A lot of talk yesterday about new Pew data on American religion. For the first time in history, the US is less than 50 percent Protestant.
Why? What's growing? Non-religious is the fastest growing segment. One in five adults now have no religion at all--a third of those under 30.
Perhaps we should all continue to preach the same message anyway. Maybe our job is just to tell it like it is, regardless of the consequences. If you think so, then keep on keeping on.
But if there is a place for being careful here are some truths. Things like Pulpit Freedom Sunday or our quest to stamp out gay marriage in the public sphere, these sorts of enterprises will accelerate the rise of the non-religious, and their animosity toward us.
It reminds me of some legalists I used to know who, as soon as someone would pray to receive Christ, would then instruct them in how they needed immediately to stop smoking, to dress differently, to stop eating out on Sunday, etc. They were absolutely convinced they were right... and a lot of those new converts left the church within weeks and had a bigger barrier than ever to return.
Again, maybe our job is just to keep preaching what we think is true, regardless of whether it pushes accelerating numbers away. Sure, we may push those who would have been quite happy to co-exist with us into persecuting us. Then we can get sanctimonious about how we are suffering for Jesus, conveniently forgetting the role we played in bringing that persecution on ourselves.
If we wanted to be strategic--again, maybe that's just not the way we should be thinking--but if we wanted to be strategic, we would focus on doing good in the world. We would focus on helping others. We would focus on making the world a better place for everyone. We would focus on observable, tangible acts of kindness with a sincere heart.
But maybe that's caving in. Maybe our job is to tell the world how bad it is, how God's going to fry it if it doesn't repent and see things our way. Maybe it doesn't matter that we will only alienate the fastest growing segment of the American religious population. At least it will make us feel good.