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a-christian-nation“This is a Christian nation,” said the Supreme Court in 1892.

“America was born a Christian nation,” echoed Woodrow Wilson. Harry Truman affirmed it: “This is a Christian nation.”

But in 2009, Barack Hussein Obama begged to differ: “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.”

Comes now a Pew Research Center survey that reveals the United States is de-Christianizing at an accelerated rate.

Whereas eighty-six percent of Americans in 1990 identified as Christians, by 2007, that was down to seventy-eight percent. Today only seven in ten say they are Christians. But the percentage of those describing themselves as atheists, agnostics, or non believers has risen to twenty-three. That exceeds the Catholic population and is only slightly below evangelicals.

Those in the mainline Protestant churches—Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians—have plummeted from fifty percent of the U.S. population in 1958 to fourteen percent today. By accommodating the social revolution of the 1960s to stay relevant, mainline churches appear to have made themselves irrelevant to America’s young.

The decline in Christian identity is greatest among the young. While eighty-five percent of Americans born before 1945 still call themselves Christians, only fifty-seven percent of those born after 1980 do.

If we want to see our future, we should probably look to Europe where Catholic Ireland just voted in a landslide to legalize same-sex marriage and where cathedrals and churches are being turned into tourist attractions and museums—and even bars and restaurants.

What are the causes of a de-Christianized America?

High among them is the Supreme Court, which, since the Earl Warren era began, purged Christianity from all public schools and the public square—and has been met with a puzzling lack of resistance from Middle America to the secularist revolution being imposed upon it.

Second, an anti-Christian elite captured the cultural heights—the arts, elite universities, popular culture, the media—and began, through movies, books and magazines, an assault on Christian beliefs and morality.

Third was the social revolution of the 1960s, which began with the arrival of the baby boomers on campus in 1964. Five years on, Woodstock Nation was wallowing in the mud, listening to Country Joe & the Fish.

The counterculture of the ’60s would be used as a foil to build forty-nine-state landslides for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, but then the ’60s views and values were embraced by the elites and came to dominate the culture in the time of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Given his baggage, “Slick Willy” of Yoknapatawpha County would have been a comic figure in the 1950s. Today he is the Democratic Party’s beau ideal of a statesman.

Many churches came out to meet the cultural revolution halfway. The results were irrelevance and scandal—too many Elmer Gantrys in televangelist pulpits and too many predators in priestly cassocks.

What are the consequences of a de-Christianized America and West? Si monumentum requiris, circumspice. (If you would seek its monuments, look around you.)

Half of marriages end in divorce. Fewer children are being born, and of these, over forty percent are out of wedlock. Record drug use rates and dropout rates and soaring crime rates that have declined only because we have an incarceration rate that rivals South Africa’s.

Despite astonishing advances in medicine, we have far more and far more varied and deadly STDs.

As Christianity dies, individualism, materialism, and hedonism replace it. “Selfies” could be the name for the generation for whom Easter Sunday long ago took a back seat to Super Bowl Sunday. More than a million abortions a year, assisted suicide and euthanasia are seen as the milestones of social progress in the new America.

“Panem et circenses,” bread and circuses, were what the late Roman Empire was all about. With us, it is sex, drugs, and rock with variations on all three.

Historically, as the faith dies, the culture and civilization to which it gave birth die, and then the people die. And a new tribe with its own gods comes to occupy the emptying land.

On the old and new continents, it is the native-born of European ancestry who are de-Christianizing, aging, and dying. And the nations they created are the ones depopulating.

To occupy Rome, the barbarians came from the east and north. To occupy the West, they are coming from the south. And like the Romans of the fourth century, we seem paralyzed and powerless to stop them.

Christianity was the founding faith of the West. That faith and the moral code and culture it produced once united this disparate and diverse nation and civilization.

As Christianity fades away and the moral code and culture it generated recede into irrelevance, what will hold us together?

Economically, we are dependent on foreigners for the necessities of our national life. Our politics are poisonous. Our racial divisions, once ameliorated by shared belief in the same God and Bible, are rawer than they were in the 1950s.

As for equality, diversity, and global democracy, who will march and die for that?

Historian Arnold Toynbee said it well: “Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.”

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. Republished with gracious permission of Pat Buchanan (May 2015).

