The fastest growing group in these United States belongs to the religiously unaffiliated, atheists, and those who have left the Church because of its hypocrisy, or so said Don Lemon on Chris Cuomo's evening talk show. The Pew Research firm backs up Lemon's claim based on a study done in April of 2018. According to the study, which surveyed some 4,700 U.S. adults, fully one-third claimed to not believe in the God of the Bible while only 56% admitted to worshiping God as traditionally aligned with Christian beliefs. One in ten is agnostic, atheist, or simply does not believe in any form of higher power or spiritual force.
I will be honest with you. For me, that's a scary thought. Americans of all ages are turning away from God or walking away from the Church, claiming hypocrisy and twisted teaching as their defense. At the same time, according to a Gallup poll taken in the summer of 2018, as many as 57% of Democrats polled have a positive viewpoint of Socialism with only 47% favoring Capitalism. Compared to 16% of Republicans favoring Socialism and 71% favoring Capitalism, the rise of the religiously unaffiliated seems to coincide with the rise of selfishness among Democrats.
Wait! Did I just call Democrats selfish? Well, not all Democrats. Only the 57% of them who increasingly believe it is everyone else's duty to feed and care for them. I've heard arguments that the Church is the ultimate form of Socialism, a state of affairs defended by those Lemon and Cuomo decry as detrimental to the American Christian Church. According to those arguments, Ananias and Sapphira were two of the first to suffer at the hands of a Socialist congregation (Acts 5). One merely has to actually read the text in Acts to understand it was the lies that condemned Ananias and Sapphira, not their unwillingness to dedicate everything to the early Church.
According to an entirely different Pew Research study, attendance at service (across ten primary "religions") is consistently higher among Republicans than Democrats, with Independents coming in strong among the non-religious or unaffiliated crowd. Among those who attend church more frequently, more than half believe in relative truth over absolute truth.
I was born and raised into a family who believed in the One True God and have, in my lifetime, been witness to His amazing grace and awesome power. That does not mean that I haven't questioned my faith or my beliefs. On the contrary, I have followed the Apostle Paul's exhortation to the Thessalonians and tested everything, affirming my belief in God's great hand.
"Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil." (1 Thes 5:21-22, NKJV)
So what do we do, Christian?
First we have to admit that there is some truth in what Don Lemon said to Chris Cuomo. Some churches are failing congregants by teaching wrong doctrine or making false promises of wealth and prosperity. The Bible doesn't teach that we have any right to "worldly prosperity" this side of Heaven. Instead, we are cautioned to lay up our treasures in Heaven:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt 6:19-21, NIV)
Second we have to realize that not all "gospel" is good news and not all good news is God's gospel. "Test all things," he said. False prophets will sell empty promises to draw away even the faithful from God's plan (Matt 24:24). So, God understands how false prophets use the prosperity gospel to draw Christians away from true faith and His caution is founded in His knowledge of our true nature. We are shortsighted and fickle. We want immediate gratification and none of us wants to wait eighty or ninety years for our reward. When all we hear is how God will prosper you when you follow His precepts, and then the bank takes our car and our health fails us, the natural recourse is to push back against the (false) religion that got us here in the first place.
Where do we turn when the well runs dry and our faith is built on falsehoods? Not to the Cross, that's evident by Pew/Gallup numbers and Lemon/Cuomo's conversation. But we should. If we build our faith (house) on a foundation of sand (prosperity gospel) then we have no solid rock to rely on when everything crumbles (Matt 7:24-27). But if we build our faith on the Rock, then even when everything around fails us, we have the promise of Heaven to sustain us.
"He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.'" (Matt 16:15-18, NKJV)
So, Christian, be on the lookout for false prophets and test everything your pastor says. Make sure your faith is built on the Rock, the One True God, and no storm will shake your foundation. When the storm comes, stand firm on the promises that God is strong enough to get you through whatever He brings you to. And when everything around you crumbles, stand tall. Be the light the world needs. That's the true Gospel, the true good news. It's a truth even Don Lemon cannot deny.
"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matt 5:14-16, NIV)
– Mark Klages is an influential contributor, a former US Marine and a lifelong teacher who focuses on applying a Christian worldview to everyday events. Mark blogs at https://maklagesl3.wixsite.com/website under the title "God Provides where Hate Divides," with a heart to heal social, political, relational, and intellectual wounds through God's divine love and grace. Mark can also be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-klages-04b42511/.