While we remain a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even five years ago. I think this is a good thing—good for our political culture, which, as the American Founders saw, is complex and charged enough without attempting to compel or coerce religious belief or observance. It is good for Christianity, too, in that many Christians are rediscovering the virtues of a separation of church and state that protects what Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island as a haven for religious dissenters, called "the garden of the church" from "the wilderness of the world." As crucial as religion has been and is to the life of the nation, America's unifying force has never been a specific faith, but a commitment to freedom—not least freedom of conscience. At our best, we single religion out for neither particular help nor particular harm; we have historically treated faith-based arguments as one element among many in the republican sphere of debate and decision. The decline and fall of the modern religious right's notion of a Christian America creates a calmer political environment and, for many believers, may help open the way for a more theologically serious religious life.
Al Mohler, who was quoted for the article, writes about his reaction to it here.
I appreciate the care, respect, and insight that mark this essay by Jon Meacham. I also appreciated our conversation about an issue that concerns us both. Still, I hope I did not reflect too much gloom in my analysis. This much I know -- Jesus Christ is Lord, and His kingdom is forever. Our proper Christian response to this new challenge is not gloom, but concern. And our first concern must be to see that the Gospel is preached as Good News to the perishing -- including all those in post-Christian America.
Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, CA, offers his thoughts here.
So I think maybe there is a decline of a certain shape and sub-culture(s) of "Christian America" as the article states. But at the same time, there is a rising and surging of missional church leaders, church planters, and Christians who have already recognized that we are in a "post-Christian" America as the article states. But that recognition has simply fueled creativity, prayer and passion for mission and because God is God, people are coming to a saving faith in Jesus. So it is ironically quite an exciting time period in the midst of this gloomy title and cover. It feels as though some expressions of church and Christianity maybe is fading out. But
at the same time there is excitement and energy and hope as churches who have already recognized what this article says about being in a "post-Christian" country - and have made changes to become churches on mission.
I am so optimistic for the future and have great hope. Yes, there is a "decline and fall" as the article states of certain types of "Christianity" and church perhaps. But there is also a rising and resurgence of missional churches and missional Christians. Churches and Christians who are rethinking what it means to be "be the church" and to be the church on mission. It may mean rethinking how we go about things since we do live in a "post-Christian" world. It may not be as easy or routine as it has in the past. It may shake up some of our ecclesiological catagories that we have constructed. But it should only spur us onward in adventure, not get us depressed looking at a spooky black cover with red letters.