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22 replies to this post
  1. >>”Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians—have plummeted from fifty percent of the U.S. population in 1958 to fourteen percent today. By accommodating the social revolution of the 1960s to stay relevant, mainline churches appear to have made themselves irrelevant to America’s young.”<<

    Well, there's that, then there's the correlation between the new rational society and its top gatekeepers, who were born of the mainline denominations. This correlation between radical equality and work-before-family, is a credo which results in few children, versus life-oriented Catholics, Pentecostals, etc.

  2. And most folks overlook the obvious due to some excellent brainwashing, namely, that there is a conspiracy which has planned and worked to this end. They have even written books on the subject, e.g., Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope. David Rockefeller’s Memoir in the 90s in which he admits that he is a member of a Cabal, something he had been accused of years ago. The feet of the old image of Daniel two is a mixture of iron and clay, but a stone is about to strike there, a Gospel stone, shattering the image to pieces and a great awakening is about to occur which will take the whole earth in one generation and continue for 999 more and even reaching from one end of the heaven to the other (starry heaven) (and why not as we are apparently already going to the stars which is become known, despite the deceptive trappings of NASA and other governmental organizations devoted to that end)>

  3. I have little to no hope for America if we keep going down this path of secularism and multiculturalism and Religous tolerance. Unless some miracle happens and America stops and goes in a better direction. But I doubt it, our Empire will not survive most likely and it probably deserves it death. But alas we must hope and pray that some future generation will conserve the things we have inherited from our ancestors.

  4. There are reasons why we turned from being a ‘Christian Nation,’ if we ever were one. Being a ‘Christian Nation’ neither stopped us from ethnically cleansing the land from its indigenous population nor from enslaving Blacks either through slavery or through Jim Crow. And neither did being a ‘Christian Nation’ keep us from sending troops to protect the financial interests of the wealthy before WW II, as documented by former Marine Corp Major General Smedley Butler, nor did it stop us in intervening over 50 times after WW II including disrupting democratic processes of nations over 30 times. In addition to the inequitable treatment of people of color was the inequitable treatment of women and the embracing of an exploitive economic system all under the name of Christianity.

    This article seems to be nothing more that the lamenting of the authoritarian Right as blames everyone else for our problems while ignoring the stats that show that Christians suffer from the same social problems as nonchristians. The divorce rate of Christians is a case in point. We could also point to the materialism embraced by many Conservative Christians who have latched onto one of many forms of the Prosperity Gospel. And articles like this one seems to have one purpose, to inspire fellow authoritarians from the right to take America back from trying to be a bit more free and equal.

    • Sir I think you are mistaken, this article is simply pointing out that if the religion of a set society dies then that culture dies and then the civilization dies. Your absolutely right to attack the Prosperity Gospel. Personally I think this problem is inheritant within American Protestantism, the reason New England culture died for example is that is was based on a weak form of Chritsianity. The only kind of Christianity that can save this country is a more orthodox form of the Faith.

      • Nate,
        What you are missing here is the presumption of one religion being the set religion of society. In such a society, there is no religious liberty. This would be similar to a particular race dominating society.

        But that is the societal perspective, the Christian perspective is how we can claim to be Christian while tolerating certain behaviors. For when that happens, Christianity no longer sets the moral code for society; rather, it becomes an authoritarian source of control for elites while becoming license to sin. One only needs to examine the complaints of the Old Testament prophets to see this point. For there were many times in Israel’s and Judah’s history where the claim to be following God was disproven by the behavior of the people and, especially, the leaders.

        In the end, we need to look at other models of thought that would allow us to share society with others as equals. And by others, I am talking about all sorts of nonChristians. Otherwise, the Christian faith will be defined by how we want to define it rather than our faith being defined by what God’s Word says. And by using our ‘Christian faith’ to try to control society, we will be dishonoring the Gospel with either a distortion or a false Gospel.

        • Curt, i know very well i am in Not tolerating other religions. I am glad do so this is our civilization, we built the universities and great Cathedrals and painted beautiful paintings. The only way you can be unfaithful and ‘distort’ the gospel is to not believe in the things our forefathers in the faith have. Which is to seek the conversion not just of your own soul or even other souls but to convert an entire nation. Besides nobody really practices complete tolerance anyway.

        • One religion is the only way a country can survive because it is the basis of all morality. Pluralism and tolerance are unrealistic liberal idea that cannot sustain a healthy,moral civilization.

          • Nate,
            Historically speaking, you are wrong. Many religions have been relied on by different nations for their survival. And remember that we are still a relatively young nation.

