Committed Christians Are Now a Minority — And Your Kids Need to Know It

By Natasha Crain Published on September 15, 2018

I grew up in a smallish town in Arizona (about 25,000 people at the time). Almost everyone I knew fit into one of four buckets: 1) committed Christians, 2) nominal Christians, 3) those who didn’t call themselves Christians but accepted “Judeo-Christian” values, and 4) Mormons.

In my view of the world at the time, believing in God — and being a Christian specifically — was the default for most people. There were certainly a few kids who fell into other buckets (atheist or New Age). But they were the exception; there was something different about them.

My beliefs were “normal.”

Oh, how things have changed.

According to Pew Forum research on the religious landscape of America, Christians statistically are still the majority. But those statistics are highly misleading because religious categorization is based on self-identification, and the “Christian” category includes a wide range of beliefs and commitment levels.

The Pew Forum, however, just released an eye-opening new method of categorizing America’s religious beliefs, and it reveals a more realistic picture:

  • Less than 40 percent of Americans are “highly religious” (seriously committed to their faith; this includes non-Christian religions such as Judaism and Islam).
  • About a quarter of the “highly religious” are what researchers call “diversely devout,” meaning they mostly believe in the God of the Bible but hold all kinds of views inconsistent with Christianity, such as reincarnation.

From the publicly available data, I don’t see a way to break down the remaining 30 percent of highly religious people into those who hold beliefs consistent with historic Christianity. So for our current purpose, we’ll just have to say that committed Christians represent some portion of that 30 percent.

In other words, a minority.

Not Like the World We Grew Up In

I’ve noticed lately that my subconscious assumption that this has become the case has had a number of implications for how I talk with my kids. For example, some phrases that have worked their way into our daily conversations are “the world tells us,” or “the world would like us to think,” or “the way the world is.” In other words, I find myself constantly placing an emphasis on making sure my kids know that what they are learning to be true about reality is literally opposite of what the world around them — the majority — believes.

This is so different than how I — and many of you — grew up. We were part of a pack. We moved along without having to think much about our beliefs versus those of “the world.” Our parents didn’t have to coach us on why we were so very different — because we weren’t very different. Sure, there were probably some great differences between our homes in how prominently faith actually played out. But we didn’t readily see that on the playground. We didn’t have social media to make the differences abundantly clear. We didn’t have the internet to give us access to the many who are hostile toward our beliefs.

In a world where your beliefs will constantly rub up against opposing views, however, children need parents who will give it to them straight:

Our entire view of reality is unlike the view most others have. We. Are. Different. And that will affect your life in profound ways.

Spiritual Readiness Logo - 400I don’t say this merely to suggest this as a conversation we should have with our kids at some point. I say this believing it’s a critical part of how we approach our parenting every single day.

It has to become a way of life.

Here’s why. When you raise your kids to understand they have a minority worldview, it does three important things:

1. It sets expectations.

This is, perhaps, the most important function of all.

If kids expect that their views will be like those of others, they will be shocked when they consistently see how different they actually are.

If kids expect that holding a minority worldview won’t result in sometimes being treated poorly by others, they will be wounded by what they weren’t prepared for.

If kids expect that divergent worldviews won’t lead to heated debates about how our society should best function, they will be frustrated by lack of agreement between Christians and nonbelievers.

But when we help them understand that their worldview will clash frequently with the world around them, they will begin to have very different expectations. That, in turn, will lead to healthier outcomes.

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They will expect to be different, and not be surprised when they don’t fit in.

They will expect that the world will hate them for their beliefs, and understand that has always been part of what it means to be a Christian (John 15:18).

They will expect that divergent worldviews will often affect their relationships with others, and be motivated to learn how to navigate those differences with both truth and love.

Action point: Find ways to regularly compare and contrast what others believe and what Christians believe. Make sure your kids understand how different their beliefs are, and, importantly, the implications of that. Make sure they see its effect on how we see where we came from, why we’re here, how to live while we’re here and where we’re going. It’s no small matter.

You can point this out in movies, song lyrics, news stories, things that friends say, things that other parents say, signs you see, billboards, messages on clothing and much more.

2. It allows us to emphasize that different isn’t (necessarily) wrong.

Humans have a tendency to assume that there is truth in numbers. My twins are in fourth grade and are getting to the age where they notice what their peers do a lot more. They tell me, for example, that everyone else has their own phone, that everyone else gets to go to sleepovers and that everyone else plays Fortnite. They assume that if the majority gets to do something, then that must be what’s right.

Similarly, when kids eventually see that most people believe something very different about reality than what they do, it’s natural to wonder if their minority view must be wrong. Here’s the conversation we should be having with our kids from the time they are very little: Different doesn’t mean wrong.

It doesn’t necessarily mean right, either.

The question we must plant firmly in our kids’ hearts and minds is, What is true? The truth about reality isn’t a popularity contest. It’s a question of which worldview is the best explanation for the world around us.

These books should be required reading for every kid in this age range.

