Chapter 9: They’re Leaving—Losing Their Belief as Departing Christians
There are 2 billion Christians in the world today; nearly 250 million people in the United States who identify themselves as Christians giving America a Christian population that is over double that of the entire world on a per capita basis. Yet corruption, greed, crime and moral disintegration are all on the rise in the United States. In such a great country where Christianity abounds in vast numbers how can such a trend be? It causes one to ask… Where are the Christians?
The five chapters of Section 3 answer the question by revealing the five major types of Christians in America today—Departing Adequate, Hesitant, Laboring and Latent—and how one can complete an exercise to identify themselves among these five.
The first Christian type to be explored is the Departing Christian. These are Christians who are literally or psychologically losing their faith. These are Christians that don’t believe as they once did (or perhaps never did), who are living watered down doctrines of Christianity, and losing their testimony of the Savior through inactivity and prolonged sin without repentance. Simply put, these are Christians who are leaving the faith.
The Departing Christian has lost faith in the scriptures. Although there has been 6 billion Bibles sold since its first publication, only 82% of Americans consider it to be sacred scripture and only 69% consider it to contain “everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life” according to the American Bible Society. Other studies suggest lots of Bibles in American homes, but few that are being read.
The Departing Christian lives a watered down faith. Studies show Christians adopting beliefs and practices that are inconsistent with traditional Christianity. A 2002 Barna study showed 76% of Christians relying on personal scriptural interpretation while 51% believe in praying to deceased saints. A 2009 study by Pew Research revealed 65% of adults adopting elements New Age thinking, 25% believing in astrology, and 24% believing in reincarnation.
The Departing Christian is fed up, disillusioned and dismayed. Negative experiences such as the death of a loved one and natural disasters challenge the faith of the Departing Christian who loses hope and becomes dismayed as to why God would allow such events to take place.
The systematic decrease in the percentage of the American population that considers themselves to be Christian is shown in the National Council of Church’s Yearbook for 2012 where five of the ten largest Christian Churches reported a decrease in membership. Other studies show leading indicators of a waning Christian faith, many of which are likely Departing Christians.
German philosopher Hermann Keyserling introduced the phrase “Post-Christian” in his 1929 book titled America Set Free. Keyserling’s work grew legs into the 1960’s with the “death of God” movement leveraging the phrase used by Nietzche in the 19th century. While the population of Departing Christians may not be large, the elements that have led to their faithlessness are elements that are affecting many in America. Next we will examine the Adequate Christian.
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