Monday night on the CBS Evening News, we were told of the findings of the latest survey, The Pew Survey on Religion in America. 36,000 people were interviewed. Some of the findings reported might be encouraging to us religious folks:
-- 92% of Americans believe in God (or at least a “universal spirit,” whatever that is).
-- 58% pray every day.
-- 74% believe in Heaven (while only 59% believe in Hell).
But most of the findings appear to be disturbing:
-- Only 60% of Americans believe in a personal God, while 25% believe in an “impersonal force.” (That doesn’t add up to the above 92%. I wonder what happened to the other 7%.)
-- 70% of Americans, whatever their persuasion, feel that religions other than their own can lead to eternal life.
-- 82% of Jews believe this, 79% of Catholics, and get this: 57% of Evangelicals feel that there is salvation through other religions!
-- Only 89% of Evangelicals and 62% of Catholics believe the Bible is the Word of God!
Katie Couric briefly interviewed a Catholic priest and an AME pastor. The priest said something about “organized religion” being threatened when “it is no longer about truth but about feelings.” The pastor said this had to do with postmodernism.
In my last blog I asked, “Are we, the Church in America, past our prime? Are we in denial?”
I do not think Katie read my blog, but she sure answered me quickly! If the data presented were accurate, then the answer is yes!
I wasn’t surprised when a lady on that news program said something like: “I can’t believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven.” After all, she was a member of a mainline Protestant church that many of us had written off long ago. (I would have liked to ask her, however, why she would want to follow a liar. Didn’t Jesus say, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me”? – John 14:6)
My problem is with those referred to as Evangelicals.
My Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition defines
evangelical -- adj. 1: of, relating to, or being in agreement with the Christian gospel esp. as it is presented in the four Gospels; 2: PROTESTANT; 3: emphasizing salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching as contrasted with ritual.
Evangelical -- noun: one holding evangelical principles or belonging to an evangelical party or church.
But if 59% of these folks believe the Jesus is not the only way and 11 % believe the Bible is not the Word of God, we either have a problem with the definition or a problem with those who claim it for themselves. I believe the latter is true.
The wing of the church with this label is growing. Most of our super churches are “evangelical.” But are all of these churches really evangelical by definition?
The pastor of what is reputed to be the largest church, when interviewed on 2 major TV programs, could not, or would not affirm a belief that Jesus is the only way. (I have to admit that Uni and I attended that church a few times and really enjoyed ourselves, but that was back when the Houston Rockets played basketball there.)
I believe that while that church and its pastor may be extremes, many of our churches are going down the same road and even if the churches aren’t, many of their attenders are. I’ve talked to many people today, even many of my students at a Bible college and find that words like “theology” or “doctrine” are dirty words to them. Worship to them should have to do with singing feel-good songs. Songs, whose main message is something like “God you’re nice and I like you.” Sermons should be practical. They want churches that are like that little blue pill that makes us perform better and helps us to remain in that state of denial.
Yes. I believe that the Church in America is past its prime. And we, like the baby-boom generation in general, are in denial. We have affected our nation very little for right because we often walk in lock-step with our culture.
Katie and company seemed to be pleased with this trend. Much of it can be credited to our desire to be tolerant of others and I believe we should be tolerant. But tolerance doesn’t have to be agreement. I can tolerate those of other religions without having to agree with them. In fact, Jesus tells us we’re to love them And if I love someone, it is not intolerant to tell them the truth, especially when their eternal destiny is concerned.