Jesus and His Love First Touched Me Here in the 1960s—and I Am So Glad
Allen Downey, Professor of Computer Science at Olin College in Needham, Massachusetts, has a new article in the well-known and venerable magazine Scientific American. It contains some new statistical and computer modeling results on the current and projected trends in American religious preference. It predicts that by the year 2030 a full one-third of all Americans (33.33 percent) will have zero religious preference—in other words—they will be members of the group known today as the “nones.” That is only a piddly 12 years from now. You may read the article by clicking on the following safe link:
The bad news is that just about all current American churches will be losing members and failing to gain new members—for at least a long while. While that might look like thoroughly bad news on the surface, there is actually some very good news here—a silver lining around the edge of a dark cloud.
What is this good news? We believe it is as follows:
(1) Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches will be the biggest losers in this trend across the next 50 years. Why? We know many of the children raised in hardline Christian fundamentalist churches want out and are already leaving them in large numbers when they become young adults. If it is not underway already, we strongly suspect that this trend will soon engulf numerous conservative evangelical churches whose doctrines and belief systems are very similar to those of the hardline fundie churches. This means that Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism will become more and more weakened across the next 50 years.
(2) An increasing number of “nones” in the American population will thwart the political and social agenda of Christian fundamentalism, conservative evangelicalism, and their churches. How will that happen? The large numbers of “nones” and unbelievers in American society will vote, and by so doing, greatly diminish fundie influence in our voting booths at election time. They will shut down fundie dreams of establishing an American theocracy to replace the current constitutional government of the United States of America. The most hateful and pernicious items on the fundie national agenda will slam into an extremely thick steel wall with the words “NO GO” painted on it. Like Persian King Cyrus in the Old Testament, God will use the “nones” and unbelievers to shackle the hands and feet of the fundies to guard the true essence of the traditional Christian faith until Jesus completes a New Christian Reformation of the American church.
(3) We believe the American church is now beginning to undergo a Jesus-led New Christian Reformation for the 21st century. The Protestant Reformation that began in Europe in the year 1517 was finished only 131 years later. Since that time, in the United States in particular, the Protestant church has been wracked by numerous petty schisms and internal sellouts in both thought and belief—the most egregious being the days in the middle 1980s when Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals began kicking capital letter LOVE out of their churches. They effectively redefined it and replaced it with an insidious lower case love that is heavy-handed and mean-spirited in nature. They proudly called it “tough love” and viewed it as a tool to bludgeon people. In doing so, they betrayed the Spirit of LOVE spoken of by Jesus, his disciple John, and the Apostle Paul throughout the New Testament.
In our opinion, the New Christian Reformation, which is only in its infancy now, will grow and eventually rival that of the earlier Protestant Reformation in terms of its importance to the Christian faith and its historical significance in the United States. It will sweep Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism into the ash bin of American history. The keystone of the Christian faith, the classic message of repentance and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone will remain the same that it has always been since the 1st century A.D. That will be the strong trunk of the new Christmas tree. However, its many branches and the ornaments hung on them by all-too-fallible men since the Protestant Reformation will change—and rightly so.
The ridiculous, man-invented doctrine of Biblical inerrancy and literal reading of The Holy Bible will largely disappear from the American church. The Bible will cease being thought of as an idol—and an endangered species. John Calvin’s little 16th century invention known as the Substitutionary Theory of the Atonement will disappear and be replaced by the ancient atonement theory common in the early church. The American church will embrace the factual findings of the physical sciences and social sciences rather than be hostile to them. The American church will no longer attempt to revise American history into a set of self-serving lies. The New Covenant established by Jesus, his 12 disciples, and the apostles in the New Testament will finally triumph over the legalistic covenant in the Old Testament (Romans 7:6 and 10:4). The capital letter LOVE spoken of and demonstrated so much by Jesus, John, and the Apostle Paul in the New Testament will finally replace legalism and moralism in the American church. The heartless and merciless evils of conservative Republican politics will no longer be strangling the American church. The American church will cease to be a Center for Hate that uses the worn out saw: “Love the sinner but hate the sin” as a cover for dealing in hatred, racism, prejudice, and bigotry in the name of Jesus. Many other changes will occur in the American church as a part of the New Christian Reformation, and those changes will be based on the words and deeds of Jesus in the New Testament, his LOVE, real world facts, and Spiritual truth guided by taking the Bible seriously, taking the experience of the church seriously, and recognizing that Sola Scriptura is both wrong and obsolete. Why is it wrong and obsolete? It is wrong and obsolete because it denies that the Holy Spirit has the power to extra-scripturally reveal new things to us in various ways, denies his power to lead us, and denies his power to guide us in our walk with God.
With so many “nones” and unbelievers resting out on the American landscape, a new and enormously large mission field will become available to the church (or churches) that come into being as a direct result of the New Christian Reformation. People will come into the new church in very large numbers because everyone wants to be truly LOVED in church. Church will no longer be a place of profound fear, anxiety, and abuse every Wednesday evening, Sunday morning, and Sunday night. People will be magnetically drawn to the new church like they were magnetically drawn to Jesus on the hills of Judea in ancient times. People will experience true LOVE and acceptance. They will be truly edified. Many people will come because they no longer have to make a ridiculous choice between science and faith—meaning the truth of both can be embraced within the church, recognizing that all facts and truths are in their own ways revelations from God. All truth is God’s truth.
While the American church (writ large) will never be perfect in this world, because it contains imperfect people, the new American church of the 21st century will be a much better place than many American churches are now. It shall be light years better and more LOVING than the pathetic and pathological Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches of today.
Let us end this with both hope and a prayer of praise to God through this famous piece of Christian music: