Friday, September 01, 2006

1965: The Changing Moral and Religious Landscape

Many conservative Christians argue that America was once a Christian nation and it was the intent of our founding fathers that we be a Christian nation. And until 1965 it was easy to hold on to the nostalgic notion that America was a Christian nation because until that time America boasted a religious civility fueled by the dominance of Judeo-Christian values that solidified the framework and ideologies of the American lifestyle. Perhaps it could be argued that America, before 1965, was a "Christian" nation, inasmuch as the majority of Americans, whether Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish (the "Big Three" dominated the religious scene in America until the 1960's), esteemed the kinds of values and morality advocated in Scripture.

But the "civil religion" that dominated American life until the 1960's began to form cracks in the foundation with the signing of the Immigration Act of 1965. This isn't to say that immigrants are to blame for the moral decline and decay of America. But what the Immigration Act of 1965 resulted in was a significant influx of religious diversity on American soil. Until 1965 the majority of immigrants allowed into the United States were European, who brought with them the same kind of religions and religious values that our founding fathers brought to America. But since the signing of the Immigration Act of 1965, the overwhelming majority of immigrants coming to the United States have not been European.

Statistics reveal that since the Immigration Act was passed, the Muslim population in America has grown from approximately 800,000 to a little over 4 million (and some studies show it as high at 8 million). In 2000 there were more than 1200 Islamic centers. During the same time Buddhists have grown from 30,000 to 2 1/2 million and Hindus from 100,000 to 1 million. There was a time where the Bible was the exclusive source for religion. But today it doesn't take more than a 5-minute tour of the "Religion" section at your local Barnes & Noble Bookstore to discover that there is limitless access to the religions of the world.

Whether or not the United States was or was ever intended to be a Christian nation from a historical perspective is debatable. It is virtually impossible to know the true intent of our forefathers. However, what is not up for debate is the reality that the United States of America is not now a Christian nation.David Wells, in his book Above All Earthly Powers says: "America is the world's most fully diverse nation now and from a Christian point of view it is as fully a mission field as any to which churches not are sending their missionaries."

Which leads us to a question: How is the church, particularly the traditional church of the "Christian" south, responding to the ever emerging mission field moving in next door in our safe, comfortable suburban neighborhoods? Are we responding as missionaries or are we still living with the naive, out-dated, pre-Immigration Act assumptions that everyone in our city loves Jesus and if they don't they will come to us if they want to know about Him? Is it really possible that everyone in the city we live in knows the Gospel and has heard it? Do we still blindly believe that people in our cities value the things that we value, and do we even care when we find out that they don't?

When you consider the modern decay and diversity of American culture, does it really surprise you that countries such as Korea, China and Brazil are sending missionaries to America for the sake of the Kingdom of God? It is time for the American Church to begin seeing their own towns and cities as the mission field that they are and develop a strategy to reach the perishing in our own backyard.


At 9:14 AM , Blogger r a i n e r said...

This site will tell you what ethnicities are in your town as well as a bunch of other stuff for those who want to reach out to those who have immigrated here.


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