|Faith, The Difference It Makes
Faith, The Difference It Makes
by Rubel Shelly
Published in LoveLines (Feb. 9, 1994)
America's Faith: Only Lip Service?
Many of us have wondered aloud how a nation so apparently religious as ours can be so morally deficient.
We have more church buildings than any other nation in the world, yet we also have a higher percentage of our citizens incarcerated than any other country. Over 90 percent of us claim to believe in God, yet violent crime has increased 500 percent since 1960. We say Americans are religious people, but we embrace aggressively secular values and lifestyles.
A team of sociologists may have come up with the answer: American faith is mostly lip-service. One member of the research team explained that "most people believe voting or going to church is a good thing to do and, when surveyed, often say they did vote or go to church even when they didn't." The claim is that fully half of the people who say they go to church on Sundays simply aren't telling the truth.
The findings were published in the December 1993 issue of American Sociological Review. It would appear that while religion pervades the national landscape, only a handful take it very seriously.
Another piece of research from the Ray C. Bliss Institute confirms this suspicion. It claims that only about 19 percent of adult Americans regularly practice their religion. Using rather minimal standards to define the "committed," slightly under one-fifth of our people are serious about basing their attitudes and behavior on the tenets of religious faith — whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or any other.
The life situation of serious Christians in today's America is roughly the same as that of their counterparts in the first-century world. Such persons are a minority group. They have limited impact on public policy and public institutions. Therefore it would be a fatal mistake for them to put their hope in such things.
Before you begin to feel too desperate in light of these findings, you need to realize that it has always been this way. The power of righteousness is not in the number of people affirming or embracing it. It has its own internal power, supplied by God. Truth is like light, goodness like salt, and a godly example like leaven.
God's people are called to live with integrity and power in every generation. The impact such persons can have in their world is not limited by minority status but is in direct proportion to their obedience to God. One person with God still makes a majority.
So if you are discouraged about the deepening darkness in our culture, just remember how bright the glow of just one candle's flame looks in such an environment. Wherever you are today is the place where heaven wants to use you as an instrument of holiness.
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