Pew and Barna Research groups keep up a continuous study of religious actions and beliefs in the USA. Their data shows that 40% of those under 30 identify as having no religious affiliation; Roman Catholic attendance is down to 21% and Protestant to 15%. This puts church attending believers as a minority in America.
There are two main groups now, “nones” and “somes.” The Nones do not affiliate with any religious tradition, simply calling themselves Christian or atheist etc. “Somes” on the other hand will take part in an occasional religious service or event. Both of these groups do subscribe to a moral tradition.
But so does most everyone else. The Buddhist Chinese mother teaches her tots the same things as an American Christian mother; share your toys, don’t beat up your playmates, be on time, say please and thank you, learn to respect authority, be honest with yourself and others, hard work pays off, etc. These are behavior-based ethical principles. That’s not all that hard! And because they aren’t hard they are easily ignored. It might be called Christian socialism.
Pew also identified “feral” Christians, those who subscribe to moral Christian values but no doctrines which reflects many other go-along, get-along people who behave without asking too many questions about why they do what they do.
If Facebook is to be believed many semi-believers look at people and think that is what church is and that their moral strictures are personally directed against individuals.But the Church stands against evil not people. The church has nothing against Islamic people, but those who strap bombs on small children deserve all the condemnation one can heap.
No church should have a problem with black or brown individuals, but when they riot and vandalize stores, they deserve to be called criminals and sinners as well.
When groups of people make evil the core of their lives and doctrines, then the church has both the right and the responsibility to call them out. God saves individuals, not groups. No one goes to hell because he was born with any color skin; no one goes to heaven because he is a member of a particular religion.
These are natural and cultural realities. God is spirit and must be worshiped in spirit and in truth. Racism comes from the fallen inner nature of mankind not related to the spirit of either man or God.
But, now here is the rub; true Christianity is not about behavior or externals, but an internal transformation of the person, inside out. And that is hard. To recognize one’s failure to meet one’s own standards, or those of society, much less religion eventually weighs heavily.
According to the Bible no one gets to heaven being good, or “meaning well.” But then again many do not think life after death is a big deal. Indifference is just as big a killer as unbelief.
It is true that if churches taught what the Bible actually says, many people would no longer go. The US Congress has toyed with the idea of making church donations no longer tax deductible which would certainly separate sheep from goats quickly enough. It would cleanse the church of those who think they are getting their ticket punched for the afterlife.
The Bible said that before the second coming of the Lord, the angels would gather the wheat into a storehouse and the tares, intended to be burned, in another barn. Maybe that is what is happening here. We are being separated for the judgment.