The Death of “Cultural” Christianity
Though new numbers from Pew Research released this month point to a decline in American Protestants, no serious scholar believes Christianity in America is on a trajectory of extinction. And, as a Ph.D. researcher and practicing evangelical Christian, I say to those who’ve read recent reports and come to that conclusion, “Not so fast.”
You see, many in the U.S. who identify as Christian do so only superficially. These cultural Christians use the term but do not practice the faith. Now it seems many of them are giving up the Christian label, and those cultural or nominal Christians are becoming “nones,” people with no religious label.
Christian nominalism is nothing new. As soon as any belief system is broadly held, people are motivated to adopt it, even with a low level of connection. Yet, much of the change in our religious identification is in nominal Christians no longer using the term and, instead, not identifying with any religion.
In other words, the nominals are becoming the nones.
Timothy Dalrymple adds this thought:
Raised on the writings of Kierkegaard, I cannot really mourn the loss of cultural Christianity either. There are some advantages to living within a predominantly Christian culture, to be sure. But the disadvantages from a kingdom perspective are profound. When cultural Christianity abounds, then Christianity can come to be associated merely with certain cultural markers. Cultural Christians — by which we mean those who claim Christianity merely as a culture they inhabit, not as a life they lead or even a set of faith commitments — may speak differently and consume culture differently, but they do not live lives of radical discipleship. They do not witness Christ. What they present is a watered-down, compromised, milquetoast Christianity. In other words, what they offer is NOT Christianity, and it tarnishes the name of the church and misleads many.