According to some recent Pew Religion surveys the 115th congress looks much like it did in the 1960s.

congress

While congress may appear to be much like it was (in terms of religious breakdown) in the 1960s, it isn’t really the same. While it is true that 91 percent describe themselves as Christians, what they mean by that statement is different than it was in 1961. In the new congress a small majority is protestant, much less than in 1961. Almost a third of the new congress is catholic, much more than in 1961. Additionally, the social views of those who self-identify as “Christians” is certainly different than it was in 1961.

So what does this study mean for ministering to adults in the USA? There is a wide perception that society and government is largely the same as it was in the 60s. In actuality the views of those groups have changed vastly. The major difference is that an appeal to Christian values is now made for many opposing social and governmental views. Often times, as in the 2016 presidential election, the two major parties will use language that conjures up Christian imagery, and utilize allusions to biblical themes to support their views that are on different ends of the spectrum.

On the one hand, I believe this reality has resulted in a general populace that is increasingly unsure about what Christian (I personally would use the word ‘biblical’) values are. ON the other hand, something different is at work. Much like previous attempts at nationalism during the era of the world-wars, Christian language and themes are being co-opted to support a form of nationalism. This second point appears to be resulting in a general apathy toward religious language because of its close association with political debates that often times generate more heat than light.

So how do we (as church leaders) combat these ideas? I believe that we need to be extremely clear about teaching the message of the Bible, rather than opinion. That message is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and only he can change the hearts of people. Political appeals cannot. A church that continues to tell the story of Jesus, and the stories of how he has redeemed people will be attractive to 21st century Americans. Second, I believe that churches that stay away from politicizing in their teaching will appeal to 21st century culture more than the ones who attempt to politicize things every week. Most Americans did not agree with a candidate in the presidential election, but instead most disliked both candidates. A church that binds itself to a political agenda will become increasingly unattractive just as those political parties (and their candidates) have become unattractive.

I’d love to hear what you think, so leave me a note in the comments!

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