Just when everyone thought God was dead, The Creator seems to be making a serious comeback. Although non-believing cultural elites in media, academia, and entertainment may be the loudest voices in the room, a new Pew Research Studyindicates they’re becoming the smallest group in the room. Among it’s findings:
- 73 percent of U.S. adults believe Jesus was born to a virgin.
- 81 percent, the baby Jesus was actually laid in a manger.
- 75 percent, wise men guided by a star brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
- 74 percent, an angel announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds nearby.
The study indicates that 65 percent of Americans believe all four of these elements of the Christmas story, and a mere 14 percent believe none. And just when you thought these numbers reflected the Bible Belt, it turns out that 54 percent of liberals believe in the virgin birth, and for adults with postgraduate degrees, 53 percent affirm the virgin birth of Jesus.
Hollywood apparently saw it coming. For decades producers and studios have bent over backwards to reach out to special interest groups like feminists, the gay community, environmentalists, and others. But simply looking at the numbers, they finally discovered the Christian community is the largest special interest group of all. So while they’ve had some Bible movies hit and miss, they understand the Christian audience isn’t going away soon. In fact, if they’ve learned anything after the productions of Noah and Gods and Kings, they’ve hopefully learned they need to get it right. The more a movie sticks to the Biblical account, the bigger the box office.
So the question becomes, where has Christianity been? Early in the 20th century, the Church embraced motion pictures, radio, then television and now the Internet and social media. But in the vast majority of cases today, they’re not using those platforms to engage the greater culture, but instead living inside a bubble. After all, why tweet, when you can join a Christian alternative to Twitter? And don’t go to eHarmony or Match.com if you’re looking for a mate, use Christian Mingle. From the web, to publishing, to record labels, TV networks, universities and more, the last 50 years have seen a remarkable withdrawal from mainstream culture and a move back to a cloistered, protective bubble.
In all honesty, the Church hasn’t been losing it’s voice, it’s been giving it away. As a result, they’ve lost remarkable influence in the culture. It’s a tragedy, because since the founding of this country, Christianity has been a powerful engine behind social service outreaches, educational institutions, hospitals and more.
So while the majority of the population still professes religious belief, will Christianity ever regain it’s influence in the culture? I believe it can, and there are plenty of signposts:
- Vibrant churches are growing in major urban centers around the United States. From New York City to Chicago, to Los Angeles and Seattle, young pastors who have a passion for their cities find it difficult to locate facilities large enough for the crowds.
- A new generation of talented writers, filmmakers, musicians, and other artists are unapologetic about their faith. As a result, they’re breaking out of traditional “Christian”-branded record labels, film distributors, and publishers, and are finding success with mainstream audiences.
- Episodic television programs like Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’sThe Bible series broke audience records in the United States. Their new series “A.D.” based on the New Testament book of Acts debuts this spring, and a remake of the epic film Ben Hur is in the works.
- The first Ebola cases to be treated on American soil were Dr. Kent Brantly and his assistant Nancy Writebol. Both were fighting the disease in Liberia with the Christian group “Serving in Mission.” Today, massive relief operations like “Mercy Ships,” “The Salvation Army,” and “Medical Ministry International” are all driven by Christian convictions and are making a dramatic difference in the most desperate places on the planet.
Honestly, it shouldn’t be a surprise. When the Iron Curtain fell, we discovered that Communism couldn’t silence the Church, and despite horrific torture and executions by ISIS militants, Christians in that region refuse to recant. So it shouldn’t be shocking that here in the West, for all the criticism and clatter from nonbelievers, or advertising campaigns from atheists, Christianity is actually growing.
In 2015, it will be obvious that Christianity is back. But truthfully, it never left.
Follow Phil Cooke, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/philcooke