Scandalous behavior is rapidly destroying American Christianity. By their daily activity, most “Christians” regularly commit treason. With their mouths they claim that Jesus is Lord, but with their actions they demonstrate allegiance to money, sex, and self-fulfillment.
The findings in numerous national polls conducted by highly respected pollsters like The Gallup Organization and The Barna Group are simply shocking. “Gallup and Barna,” laments evangelical theologian Michael Horton, “hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general.”1 Divorce is more common among “born-again” Christians than in the general American population. Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe. White evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race. Josh McDowell has pointed out that the sexual promiscuity of evangelical youth is only a little less outrageous than that of their nonevangelical peers.
Alan Wolfe, famous contemporary scholar and director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, has just published a penetrating study of American religious life. Evangelicals figure prominently in his book. His evaluation? Today’s evangelicalism, Wolfe says, exhibits “so strong a desire to copy the culture of hotel chains and popular music that it loses what religious distinctiveness it once had.” Wolfe argues, “The truth is there is increasingly little difference between an essentially secular activity like the popular entertainment industry and the bring-’em-in-at-any-cost efforts of evangelical megachurches.”
It’s fascinating stuff, though I think it needs considerable unpacking. Using “evangelical” as a sub-set of “born-again”, for example. Is that an accurate use of language. I’d want to argue that it isn’t. And how about that phrase “Biblical worldview”? Usually that means “someone who believes in the Bible the same way that I do”.
I’m not surprised by the “news” that evangelical Christians are at least as materialistic as their neighbours. More than 200 years ago, John Wesley wrote, There is no one instance of spiritual infatuation in the world which is more amazing than this. Most of these very men read or hear the Bible read, â€“ many of them every Lordâ€™s day. They have read or heard these words an hundred times, and yet never suspect that they are themselves condemned thereby, any more than by those which forbid parents to offer up their sons or daughters unto Moloch. O that God would speak to these miserable self-deceivers with his own voice, his mighty voice! That they may at last awake out of the snare of the devil, and the scales may fall from their eyes!” The truth is that the church just hasn’t taken wealth seriously for a very long time. We’ve accepted the common wisdom about “private property”, wealth creation, economic efficiency and all the rest to the point where you could be excused for thinking they were doctrinal statements.
And it doesn’t look as though it is going to change any time soon.