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American Christianity’s Faustian Bargain Comes Back to Bite

And it’s biting hard:

A new survey reveals the stunning impact COVID-19 had on Americans’ religious perspectives. 

The percentage of adults with a biblical worldview has plummeted to just 4%. Dr. George Barna, director of the Cultural Research Center, finds the results of the American Worldview Inventory report alarming.

“It’s … much more extensive than we actually expected. Typically, you don’t find that religious beliefs change very much,” Barna told CBN News. “They’re probably the most stable of the factors in a person’s life because they relate to worldview that’s formed when you’re young, and it doesn’t change much as you age.”

The piece went on to detail solutions. But I think the reason for this crash is one that you’ll never get the establishment (such as it is) in American Christianity to admit: the hog-tying of material prosperity with Christian faith. It’s one I’ve discussed more than once, but especially in my piece My Thoughts on “Christianity’s Decline in the Northeast”. Making upward mobility a piece with getting saved was a short-term fix but problems were inevitable, and now they’ve come back to bite us.

When things are going well and everyone is moving up (or thinks they are) this works. But when disaster strikes as it did with COVID and the backwash, people trained in this will come to the conclusion that either God doesn’t exist, he doesn’t care or is incapable of bailing them out of their situation. This is especially true in this country, where the “perfect life” obsession is the product of extended prosperity and institutional continuity.

But this isn’t a decent Christian rationale. Some of us saw Christianity as a counterweight to the basic injustices and setbacks of this life. Some of us knew that there would be sacrifice and renunciation for the prize. Some of us…but not enough, not in this country at least.

Late Roman Empire Christianity was based on something that could survive the collapse of the “Eternal City” and its Empire, that transcended the disaster unfolding around them. And it did in a way that endured for centuries, in some ways up to the present. But I doubt American Christianity will replicate this. American Christianity and its progeny outside the country, like the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, will come to the situation where the patient lives but the doctor dies.

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