the pew forum on religion and public life has released part II of its study of america's religious beliefs and practices. (i referenced findings from part I here).
among the findings [quoted from this associated press article] of 35,000 u.s. adults:
America remains a nation of believers, but a new survey
finds most Americans don't feel their religion is the only
way to eternal life — even if their faith tradition teaches
In all, 70 percent of Americans with a religious affiliation
shared that view, and 68 percent said there is more than
one true way to interpret the teachings of their own religion.
Nearly across the board, the majority of religious Americans
believe many religions can lead to eternal life:
mainline Protestants (83 percent), members of historic black
Protestant churches (59 percent), Roman Catholics
(79 percent), Jews (82 percent) and Muslims (56 percent).
By similar margins, people in those faith groups believe in multiple
interpretations of their own traditions' teachings. Yet 44 percent
of the religiously affiliated also said their religion should preserve
its traditional beliefs and practices.
d. michael lindsay sums up these findings quite well by saying:
"The survey shows religion in America is, indeed, 3,000 miles
wide and only three inches deep"
the report has generated among some the notion that the findings may be a
positive indication of a healthy growing "tolerance" in america - a view held
by c. welton gaddy, president of the interfaith alliance who was quoted in the associated press article as saying:
"It shows increased religious security. People are
comfortable with other traditions even if they're
different... It indicates a level of humility about
religion that would be of great benefit to everyone."
i guess i fail to see how being comfortable with other religions is somehow at odds with my caring more about the state and eternal destiny of their soul.
roger s. oldham, vice president for convention relations of the southern baptist convention (and my friend and former pastor) expresses a similar exasperation of the misuse of the idea of "tolerance".
"If by tolerance we mean we're willing to engage or embrace
a multitude of ways to salvation, that's no longer evangelical
belief," he said. "The word 'evangelical' has been stretched so
broadly, it's almost an elastic term."
our culture seems to celebrate being "open" to the possibility that religions other than one's own are just as valid and that more than one claim to religious truth need not be in opposition.
that is utter nonsense. i have written about this before here, here, and here, so for now i will not rehash this absurd redefining of the word "tolerance".
the issue here is the notion of being able to apply one's own meaning to words and labels.
it is not by saying "i am a christian" -whatever that means to the individual that one goes to heaven. it is by faith in alone in christ alone that we are saved. if what we mean when we say "christian" is not what the bible means when it teaches of being a follower of christ, then we are not, in the true and historic sense of the word a christian. but our culture has given us the bravado to redefine and determine meanings of words-to be as inclusive as possible. accept everyone into everything, reject no one from anything (except those who reject your beliefs).
what these reports are making more and more clear is not "new" news. the bible tells us that there will be people who expect that they have found the way to god, but because they did not repent of their sins and believe in the lord jesus christ (and him alone) that they will spend an eternity in hell. (yes.. i said the hell word.. it is real.. it exists. we ought not be ashamed to believe in that which jesus spoke very frequently of).
this notion of america being a "christian nation" has got to go. that label is not true. when overwhelming numbers of people who claim to be christian deny the basic and non-negotiable aspects of christianity we should stop using that label as a badge of honor and instead be broken over it.
the next time we are at a ballgame or gathering where "god bless america" is sung... instead of taking pride in being a "christian nation", perhaps we should be terrified that our nation is rapidly becoming one of the most spiritually lost and confused nations in the world... more corinth than paradise. and rather than sing/pray "god bless america" maybe we should fall to our knees and pray "god, have mercy on and save america".