Goodbye, Christian America; Hello, True Christianity

The day I became a Christian, one of the first people I wanted to tell was my mother.

I had considered myself an atheist while I studied neurobiology in college. But as I studied more, I discovered Jesus and became a Christian.

It was the early 1970s, and my mother’s response to my life-changing decision captured the view of most Americans at that time: “That’s nice, but isn’t everybody Christian?”

Times have changed.

According to a recent survey by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the number of Protestants has fallen below 50 percent for the first time in American history. Catholic adherents have remained stable thanks to immigration, but many U.S.-born Catholics are leaving the church.

The survey also revealed another startling fact: The number of people who are not affiliated with any faith rose 4 percent in just the last five years. Nearly 20 percent of the population say they are of no specific faith at all.

If my mother were alive today, I think she would agree we are quickly moving toward a secular society.

As this cultural shift has occurred, many Christians have reacted in frustration.

We have fought to place the Ten Commandments in courtrooms and Christmas crèches outside town halls.

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We have sued over public prayers and crosses in state parks.

One court recently weighed in on whether cheerleaders at a Texas school should be allowed to post Bible verses on their banners.

While symbols can be important, we have focused perhaps too much on them instead of the underlying reality they reflect.

Instead, we need to go back to the basics of living as disciples of Christ, living missionally for Christ and demonstrating the Gospel in tangible ways within our schools, workplaces and communities.

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Richard  Stearns
Richard Stearns is President of World Vision. Since joining World Vision U.S. in 1998, Stearns also has participated in the larger World Vision Partnership, leading efforts to refine the organization's business practices and advocating for global impact standards to evaluate program effectiveness.