Action point: Find ways to regularly compare and contrast why others believe what they do and why Christians believe what we do. If we don’t want our kids to assume that different is wrong, they need good reasons to believe that their different view is right. They need to hear regularly from their parents that Christianity is a worldview based on evidence, and that faith is not blind.

If you have kids in the 8-12 range, J. Warner Wallace has three kids books that are amazing for helping them start to think evidentially about their faith: Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God’s Crime Scene for Kids and Forensic Faith for Kids (this one JUST came out this month and is a perfect place to start). Even if your kids are a little younger, they can benefit tremendously from reading these with you. My 7-year-old is reading Forensic Faith for Kids and is super excited about doing the corresponding worksheets and watching the videos available for free at Honestly, these books should be required reading for every kid in this age range.

3. It fosters worldview vigilance.

It’s our job to help our kids swim faithfully against the tide.

Talking regularly about “the world” versus Christianity leads kids to keep their worldview radar up. Because they expect to constantly see ideas that clash with the Christian worldview, they become vigilant about sorting everything they see into “consistent with Christianity” or “inconsistent with Christianity.”

This is extraordinarily important today, as kids so often quietly absorb secular views into their thinking without even realizing it. But the more they know that most of what they will see and hear will not fit with Christianity, the more they learn to vigilantly separate Christian ideas from others.

Action point: Encourage your kids to spot the “secular wisdom” all around them. Examples are everywhere, but they are, of course, never marked with worldview labels. The more you point out examples, the more kids learn to think critically. When this becomes a habit in your family, your kids will see it on their own and show you examples.

Good Teaching Makes a Real Difference

We were at a store the other day and my 9-year-old son came around the aisle carrying this sign:

Love sign

He looked at me with a big, disappointed sigh and said, “Mommy. Look. Love is all you need.”

He recognized this as bad “secular wisdom” as soon as he saw it. I asked him to explain what was wrong with it, and he said, “There’s no moral setting.” As I pushed him to explain what he meant, he said there’s no context for making this statement. If God doesn’t exist, then what love means is just a matter of personal opinion — and no one has the authority to state that anything is all you need. I concurred and (gently) hit him on the head, saying, “I could claim that love means hitting people on the head in that case!”

But if God exists, then He defines what love is. When we follow the greatest commandment — to love God — it informs what it means to follow the second great commandment — to love others. It’s no longer up to us to define the word. This sign means nothing outside of a worldview context — a “moral setting” as my son put it.

It’s clear that being a Christian (or even holding Christian values) is no longer the default. Whether we like it or not, it’s the reality of the world in which we’re parenting. It’s our job to help our kids swim faithfully against the tide so they can be constantly aware of the waves around them and know how to respond.

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  • Nick Stuart

    Refreshing to see a piece on a Christian website with actionable & specific ideas about what a parent can actually do.

    The author puts it on the parents, which is where the primary responsibility for children’s Christian formation falls.

    Good as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go the distance it needs to.

    Christian parents, it’s way past time to get your children out of the public school system. This is an extremely urgent matter bearing not only on the child’s worldview and Christian formation, but their physical safety and even their basic education.

    Rather than relitigate the arguments pro-and-con Christian children in the public schools, I’m going to categorically state a proposition:

    You cannot place children for 13 years under the tutelage of a system whose foundational worldview is atheistic materialism, whose creation myth is mechanistic Darwinian evolution, whose sacraments are safe sex and abortion on demand, where marriage and family are whatever combination of people seems right to the people involved, where basic biological differences between male and female are denied, and expect that those children’s spiritual condition will not be adversely affected.

    • Qnon

      I was and I stayed devote. Kids need to learn they arguements that non believers will use. I became more devote then my parents. .

  • tz1

    1. Homeschool or watch your kid’s souls die as they are required to read “Heather has two mommies”.
    2. Move to an area of the country that isn’t rabidly pagan.
    “Come out from among them!”. “But the weather here is nicer and there are more opportunities!”.

    • Andrew Mason

      Independent schooling may also be an option. I agree that public education is rarely an acceptable alternative though.

  • Dave

    There are still bubbles in this country where we can go. Who was that preacher who moved his congregation to a small town in Montana? He ran for president about ten years ago? I forgot his name. But there are pockets where you can relocate to if you want that Father Knows Best type of upbringing for your kids.

  • Trilemma

    I thought committed Christians had always been a minority.

    • The weak always fall do subversives I suppose. More weak than anything else.

    • Andrew Mason

      There’s a difference between Christ followers being a minority in a culture that is essentially Christian, and a minority in a culture that is essentially Christ rejecting.

  • Kevin Vail

    Human beings are naturally religious. We cannot escape it. it’s essential to the way our mind works.
    Christianity had a good run, did a lot of good but it’s symbols are meaningless to most people at this point. It has little power. It’s time to move on.
    Europeans probably cannot “create” some new religion to take it’s place, that sort of thing just seems to happen at a social level over time but it will happen and is happening. We see the evidence all over the place. Marxism was an attempt to create a religion by will and reason, it didn’t work out too well obviously.

    • Ken Abbott

      Seems as though you think Christianity is just one among many man-made religions, no more real than any other.

