Today is Holy Thursday. If you are Catholic this is the first day of the Easter or Paschal Tiduum. In Christian theology, tonight is the memorial of the Last Supper. Catholic Churches and some Protestant denominations will do the symbolic “washing of feet,” which is how Christ reminds us that when you are a leader you are a servant not a master (this lesson is lost on most of our fellow citizens in politics and in public service). So I thought this would be an interesting time to review what Americans thought about Jesus. The Barna Group has a published a study, What Do Americans Believe About Jesus? 5 Popular Beliefs, which plumbs this subject and the findings demonstrate how rare Christian orthodoxy is in the United States and gives clues to source of our cultural rot.
Was Jesus real?
So far, so good. One wonders who, exactly, are the 10% or so who don’t believe Jesus actually walked the earth. Theology aside, it takes an incredible level of ignorance to deny the very existence of Jesus.
What was Jesus?
This is where we begin to identify the actual number of Christians. If you profess to be Christian and you either don’t believe Jesus was God or you really aren’t sure, it doesn’t matter what church you go to, you aren’t Christian and your Church is a 12-step program.
Did Jesus sin?
I have to admit this chart stunned me. I wasn’t surprised at either of the first two. The logical conundrum of Jesus being the Incarnation and sinning is rather mind-blowing. If you believe Jesus was God then you have to believe Jesus was without sin because God is without sin. However, when you look at the bowdlerized “I’m-OK-you’re-OK-God-wants-you-to-be-rich-and-happy” crap that passes for a large part of Christianity today it isn’t a surprise. If Jesus was sinless then he’s not going to approve of your theft, of your adultery, of your porn addiction. He’s not going to approve because Jesus was God made man and He confronted those same temptations and didn’t succumb so He knows your excuse is some pretty lame s***.
But we can see in a series of three charts why the percentage of Christians in the United States cannot be above 31%. Despite Church attendance and cultural affectation we are living in a neo-pagan nation.
Christ is important in my life
When taken into consideration with the previous chart we can see that over half of self-proclaimed Christians haven’t a freakin clue as to what they believe. Can you make a personal commitment to Jesus and engage in pre-marital sex? How about have and affair? Can you participate in same-sex marriage? Steal from your employer? Cheat on your taxes? Send a few hours a day watching porn? Not give of your time/talents/treasure to those less fortunate? Obviously not. In fact, I will say that it is difficult even for those holding orthodox Christian beliefs on the nature of Christ and His word to be able to say with at straight face that we have made a commitment to Christ. For most of us, this is a daily non-relenting struggle.
When I die…
I just threw this one in here for grins as I’m not sure what it really means. What happens when you die is a very ambiguous question. This question was asked of those who have a self-described commitment to Jesus. Because of the nature of the survey, multiple choice rather than fill in the blank, you have to assume that those choosing “I am a good person” deliberately ignored the most orthodox answer of “confessed sins and accepted Christ.” This implies that “good” means something less than following the Ten Commandments. The Universalists come in at 7%. Again I have to confess I am surprised the “good person” number is essentially the same as the Universalist position.
What this snapshot shows is that orthodox Christianity, the religion that founded and shaped the nation, is on the ropes. That once your religious world view is shaped by a belief that a) even God sinned and b) that I’m going to Heaven no matter what, then a religious argument is bound to fail. It explains how we got to this state of affairs in all manner of social issues and why aggressive RFRA laws are needed if Christianity is going to survive as anything more than a cultural artifact.