Shifting Tides

I read three articles that were linked in three different emails I received this morning that all lean in the same direction. They are all reflections on what it means to be a Christian. For both Christians and skeptics, I offer the links to these three articles/posts for your consideration.

The first article, published on June 7, 2022, is titled, How I Discovered That Faith Isn’t Intellectual Suicide,” by Dr. Guillaume Bignon, who “was born and raised in France, where he studied math, physics, and engineering science. He currently works as a software engineering manager. After a wholly improbable conversion from atheism to Christianity, Guillaume earned a master’s in biblical literature with an emphasis on the New Testament and a PhD in philosophical theology. His areas of interest include the metaphysics of free will, natural theology, and soteriology. Guillaume is an executive committee member of Association Axiome, a society of French-speaking Christian scholars” (quote source here).

To pique your interest, here are the opening paragraphs of his article/post:

“If any of my family or friends could see me now, I would die of shame,” I thought 15 years ago as I stepped into that Paris church as a French atheist starting an investigation of the Christian faith.

I had left the Catholic church years before that, when I was old enough to tell my parents I didn’t believe. And in the years that followed, I’d grown rather scornful toward religious believers. “They’re not thinking. They’re superstitious. They’re irrational. What a waste of time,” I thought. “I’ll stay as far away from religion as I can.”

Well, that didn’t exactly work out.

The most unlikely circumstances conspired against me: A random meeting with a stranger while hitchhiking on the other side of the world led to a long-distance relationship with an American model and actress who claimed to be a Christian—and believed in abstinence before marriage. The only way to be with her was to disprove her faith, to leave her antiquated beliefs behind and be happy together. This led me to read the Bible in an effort to understand it, and it brought me to that church to see what Christians do when they gather. But even as a professing atheist with no intention of converting, I felt some shame even being in the building, as if I had done something intellectually subpar already—being among the religious. Dreadful.

This outlook on religion was partly based on my own prejudice, of course, but also partly fueled by the French culture around me, where being religious is socially acceptable when superficial, but deeply ridiculed when taken seriously. This sentiment dates back at least to the Enlightenment, when French thinkers like Baron d’Holbach said, “To be a good Christian, it is essential not to have a brain, or at least to have one that’s well and truly shrunk” and “All good Christians must be in a state of sweet simplicity, predisposing them to believe things that are not in the least bit credible without a second thought, on command of their spiritual guides.” Today, we find these same presuppositions in the writings of extremely popular French atheist philosopher Michel Onfray, who says, “I do not despise believers. I find them neither ridiculous nor pathetic” but goes on to call them “naïve and foolish” and accuses them of being filled with “neuroses, psychoses, and . . . aberrations,” suffering “a personal mental pathology . . . ushering in a wholesale pandemic.”…. (Quote source here.)

You can read the rest of his article/post on his road to becoming a Christian at this link: https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/how-i-discovered-that-faith-isnt-intellectual-suicide.html

The second article, published on June 8, 2022, is titled, Bless My Mess and Sanctify My Stuff and I Will Be OK! NOT!!!!! by Randy Burbank, an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church, and Lead Pastor of Oak Hill and Mt. Vernon Methodist Churches. He writes:

Calling this a crazy world out there doesn’t do justice to describing our current culture. Crazy doesn’t come close to describing the malady of our times. When you look at the development of civilization the most immediate thing that is clearly in focus is that even the most primitive civilizations recognize that there exists some “higher being”–A.K.A. a “god”. This is a powerful acknowledgement–to realize there is “someone” out there with more power and wisdom than us puny human beings. And thanks to The Bible–yes, that outdated and irrelevant book for our times–we know that the ONLY “higher being” is God–or using His name that He revealed to Moses–Yahweh!

The Bible reveals to us seven indisputable, ironclad, unassailable, and undeniable facts about Him and ourselves. And here they are… (click here to read them).

The link to his post is located here:  https://kingdompastor.wordpress.com/2022/06/08/bless-my-mess-and-sanctify-my-stuff-and-i-will-be-ok-not/

The third article, published on May 30,2019, is titled, 7 Reasons the World May Hate That You’re a Christian,” by Dale Chamberlain, M.Div., author, speaker and contributing writer on Crosswalk.com. He opens his article with the following:

There’s nothing new about the fact that Christians can be a polarizing group of people. From the very beginning of the Christian movement, followers of Jesus around the world have been persecuted, arrested, threatened, beaten, tortured, and put to death.

In light of all that, some of us might be feeling silly for taking to the internet and complaining when people simply make fun of us.

Nevertheless, while believers in the West might not experience the same level of persecution as historic Christians or fellow believers around the world today, we do feel the sting of not being liked. Maybe it has even cost you a promotion at work. Or maybe it has limited the relationships you have with certain people. 

But why does the world hate Christians so much? Our message is one of love. God loved the world so much that he sent his Son to die for us that we might have life. Yet, we still seem to rub people the wrong way.

Sometimes, Christians are disliked through no fault of their own. Other times, we needlessly bring it upon ourselves. It takes wisdom and spiritual maturity to know when we’re being hated for the right reasons.

