Friday, March 18, 2022

New Study: Does Jesus Make America Stronger, or Weaker?

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"Jesus in America" is a national study released this month by a partnership between The Episcopal Church and Ipsos. The research found that while the majority of Americans polled believe Jesus was an important spiritual figure and want equality in society, it also showed Christians are not necessarily practicing what Jesus taught, and Americans feel judged when talking about their beliefs.  

While the study and the Episcopal Church interchange "Jesus" and  "religion" in the presentation of the survey, I think biblical Christians who care about the culture can be informed by the results published this week.

Be informed, not misled.

How mere religion views Jesus---and religion.

Ipsos is a generally reliable survey company. Their just-released study was paid for by the Episcopal Church.

The study and the Episcopal Church interchange "Jesus" and "religion", but from our biblical worldview, let's take a look at how people responded. 

Ipsos found that Jesus does indeed make an impact on society---on the culture. In fact, 84% of Americans believe Jesus is an important spiritual figure, and that same 84% feel equality in our society is the most important virtue.

You could assume that many who feel Jesus is an important figure who makes an impact on society, also believe that His most important impact would be to bring about "equality" which has recently morphed to "equity" in the culture.

This is a snapshot of what motivates the religious left in America---"equality or equity"---which leads to the mission of the "religious left," becoming "equality" and all-out support for "Black Lives Matter," the LGBTQ+ with its derivatives of so-called same-sex "marriage," transgenderism, etc.---and even, in some cases, such as with "deeply religious" Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Biden's undying support of abortion.

When asked,  "Do you believe in the historical existence of Jesus or Jesus of Nazareth," only 76% of the 84% said yes. So 8% who believe Jesus is important to our culture, also believe He is a fictional person---like Cupid or someone, yet 84% still feel He is an important spiritual figure.

So fictional persons are viewed as important to our personal lives.

Nearly all who claim to be Christians in our society---88%--- according to this study, say Jesus is an important spiritual figure in their life. 

Evangelical publications take a closer look.

Christian Headlines, an evangelical news organization, notes that the study found that "38% of Americans believe religion makes the country stronger." 

But remember, Jesus, the person, is different than the more generic idea of "religion"---which would include all religions.

However, because a vast majority of Americans consider themselves "Christian," when the word "religion" is used they are thinking Christianity.

While 38% believe religion makes the country stronger, conversely 28% believe that religion in America "divides the country," 20% are unsure, and 7% think religion has no effect on the country either way. 

The study also found that 6% believe religion makes the country weaker.

The Christian Post, also an evangelical publication, noted that just 11% believe the January 6 Capitol riots were affiliated with organized religion, especially evangelicalism and Protestantism.

In fact, 76% of non-Christians responding to the study agreed that January 6 was not related to a religious movement.

The Post reported that "The study also found that Generation Z Americans — those born after 1996 — were slightly less likely to be non-religious than millennials (Gen Y), who were born between 1981 and 1996."

"According to the survey, 24% of Gen Z respondents identify as non-religious, while 28% of millennials identified the same. By contrast, 12% of baby boomers and 18% of Generation X identify as non-religious."

One thing that caught my attention in the study was this: Among respondents who said their opinion of Jesus had shifted within the last five to eight years, 76% of Gen Z (born after 1996) said their opinion changed to be positive, while 65% of millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) said the same.

A French historian's view of religion in America.

French historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote "Democracy In America"---about 900 pages of what he saw as he toured America in the early 1800s. 

He was particularly struck by the prominent role the church played in our culture.

He wrote, "Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

From his own experience, he wrote, "European Christianity has allowed itself to be intimately united with the powers of this world. Now that these powers are falling, it is as if it were buried under their ruins."

The European Christian church, in his view, had become conformed to this world, and ultimately was becoming ineffective.

Tocqueville also wrote this in the early 1800s:

“Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of it. Indeed, it is in this same point of view that the inhabitants of the United States themselves look upon religious belief.

“I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion—for who can search the human heart?—but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society.

“In the United States, the sovereign authority is religious...there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth” (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1830).

Jesus: "Who do you say I am?"

“Who do you say I am?” Jesus asked His disciples. The question is recorded in three of the four Gospels. But this question is more complicated than it might seem. Their answer wasn’t just “Jesus.” It was so much more. At some point in all of our lives, we are faced with a similar question. Who do we say Jesus is? A prophet? A moral teacher? A heretic? The Son of God? Who is Jesus?

Jesus poses the question in Matthew 16:13-16, Mark 8:27-29, and Luke 9:18-20. 

In all three accounts, Jesus first asks, “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27) or “Who do the crowds say I am?” (Luke 9:18). 

The disciples answer with, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, [Jeremiah or]* one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:14, Mark 8:28, *Matthew 16:14 only). Or, in Luke 9:19, instead of simply “one of the prophets,” they say, ‘and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:29, and Luke 9:20 then record, "But what about you? Who do you say I am?"

That question has been posed since He was birthed by a virgin in a stable.

Matthew 16:16-18:

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Church of Jesus Christ is built upon the Truth of Peter's profession of faith that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the only begotten Son of God.

Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Faithful. Be Prayerful. Be Blessed.