Christianity and the Culture: Does It Matter?

Every so often, one comes across statistical data comparing religious affiliation with other cultural/societal norms.  For example, this morning, while reading an older publication (1998, I think), the statistic was quoted that 94% of Americans believed in God at that time and 74% of Americans were self-described Christians.  Still, crime rates, divorce rates, abortion rates, etc. among those Christians were no different from the rest of the population.

Similarly, a few years ago I was listening a Christian preacher/teacher describing Dallas, TX, the city to which he had just moved.  Dallas, he said, was the most evangelical city in the country in that more people in the metro area were self-proclaimed Christians than in any other American city, per capita.  Nevertheless, he went on, the metrics on Dallas’s social ills were no different than anywhere else.

(Sadly, I don’t have any up-to-the-minute statistics on this stuff.  If you have them, please share.)

Perhaps the simplest definition of a Christian is that she looks like Christ.  Imagine what a society might look like with 74% of them being mini-Jesuses, or, at least, on the way to becoming a mini-Jesus.  How remarkably different might that culture be when placed against another.   And yet, collectively, we don’t appear any different than anyone else.

What do you make of this disparity between potential and reality?  Do you think the potential is legitimate?  Should a Christian resemble Christ?  Should that affect a Christian’s behavior or the culture’s appearance?

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One thought on “Christianity and the Culture: Does It Matter?

  1. Yes, I think the behavior of Christians should improve in a statistically significant way with respect to crime rates etc.

    So where is the failure?

    Is it in the teaching of the Church? There are plenty of screwed up teachings on righteous living (grace-crushing-over-emphasis to let-sin-abound-so-that-grace-abounds), but I think there are enough that get it right that it should show up in the statistics. So, I don’t think teaching can be the sole cause.

    Is it in the statistics? Yes. My view might be skewed because I live in New England, but there’s no way that 74% of the population is a Christian in the way where I would expect a behavior change (i.e. a genuine relationship with Christ). The number is likely small enough compared to 74% that any real behavior change would be lost in the noise. In my high school, for example (the last time I had a decent view of a cross-section of the population), my estimate is that there were less than 1% people with genuine relationships with Jesus. Now I’ll grant, those folk had lived only a fifth of their lives and I know of a number of them who have come to Christ since high school, but even if you quintuple the number, 5% is a lot less than 74%.

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