In Genesis 18, Abraham asks God to show mercy on the people of Sodom, an evil town God had found worthy of destruction. Abraham apparently is a man with a soft heart, for he doesn’t want to see the innocent in Sodom pay the price for the wicked. He asks God if He will spare Sodom if 50 righteous people can be found. God agrees to do so. Being a courageous negotiator, Abraham delicately ventures to see exactly how low he can get the total number of people to save Sodom. 45 people? God says “Sure.” 40? Yes. 30? Yezzir. 20? No problemo. 10? You betcha.
Abraham surely felt good about the 80 percent discount he just maneuvered for the lives of the people of Sodom. Surely, the city, and Abraham’s nephew, Lot, would be saved! Except there weren’t even ten. Following a disturbing scene of blinded men grasping for doors to commit unspeakable sins, Sodom and Gomorrah were both famously destroyed via fire and brimstone.
Hard Facts about Christianity in America
Now, I am sure there are ten faithful people in America. (Well, I’m pretty sure.) But given the necessary per capita comparison, are there 10 million? Or how about 10 percent? With the decline of the once great Mainline Protestant churches and the prospect of the Roman Catholic Church going rogue on human sexuality, is it possible that the actual number of orthodox Christians could soon be shockingly small?
To be perfectly clear, I am convinced that the Church will always prevail and God’s Kingdom will advance whether or not Christians are in a majority. What I am asking about here is whether Christians have the cultural and political might and the kind of numbers and energy needed to maintain a Christian culture. I am talking about whether Christians will be able to hold sway in the legal and public squares so that at some point, say in the year 2034, a rainbow flag patch-wearing police officer won’t coming knocking on the door with an arrest warrant for hate speech.
Let’s first consider the health and commitment of the average American’s spirituality. I’ll borrow extensively from this site’s 2023 data which quotes at length from Gallop.
20 percent of Americans attend church every week
41 percent of Americans are in monthly church attendance or more
57 percent of Americans are seldom or never in religious service attendance
If I’m honest, that means about 40% of Americans are Christian in any meaningful sense. Going to Church in itself is a pretty small measure of one’s commitments to Christ in easy times. Imagine how many of that 40 percent will stop going when the going literally gets tough?
Okay, but if there are about 330 million Americans, how many are Christian using that 40 percent number? About 132 million. That’s a lot of people, right? Right?! But how many of those 132 million go to orthodox congregations?
Here, the math gets more subjective. I’ll use this wonderful breakdown to try to make a best guess as to how many Americans are really and truly faithful Christians. This website says that:
51 million Americans are Roman Catholic
141 million are Protestant
6 million are Orthodox
So that's 198 million total.
But in the Protestant camp, many significant mainline Protestant denominations have split. When we subtract those who have proven to be unfaithful (using the issue of homosexuality as a barometer), we end up with about 124 million Protestants and 181 million Christians total. (Sorry to my friends still in the United Methodist Church, ELCA, UCC, PCUSA, and Disciples of Christ.)
And I can also say with certainty that these membership numbers are wildly inflated. There is no way the ELCA has 4.1 million members, for example. Likewise, this article states the number of Southern Baptists is not 16 million but 13.2 million. If there is one thing pastors hate to do, it is deflate their membership numbers. After all, how can it be the case that there are 198 million Americans who are in these denominations, while only 132 million Americans even go to church?
While I admit it is impossible to say what the real number is of Christians who believe true things (at least on the important social issues) and go to church, we would be safe to say the number is around 100 million, maybe up to 120 million. That is, if you take the number of people who attend and subtract those who attend unorthodox churches, that’s probably where you land.
Hey, 30-35 percent isn’t bad. Norwegian Christians would love to have that number.
The Fraying of Rome and the Evangelicals
Let us now consider a future where Rome and Catholics in the West declare that homosexuality is actually Biblical and ask whether or not the Evangelicals are really united. Rome did just reverse centuries of teaching on the death penalty, after all. Who says sexuality isn’t next?
If the Roman Catholic Church does indeed change its teaching on human sexuality, what would happen? Perhaps Rome might experience another schism so profound the only comparison would be the Reformation. But as was the case with the issue of justification in the 16th century, reform-minded Catholics would find themselves peeling back so many layers of the onion that they could never achieve reform on the presenting issue.
You would first have to debate legitimate sources of authority (since Tradition gets an equal vote), and then you would hit the feel-good liberal buzzsaw that now portrays Jesus as a blesser of sodomy in the name of “love.” In short, if Rome could not be reformed in the 14th-16th centuries, it won’t be reformed now. A breakaway group is a possibility – a few like the SSPX already exist. But we’re talking a few million of the 51 million Roman Catholics, just as breakaway Protestants numbered in the 20 percent range quite often.
And what of the Evangelicals? What would the grab-bag of unassociated (non-denominational) Evangelicals do? Hard to say. Who could or would organize them? I suspect that many in this camp, unable to even commit to a denomination, are the Americans who call themselves “Christian” on a survey, but essentially refuse to be herded.
They may vote, but the theological commitments are so diverse that getting over disagreements to unite against homosexuality might prove difficult. Once the organizing principle of an organizing principle is rejected, it is almost impossible to, well, organize. One can only imagine the debates. “I don’t care if they are correct about homosexuality, if they are Pr-Trib Dispensationalists they are going straight to hell!”
So where does that leave us, in the event that the Roman Catholic Church does embrace the rainbow flag and even sects like the Mormon Church starts to move in the same direction? If the grab bag of evangelicals really cannot be unified, I can see organized, orthodox Christians being quite a small minority. If you generously halve the number of Roman Catholics in such an event and halve the number of Evangelicals who could be united and organized, we are well under 100 million and well under 30 percent.
A Smaller Remnant Church Lies Ahead
So is the number really something like 75 million and 25 percent? In ten years, shy of some sort of revival, that’s probably an optimistic guess. And in a majority-rule country, when even a vocal minority can affect change as the LGBT lobby has proven time and again, what chance do we have to affect change?
For now, the Constitution is the only real thing protecting the rights of those who dissent from the prevailing cultural narratives. But the modern left does not respect the Constitution and a 5-4 leftist Supreme Court will eviscerate it at the first chance it gets. Christian Conservatives, due to the suicidal nature of leftism (abortion, lack of organization, circular “purity” firing squads, etc.) and the desire of conservatives to actually have children and families, may find themselves a majority once again in the future.
But just by crunching the numbers, practicing, orthodox Christians are already a small percentage of the American landscape. Should Rome and orthodox Catholics disappear from that landscape due to Francis’ leftism, we might rightly conjure images of some future Abraham appealing to a lenient God.
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