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January 13, 2009Research

Choosing My Religion

The Barna Group has completed some research that I think you will find interesting. They are reporting that most Americans do not default to the Christian religion.

You okay? Maybe you should sit down.

While many will continue to debate whether or not America ever was a "Christian nation," one thing is increasingly clear; most Americans today see the Christian faith as one spiritual option among many, and not the most desirable one at that. The Barna Group says,

The study discovered that half of all adults now contend that Christianity is just one of many options that Americans choose from and that a huge majority of adults pick and choose what they believe rather than adopt a church or denomination's slate of beliefs. Still, most people say their faith is becoming increasingly important as a source of personal moral guidance.

...

Overall, 50% of the adults interviewed agreed that Christianity is no longer the faith that Americans automatically accept as their personal faith, while just 44% disagreed and 6% were not sure.

The big picture here is something many of us were already seeing in our own contexts, but research like this - when not totally surprising - is helpful in providing a clearer picture of a situation more objectively.

And it's not just a waning interest in Christianity of various stripes; across the board people are developing their own set of beliefs, rather than adopting an established system.

By a three to one margin (71% to 26%) adults noted that they are personally more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than to accept a comprehensive set of beliefs taught by a particular church.

The research shows that this approach is most dominant among those under the age of 25, but is even true of a majority of those who consider themselves "born-again."

The article concludes with some insights and implications from George Barna. The last implication he gives is,

Faith, of whatever variety, is increasingly viral rather than pedagogical. With people spending less time reading the Bible, and becoming less engaged in activities that deepen their biblical literacy, faith views are more often adopted on the basis of dialogue, self-reflection, and observation than teaching. Feelings and emotions now play a significant role in the development of people's faith views - in many cases, much more significant than information-based exercises such as listening to preaching and participating in Bible study.

Be sure and read the article here, and then come back to discuss. What do you think? What does the waning influence of the name "Christian" mean for Christians? What does the all-you-can-eat, buffet style, build-your-own belief system require of the church? Is a "viral" spread of Christianity (rather than a pedagogical) good or bad - is it even possible?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

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