Is Christianity Fading in America?

| February 3, 2013

A parishioner shared with me a newspaper editorial and asked my opinion on it. After reading it, I decided to comment on it for my article here.  Bonnie Erbé, the editorial’s author, made two arguments: (1) the “dominance” (her word) of Christianity is fading in America, and (2) this decline of Christianity’s influence is a good thing for our country.  Regarding the latter point, Ms. Erbé opined that Christianity is oppressive and domineering, as she wrote: “Sometimes, pop and political culture give one the idea we are a decidedly, oppressively Christian nation that does not take it lightly when we deviate from church dogma.”  When I read that sentence I said to myself, “Is she serious?  She really believes that our pop and political culture communicate the message that America is ‘oppressively’ Christian and we do not tolerate anyone straying from what Christianity teaches?  Is she living in the same country that I am?”

I do not mean to dismiss the author’s view, but I honestly do not see how she can reach that conclusion.  In terms of our pop culture, I could list countless examples of how religion in general and Christianity in particular are insulted and attacked – sometimes just for laughs, but sometimes in a very mean spirit.  People who believe in God are often portrayed as stupid, uneducated and gullible.  And when it comes to religious values, does Ms. Erbé really believe that “reality” TV shows convey Christian teachings and are intolerant of anything else?  Really?

In terms of our political culture, if our nation is so oppressively Christian, then why is the Catholic Church suing our federal government to stop the Health Care mandate, which would impose government control over the Church, thereby stripping her of her First Amendment rights?  Incidentally, Ms. Erbé did address this topic, but she said that the Church was blowing things out of proportion, and that the Church is the one trying to control the government, not vice versa.

But let me get back to her two main points.  Regarding the decline of Christianity’s influence in America, I do agree that this has been happening, but I would actually take it further.  Although Christianity is the main target of secular forces, I would argue that secular influences are trying to push religion in general out of the picture.  An anti-religion sect of atheism is growing in our nation (not all atheists, mind you; many atheists have no problem with religion).  This sect is trying to force God out of the picture altogether.

And this leads to Ms. Erbé’s second point, that the decline of Christianity is a good thing for our society.  I do not understand this argument at all.  Would we rather have our young people exposed to positive religious values, or would we rather that they model their lives on TV shows like “Jersey Shore”?  Should we be surprised if young people turn to negative influences when we take positive ones away from them?  After the horrible school shooting in Connecticut, a message made its way around the internet, and I agree with it.  It said: “God, why don’t you protect the children in our schools?  And God said, ‘Because I am not allowed in schools.’”

Finally, even though I do agree that religion is not as influential as it was decades ago, I think it’s too early for Ms. Erbé to celebrate Christianity’s decline.  Surveys continue to show that, compared to other nations (especially in Europe), the United States has a much higher percentage of people who regularly attend worship services.  In my book, that is and always will be a good thing for our one nation under God.

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Category: Letters to the Editor, Opinions

About the Author ()

Fr. Rob Schultz is a lifelong resident of the Chicago Archdiocese and has been the pastor of St. Beatrice Catholic Church in Schiller Park since July, 2009.

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