Christians often follow a narrative that assumes everything is getting worse. Sermons, books, and movies preach that the End Times are just around the corner, and apocalyptic doom is an immanent unavoidable fact.
Signs of the Armageddon are everywhereand we love to point them out within a secular culture saturated with sex, drugs, and immorality.
Its an easy temptation to evaluate, gauge, and measure the currentand upcomingstate of Christianity within this fearful context. It happens all the time, and when we take the time to reflect on humanity and Christianity in general, the results are usually gloomy.
Each Governmental action, world event, and church culture war is perceived as a sign of the impending annihilation of Christianity. Morality is failing, secularism is rising, and everything seemingly points to a mass rejection of God.
We make the following complaints, warnings, and observations: Christianity has become watered down. People no longer read the Bible. Most of the population doesnt go to church as often. Crime rates are increasing. Porn is everywhere. Clothing is become increasingly racy. Television is more violent. Commercials are more sexual than they used to be. Kids no longer respect their elders. Education is getting worse. The church is superficial. The Gospel is being sacrificed for the sake of accommodating cultural trends.
Its a vicious cycle of complaining endlessly about the sad reality of Christianity and the world around us.
Meanwhile, research and data seemingly reinforce these assumptions: overall church attendance proves that Christianity is weakening, nationwide divorce rates reflect moral decline, and the profane content throughout the media unmistakably shows the depravity of todays young generation.
In short, things have never been worse!
The problem with this type of thinking is that its extremely short-sighted and ethnocentric. While we negatively interpret American culture and Christianity, in other parts of the world theres revival, rapid growth, and inspiring spiritual renewal. For many foreign Christian communities , things have never looked so good and hopeful!
The second problem with this type of fear-mongering is that its backed up with revisionist historical vignettes based on false premises and deceptions: where everyone went to church, everyone remained faithfully married, and everyone was more upright, hardworking, honest, and righteous than people today.
Despite the absurdity of these claims, and the drastically skewed perceptions, we widely accept these accounts as being truetheyre not. Most of this propaganda does more harm than good, and instead of inspiring a sense of hope, peace, and joy, they only manage to portray Christians as cynical pessimists.
Its a favorite Christian pastime for churches, pastors, theologians, and parishioners to lament the moral downfall of modern Christianity and the rest of humanity. Not only does it get our attention, but it creates a convenient scenario where were the persecuted victims, and everyone else is an agent of Satan. Self-righteousness, judgement, and legalism ensues.
But if were honest with ourselves, the past wasnt as great as we think it was, and the present isnt as bad as we assume it is.
Historically, when church attendance rates were near its highest point within the United States, things like slavery, segregation, racism, sexism, and child labor were rampant. Women couldnt vote, corruption was everywhere, violence ruled the land, and people were abused and harshly discriminated against based on race, religion, and cultural differences.
Is todays modern Church that much worse than when Christians actively participated in slavery, segregation, racism, and sexism?
Measuring church attendance, Bible literacy, and the percentage of people believing in Atheism isnt a good way of evaluating the state of Christianity. Faith isnt something that can be quantified using business models and polls.
Variables like righteousness and the Holy Spirit cant be decisively measured using hard data, but we can look for the fruits of the Spiritlove, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.
A case can be made that these wonderful things are far more prevalent now than they ever were in the past.
Yes, modern churches are far from perfect, and many horrific things have been done in the name of God. We still have many major sins and issues to address, and many wrongs that need to be righted.
But the truth is that for all of Christianitys current faultsand there are manythings arent necessarily getting worse. As believers, we need to have hope that God is making things new, better, and restoring the Creation around usredeeming it.
Do we really want to promote a storyline based on fear, guilt, and negativity, where the Gospel revolves around destruction instead of restoration, fear instead of hope, and damnation instead of salvation?
In the end, our hope rests in the promises and faithfulness of Godnot the failures of Christianity.