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Elites and Courts Push America Into a Post-Christian Era (Forbes.com) July 29, 2015

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
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“My country ‘tis of Thee, sweet land of Secularity” will be our new national hymn as America enters the uncharted territory of a post-Christian era.  Long known as “a Christian nation,” the U.S. has turned sharply in a secular direction, thanks to the trickle-down influence of elites and handed-down dictates from courts.  This historic shift will affect everything from elections to education to ethics and beyond.

How can a nation be Christian (or post-Christian) in the first place?  America has never been a theocracy, following the direct rule of God in the manner of the Islamic Republic of Iran or the Vatican (or Israel in Old Testament times).  Rather America has been referred to as a Christian nation because of the core beliefs and world view of a majority of its people and an acknowledgement of God by its public leaders and symbols.  But as Americans, especially the young, move away from faith in large numbers, and courts systematically dismantle religious symbols and influences, the post-Christian era has arrived.

Recent polls confirm the increasing secularization of our people, especially the young.  A poll by the Pew Foundation shows that the number of Americans describing themselves as Christian has declined by about 10% between 2007-2014.  Meanwhile, those professing no religion grew by 50% in that same time frame.  Fewer than 6 in 10 millennials (ages 18-33) affiliate with any branch of Christianity.  A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that 66% of those age 65 and over believe being Christian is an important part of being American, while only 35% of those ages18-29 agree.  These numbers are changing remarkably quickly as Americans are seemingly losing their faith and becoming more like secular Europeans.

Another lens into post-Christian America is the declining impact of traditional Christian teaching on social mores.  The sexual revolution continues to redefine the nature of sex, relationships and the family away from orthodox Christian teaching.  Young people increasingly see science as a challenge to the teachings of the Bible.  The rise of tolerance as the ultimate value in society sometimes clashes with religious notions of absolute truth.  In short, a new and more liberal orthodoxy is tipping the scales of public dialogue and conventional wisdom away from the narrower views of traditional religion.

Finally, the courts have begun to chip away at religious influence and symbolism in the public square.  I mean, when the Oklahoma Supreme Court votes 7-2 that a monument of the Ten Commandments must be removed from the state Capitol, as it did recently, you know times are changing.  It probably will not be long before “one nation under God” in the pledge and “in God we trust” on the currency will be ruled unconstitutional by courts.  Of greater significance was the Obergefell v. Hodges decision about same sex marriage, in which the traditional Christian understanding of marriage received so little attention and support that the justices could only uphold Christians “teaching” and “advocating” their views, rather than quoting the more muscular language of the First Amendment about “free exercise.”  In his dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito warned that the court’s opinion “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.”

In one sense, Christians need not despair.  Christianity has survived governments and societies of all kinds throughout the ages.  But the losers in this may be less the Christians than the larger society.  The Founders consistently warned that in order for a free republic to work, a virtuous people would be needed, and the source of that virtue, in their experience, was religion.  So the question we must answer in post-Christian America is this:  What will be the sources of our virtues and values?  My own uneasiness about this was reflected on a bumper sticker I saw on a Los Angeles freeway:  “THERE IS NO HOPE (but I could be wrong).”

Link to column at Forbes.com:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2015/07/29/elites-and-courts-push-america-into-a-post-christian-era/

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