            But more important than that is the case being built off your logic that gives Christians a perceived duty, not just a right, to exercise some degree of domination over society. And since this right is being done for the “good” of the nation, this kind of domination is called paternalism. But like any other kind of domination, it involves the consolidation of power. So don’t be surprised if when your group of Christians try to seize power, that those outside of your group respond in kind. And what is lost in this is Jesus’ admonition not to imitate the Gentiles by ‘lording it over’ others.

            Realize that the reason why we have wars is because of our inability to share both power and prosperity.

      • Sir: And just what form of the faith is more orthodox. If the Puritans were so weak, why did they experience the First Great Awakening and the Second (down to 1820), participate in launching the first free nation on earth, and begin the Great Century of Missions as the late Kenneth Scott Latourette of Yale University termed it? And then there is the ability to be self critical to cease the idiocy of witch burning (everyone seems to focus on that, but few note that thousands were being burned in Europe). To that we add that the Inquisition was still in operation as the Napoleonic armies found in their invasion of Spain. The beginnings of opposition to slavery must be noted in the work, The Selling of Joseph. One Intellectual Historian commented about the steadfast nature of the Puritans in the face of great difficulties.

        • Dr Willingham
          Unfortunately, there is this strong binding between our protestant faith and national heritage. Thus while the former is compromised, the latter is exalted beyond historical fact.

          Freedom and liberty imply equality. For when equality is missing, freedom and liberty actually become privilege. So if we look at the beginning of our nation, those protestants who came here to find religious liberty set up state churches in 9 of 13 colonies. And it wasn’t until the Revolutionary War when more recruits to fight the British were needed that some of the religious dominance was voluntarily taken down.

          And where was the liberty for people of color? Even after the Civil War, Blacks were marginalized if not enslaved by slavery’s replacement system: Jim Crow. And even now, economic, political, justice, and social factors strongly indicate great inequality for people of color.

          Finally, it is against the tenet of saved by faith to look at the blessings/accomplishments of a group as being merited. But I am afraid that is what you are doing by how you are pointing to the Puritans who also participated in the religious persecution of fellow Christians and the ethnic cleansing of the America’s indigenous people from the land.

          I’m afraid that Conservatism’s emphasis on selected traditions leads both to authoritarianism and self-exaltation. We should note that sweeping our sins under the carpet of the sins of others doesn’t show exceptionalism. And that is why challenges to historical narratives and even the traditions results in defensive reactions.

        • Preferably Roman Catholicism but i do greatly admire Eastern Orthodoxy, and think it these both can build a healthy civilization. I simply believe that only strong ecclesial structures can sustain itself from the heretics. Because ‘lower’ (i.e. more Charismatic,Evangelical) Churches have no Bishops (aka Apostolic Successors.) therefore no authority, In my view. Now there are plenty of Calvinists who i think are good Christian men of the past. But the Puritan religion could not with stand itself from the Unitarians and it eventually split and destroyed the their Faith.

          • Ah! Brother Nobile: You have named two denominations which have a history of persecution, of trampling under foot the rights of any who disagree with them religiously and otherwise. Their hierarchical structures readily lend themselves to corruption and all kinds of deleterious anomalies that become entrenched ominous, and deadly. Having taken about 6000 pages of notes (3000 5×8 notecards written on both sides…not recommended for organizational reasons) over a period of 6 years, focusing on the folks who suffered the most from such cruel combinations of group think. And who do you think put into precept and practice religious liberty? It was the Puritans. Just consider Roger Williams and Dr. John Clarke in Rhode Island. After all, the Founding Fathers were certainly aware of the actions of those two men. The Jews certainly took note of them in 1600s. The first synagogue in the new world was built in that colony (and is still in use according to the last knowledge I had of it). The problem is that structured organizations like the two you have mentioned seek control and develop self justification. Religious wars, the Inquisition, and all kinds of abuses occur, because a system of checks and balances is lacking. Likewise, there is an absence of that creative tension that is necessary to successful accomplishments which are beneficial to all levels of society. This is not to say that the two lack all good – only that they are not the most effective or helpful in the long run.

        • Dr. Willingham,
          So the Puritans merited the Great Awakenings? And we are going to sweep the sins of the Puritans under the carpet of the sins of those in Europe especially when the number of witch burnings could correlate to population. And while mentioning Europe’s sins, we are going to neglect the ethnic cleansing of America’s indigenous people?