Here are seven reasons why the world may hate that you’re a Christian, some good and some bad… (click here to read those seven reasons).

The link to his post is located here: https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/reasons-the-world-may-hate-that-youre-a-christian.html

As I reflect back on my own life, I’ve been a Christian since I was a very young girl raised in a nondenominational church atmosphere that tended to hire Baptist pastors. A one-sentence description of “becoming a Christian”–e.g., salvation–is repenting of our sins and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,” which occurred in my life at the age of 10 (circa 1962). I’m also member of the Baby Boomer generation (born between the years of 1946 and 1964), and my generation is about to enter or have now entered their retirement years with the youngest members turning 58 and the oldest members turning 76 during 2022.

During the past couple of decades, especially in work settings, I started noticing that the Christian influence that was mostly evident in American society clear up until I entered my late 30’s (circa late 1980’s) was waning, and especially since the start of the new Millennium (circa 2000).

In an article published on October 30, 2019, by Lifeway Research titled, Are We Seeing the First Non-Christian Majority Generation?” by Aaron Earls, online editor of Facts & Trends, he writes:

“Christianity is only one generation away from extinction.”

When considering the eternal scope of the church and the promises Christ has made, that famous line may not be true, but American Christianity has reached the generation in which it is no longer the majority.

In America, at least two-thirds of Generation X (67%), Baby Boomers (76%), and the Silent Generation (84%) say they’re Christian, according to new analysis from Pew Research.

Among millennials, however, slightly less than half (49%) identify as Christian. A similar number say they’re not Christian.

Around 1 in 10 (9%) claim to be part of a non-Christian faith, while 40% are religiously unaffiliated.

The unaffiliated number is well above previous generations.

Only 10% of the Silent Generation is unaffiliated with any religion. That climbs to 17% of Baby Boomers and 25% of Generation X.

Religious service attendance has similar generational shifts.

Today, as many millennials say they never attend a religious service (22%) as say they attend weekly or more (22%).

Including those who attend once or twice a month, 35% of millennials say they regularly attend religious services. Almost twice as many attend infrequently or never (64%).

In previous generations, church and religious service attendance is much more common.

Among the Silent Generation, regular attenders (61%) outnumber irregular and non-attenders (37%). Only 12% say they never attend, while 50% attend weekly or more.

Baby Boomers (49% regular attenders, 50% not) and Generation X (46% and 53%) are fairly even split.

Few Boomers (14%) and Gen Xers (15%) say they never attend, while around a third of each say they attend weekly or more.

The General Social Survey has tracked a similar increase across age demographics in those who say they never attend.

The young adults have historically been group most likely to say they never attend church, but the growth in those numbers has been dramatic in the last few decades.

Through the 1970s and 80s, the percentage of Americans who said they never attended religious services remained steady, with the percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds hovering around 15%.

The percentage steadily increased over the next three decades. In 2018, the percentage of Americans who never attend religious services reached 30% for the first time.

Among 18- to 34-year-olds, it climbed to an all-time high of 35%.

In many ways, millennials and other groups who aren’t at regularly at church have stayed away because the church has not demonstrated they value and welcome them. (Quote source here.)

Earls continues in his article to give suggestions with steps churches can take to draw younger generations at this link: https://research.lifeway.com/2019/10/30/are-we-seeing-the-first-non-christian-majority-generation/

From the statistics cited above it is apparent that there is a shifting tide going on in American society when it comes to Christianity–not only what it genuinely means to be a Christian, but also in the skepticism among the non-believing segments (when it comes to Christianity) of our population.

In my search for information to include in this post, I came across information on a book published in 2019 titled, Jesus Skeptic: A Journalist Explores the Credibility and Impact of Christianity,” by John S. Dickerson, journalist, speaker, and Lead Pastor at Connection Pointe Christian Church. Amazon.com provides the following information on this book:

Can we know if Jesus actually lived? Have Jesus’s followers been a force for good or evil in history? A respected journalist set out to find the answers–not from opinion but from artifacts. The evidence led him to an unexpected conclusion: Jesus really existed and launched the greatest movement for social good in human history.

A first-of-its-kind book for a new generation, “Jesus Skeptic” takes nothing for granted as it explores whether Jesus actually lived and how his story has changed our world. You’ll

– learn what heroes like Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman believed about Jesus
– discover how Jesus inspired women’s rights, education rights, and modern hospitals
– see visual proofs of Jesus’s impact, never before compiled in one place
– be inspired to continue Jesus’s fight for human rights, justice, and progress

“Jesus Skeptic”
unveils convincing physical evidence that will enlighten seekers, skeptics, and longtime Christians alike. In a generation that wants to make the world a better place, we can discover what humanity’s greatest champions had in common: a Christian faith. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the chorus from the song, Heart of the Father (see YouTube video below):

Jesus, Your name is power
It’s breath and living water
And your Spirit guides me
To the heart of the Father
Let Your praise ring louder
Every day and every hour…

‘Cause Your Spirit guides me . . .

To the heart . . .

Of the Father . . . .

YouTube Video: “Heart of the Father” by Ryan Ellis:

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