. Peter. Peter welcomes him in and ushers him along a high fence line marked periodically by a series of locked gates.
The Christian stops by one of those gates and says to St. Peter, “What’s behind that gate?”
“That’s the Baptist section,” Peter says.
“So why the high fences and the gate?” the guy asks.
Peter grins and says, “Oh, that’s because the Baptists think they are the only ones here.”
That joke will work using pretty much any Christian denomination. When speaking at a church, I often use it to ‘break the ice’, as it were. Feel free to use it at your next church gathering. It always works.
Ever give any thought to what makes a joke funny? First off, it mocks a characteristic or trait so universally true that it falls into the ‘everybody knows’ category.
If you don’t recognize the trait, then you don’t “get” the joke. Even if the truism itself isn’t always true.
A senior citizen is on the freeway heading downtown to renew his driver’s license when his wife calls him on his cellphone to warn him of a traffic hazard up ahead of him being reported on the news. “There’s some guy driving the wrong way down the freeway,” she says.
“One guy?” her husband snorts. “There’s dozens of ’em!”
I often cite the CIA World Factbook statistics on religion in the United States that say America is a predominately Christian country. The statistic I usually cite — 87% — was based on the 2000 Census.
Almost every time I use it, I get bombarded with emails like this one: “I just cannot believe that 87% of America is saved!”
Almost all of them include their own estimates of how many Americans are really Christians. These estimates range from a low of 2% to a high of 30%. So let me first clear up the misunderstanding.
According to new CIA 2007 estimates, it isn’t 87% anymore.
The CIA Factbook breaks down America’s religious identity as follows:
Protestant 51.3%, Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%, Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, unspecified, 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4%.
Catholics, Protestants, Mormons and other Christians now total only 78.5% — and not 87% — as they did using the 2000 Census estimates.
But the CIA statistic is not compiled according to Bible doctrinal purity. The statistic is based on estimates compiled according to how folks identified themselves when they filled out their census forms.
There is no way to estimate how many of that 78.5% are Christians — at least, not according to my understanding of Christianity. There isn’t even anyway to guess without that bringing that Pearly Gates joke to mind.
It is difficult to get Christians of different stripes to agree on anything; the Rapture, the Tribulation, baptism, the proper way to worship, etc., etc.
About the only thing we’re in agreement about is that when we get to Heaven, WE will be the only ones there.
I teach what I believe the Bible says concerning salvation. Having compared the Bible to the doctrinal positions of many (most) mainstream Christian denominations is the reason I am non-denominational.
But what doctrinal purity has to do with the identification of America as the’ world’s most Christian country’ continues to elude me.
Bible prophecy wasn’t written to inform God — it was written to inform us.
The identification of America as the world’s most Christian country isn’t from God’s perspective — that would inform us of nothing.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher that your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Bible prophecy can only be informative if unbelievers are capable of understanding it from their perspective.
This is where Occam’s Razor is applicable. Do you have any way of knowing how many of the individuals within each of these denominations named by the CIA have trusted Christ for their salvation? I don’t.
So clearly the perspective being presented here isn’t that of believers. It is the unbelievers that see America as the world’s most Christian country.
The reason is because 78% of Americans claim to be adherents to some form of Christianity. Unbelievers don’t have a doctrinal test — they see American Christianity as a monolith.
Because the world does not discern the things of the Spirit, what makes Americans predominately Christian in the eyes of the world is that they say they are.
Which is part of why America’s reputation is so bad. We’re also the biggest consumers of drugs, producers of porn and dealers in advanced armaments in the world — and therefore, the biggest hypocrites.
Without some sense of context, 2nd Timothy 3:1-7 can refer to anything — and thereby signify nothing.
That is not logical. 2nd Timothy 3:1-7 clearly refers to a Church Age Christian society in decline in the last days. Paul begins saying, “This know also, in the last days perilous times shall come.”
It is just as obvious that, for it to be prophecy, it would have to refer to a recognizable society in existence in the last days. If not, how would anyone be able to discern its fulfillment?
In that case, it wouldn’t be prophecy, but just a general state of affairs on a worldwide basis — which again, signifies nothing.
Paul’s description is of the deterioration of the Church in the last days, which cross references neatly with the Lord’s description of the Church of Laodicea.
“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth.”
Jesus is not referring to the underground Church in China where Christians routinely give up their lives for the faith. Or in North Korea, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Sudan, Algeria . . .
“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
Is there another Christian nation you can think of that is currently on the verge of civil war over issues like public prayer, public display of the Bible, abortion, gay rights and Intelligent Design that you can think of?
America is divided right down the middle between those two sides. So, too, is the professing Church.
On one side are those who attended the Tea Party rallies carrying signs with Bible references, families, children, old people, all with grievances against the liberal government over all these issues.
In hundreds of rallies involving millions of people there was not a single arrest, injury or report of disorderly conduct.
Contrast that with the liberal protests and abortion rallies, the tactics, politics and the consequences of that political agenda unchecked.
Without that contrast, Paul’s description of the last days of the Church Age are without context.
“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2nd Timothy 3:2-5)
Is there another prominent, universally recognizable society divided along those lines that springs to your mind first?
Prophecy is given as a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that disbelieve, so that when it happens, they will believe.
If the fulfillment isn’t recognizable, then it is not prophecy. Yet Paul clearly identifies it as a prophecy of the last days.
Much of our discussion over the past few days has concerned America’s position in Bible prophecy, and in particular, why America isn’t named specifically.
It seems unnecessary, since no other nation on earth at this particular point in history fits the description better than does the ‘world’s most Christian nation’.
At least, not on this side of the Rapture.