          See, this is the problem. Our search for significance leads us to rely on a gospel of works that says we are more righteous than others. Such is not the Gospel.

          • “See, this is the problem. ‘

            No, the problem is your kind demand moral perfection from their ideological enemies, judging them solely by their (worst) deeds and never their ideals. But the left wing applies the reverse to itself, demanding to be judged only on their “Ideals” and never by their actual deeds here in the real world.

    • Uhmm… actually it was Christianity that stopped the world slave trade. Slavery has been around since the beginning of Mankind, with almost all non-Christian cultures participating at some point. It is still in practice today. As for war, it to has been around since long before Christ. It seems your beef is that Christianity hasn’t “tamed” Man’s barbaric nature fast enough. I would argue, that when it comes to civility, that Christians have the best track record to date. Considering Modern Man’s 200,000 year history, the 2000 year old Christian world has enabled the most progress Man has yet to see.

      • George,
        Christianity has a mixed record when it comes to slavery and slave trade.

        And yes, war preceded Christianity. But that isn’t as relevant as how many Christians support war today and how much of a driving political force for war Christians provide.

        See, one question concerns where American Conservative Christianity is conforming to the world than being transformed by God’s grace. And another question is where nonChristians are acting in a more Christian way than American Conservative Christians. If we are more concerned about the quality of our witness for Christ than our collective egos, we will be concerned about these concerns.

  5. “What will hold us together”, not much if anything. The dominant factor and settled beliefs today are in politics, primarily if not exclusively placed in Washington, the moral slum of America. That does not bode well for the future. For far to many the dominant belief, or religion, is the State, mother government succoring her litter, the Federalist system a memory.

  6. I believe as the Christian world disappears, so will the Western World, as we know it. Western freedoms, and Christianity go hand in hand. What the Church needs to realise is that Christianity needs to be taught as to how it is a benefit to society, and not necessarily to the sole. With advances that have come in sciences, and our understanding of the natural world, perhaps contemporary individuals don’t need religion like they might have 200, or 300 years ago. Christianity has certainly helped bring us to where we are today, now we just need to understand how important it is to preserve our Christian identity.

  7. Buchanan is correct about an elite that wishes to displace traditional Christianity morals in this country. What is more, the anti-Christian elite he speaks of is not interested in a free and equal society but rather in stamping out the last vestiges of Christian influence in the West. They are the new authoritarians with their refrain “all voices are equal” as a smoke screen for first empowering their voice, and then silencing those voices of dissent that would seek to bring an ever more pagan West back to its senses. It is the Zeitgeist of this fallen world with its false ideas of freedom which does nothing less than put people in chains to the appetites of their lower selves. What they call “freedom and equality” George Will called “the equality of appetites” wherein the state is simply to be “neutral” and have the sole end of keeping the peace amongst competing wills, while in reality it becomes the enforcer of the neo-pagan religion. Christians have no need to apologize to anyone for not wishing to live in peace with those that through their own libido dominandi conspire to pour acid upon all traditional societal norms only to establish their own religion of neo-paganism, in the guise of humanitarianism, as the dominant one.

    Those given to this Zeitgeist always write about an authoritarian or Christian right being a danger to our society only because they fear losing their grasp upon the institutions of power which enable their continuing the agenda of destroying all vestiges of traditional morality. The true state of affairs is that the devil runs rampant throughout the earth and those of this Zeitgeist give aid and comfort to the enemy and are the real danger to our civilization.

    And that last statement contains also the potential problem with Buchanan’s thesis. The truth is that the fundamental reason for the de-Christianizing of America, or the West, or the East, is that we all begin at enmity with God running with the devil as it were, and thus give aid to the enemy, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6). We do not wish to have light come shine on our darkness, a place we are inclined to prefer, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). To recognize the social milieu in which we live is necessary so that it can be fought at every quarter; but one must first take responsibility for one’s own walk and take care that one wears the armor of God in the fight, and not give place to self-righteousness.

  8. Dear Dr Willingham, with all due respect that sounds like a typical Protestant objection to Old Christendom. The Orthodox and Catholic Churches were always concerned with the salvation of nations. Salvation is the key word in my argument, I’m basically throwing out the political correctness that you and Mr Day are using ( with respect of course). I am concerned with the promotion of the Truths of the Christian Faith that is all.

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