It is still said that America is a Christian nation. Really?
The rise of the Nones – people who don’t regard themselves as belonging to any religion – has risen to around 20% of America. What has not gotten as much attention is the rise of the “post-Christian” population, which includes most of the Nones and probably includes an even larger number of Americans.
Post-Christians are people who either never were Christians, or people who no longer accept core views about Christianity. Like the Nones, these post-Christians may still be religious in some sense, and may believe in a god as well. But they don’t think or behave like Christians, and they are quite aware of ways that they have moved beyond traditional Christianity. Many people fall into both categories, moving beyond both Christianity and all organized religiosity as well.
What are the 15 criteria identifying whether someone is a Christian? According to the Barna Group, a Post-Christian meets at least 9 of these 15 criteria:
1. do not believe in God
2. identify as atheist or agnostic
3. disagree that faith is important in their lives
4. have not prayed to God (in the last year)
5. have never made a commitment to Jesus
6. disagree the Bible is accurate
7. have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
8. have not attended a Christian church (in the last year)
9. agree that Jesus committed sins
10. do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
11. have not read the Bible (in the last week)
12. have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
13. have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
14. have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
15. do not participate in a house church (in the last year)
How many Americans might we be talking about? Surely the percentage of post-Christians is much higher than the Nones at 20%.
61 out of 96 major metropolitan areas in America registered post-Christian levels higher than 30%, including most major cities — from Boston (53%), New York City (51%), Philadelphia (42%), Baltimore (39%), Washington DC (40%), and Miami (45%) and across the country in Buffalo (52%), Cleveland (37%), Pittsburgh (40%), Detroit (35%), Cincinnati (33%), Chicago (42%), Minneapolis (42%), St. Louis (36%), Kansas City (33%), and Houston (33%), all the way west to Denver (49%), Phoenix (46%), Seattle (49%), San Francisco (53%), Los Angeles (44%), and San Diego (51%). Many cities in more conservative regions rise to levels close to 30%, such as Atlanta (29%), Indianapolis (28%), New Orleans (26%), Dallas (25%) — and even Nashville (21%) has a higher percentage rate than the national figure for the Nones.
Neither sociologists nor theologians will be happy with just these 15 criteria about post-Christianity, although these questions do get at the core of traditional Christianity. Christianity is evidently evolving quickly, and it will have to continue to change dramatically if it wants to catch up to where post-Christians are heading. There is a reason why Joel Osteen and Oprah are already positioned where so much of Christianity has been going. If this trend continues, many people may still call themselves Christian in the future, but this religion will be unbelievably different from last century’s faith.