      • Kevin Vail

        It depends on what you mean by “man-made”
        The processes that create religious thought are social and mostly sub-rational. We do it before we can articulate it. The breakthrough into conscious theology is a last stage of the process, when we begin to be able to articulate what we are already doing.
        When we try to “create” religions as a conscious process you get ideology, crippled religions.

        • Ken Abbott

          That the specific truth-claims of Christianity are not, in fact, of divine origin but the uninspired thoughts of human beings thinking “religiously.” That God has not, in these last days, spoken to us by his Son, Jesus Christ, and that he did not appoint him heir of all things, and that he did not make the universe through him. That Jesus Christ was not, in fact, who he claimed to be and has not risen from the dead; consequently, those of us who hope in him are to be pitied more than all men, for we are still in our sins.

          • Kevin Vail

            I wanted to believe those things. I tried really hard for a couple of decades, I can’t. It just doesn’t work. As I said, the symbols have no power, they don’t fascinate, it was just a word game.

          • Ken Abbott

            For over four decades, I have been convinced that these symbols–signs–point to the greater reality, what C. S. Lewis called “true myth”–that in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus legend became fact, that God really entered human history and turned old stories into actuality.

          • Kevin Vail

            I read Lewis with great interest, I still enjoy his work a great deal. I learned more reading him than the dressed up leftism in the RCIA program I was in 20 years ago. His diatribe at the end of Perelandra, from the mouths of cosmic Ares and Venus is among the most beautiful things I’ve ever read.
            But let’s look at that word “convinced”. What does that mean exactly? It’s what I’m talking about, how does one become “convinced”? I’m convinced it’s more than just a rational weighing of the evidence, most people simply do not think that way. So there’s something more than rationality at work here. We can express it poetically but not scientifically.

          • All is intelligible. Also you mention pragmatism elsewhere, which was the belief that reality is to be ignored and you accept only things that support your ego and twist or discard the things that don’t support your ego. Explains perfectly your tactic when dealing with the Church.

            So it seems that you have taken your pragmatism to the next step of self-destruction, which is unreason. This is what Chesterton called “thought that commits suicide” as neitzche was diseased with

          • No, you wanted to believe your ego was a “god” like neitzche promised you. Clearly it doesn’t work and now you spend every second of your life trying to rationalize away Christ.

            No, you were really driven to your state by shame over sin. Now you fixate on novelty and “deconstruction” in the hopes that makes God go away.

            Chesterton talked about this:

            “Of course it is not only of the materialist that all this is true. The same would apply to the other extreme of speculative logic. There is a sceptic far more terrible than he who believes that everything began in matter. It is possible to meet the sceptic who believes that everything began in himself. He doubts not the existence of angels or devils, but the existence of men and cows. For him his own friends are a mythology made up by himself. He created his own father and his own mother. This horrible fancy has in it something decidedly attractive to the somewhat mystical egoism of our day.

            That publisher who thought that men would get on if they believed in themselves, those seekers after the superman who are always looking for him in the looking-glass, those writers who talk about impressing their personalities instead of creating life for the world, all these people have really only an inch between them and this awful emptiness. Then when this kindly world all round the man has been blackened out like a lie; when friends fade into ghosts, and the foundations of the world fail; then when the man, believing in nothing and in no man, is alone in his own nightmare, then the great individualistic motto shall be written over him in avenging irony. The stars will be only dots in the blackness of his own brain; his mother’s face will be only a sketch from his own insane pencil on the walls of his cell. But over his cell shall be written, with dreadful truth, ‘He believes in himself.'”

          • Kevin Vail

            Nothing left to say I guess, you got me all figured out.

          • Thank you.

          • Kathy

            Kevin is openly genuinely seeking and asking for help with his doubts and you immediately pounce on him. At least he is honest and isn’t hiding behind a mask. I admire that. Shame on you!

          • I assume you admire much you think goes against people who disagree with you

          • Kevin Vail

            Your an idiot, can’t even recognize sarcasm.

          • It was the only honest thing you had said.

            What precisely do I say that is incorrectV

          • Kevin Vail

            To engage with you beyond what I already have would lend an air of credibility to your scribblings. I say only get a therapist and re-think your life.

          • So I must be censored for challenging your ego? Have you always been a marxist to go along with your nihilism?

          • David N. Gray

            (re: “… I tried really hard … It just doesn’t work. …”)
            That sounds sad. I don’t know enough about your experience to make any judgement about it, but your words here are suggestive of people who study the external forms of religion without ever actually encountering God, thereby missing the whole point of it all. The power is in the Spirit, not in symbols.

          • Kevin Vail

            But why people, including myself, can do this is the point. Why don’t we “encounter God”? That’s the whole point here. It’s an easy out to just say, “he didn’t receive the spirit”, or, more devilishly, “he’s not regenerate”.
            These are easy outs. Protestants say people who believe are regenerate, born again or whatever term is used and those that struggle are not? Nice little circular reasoning there.
            Catholics might say, “he’s not faithful” or “he’s not committed” like this author does, moving the onus of responsibility to the believer, I just have to try harder right?
            It seems evident to me that this situation is wide spread among even those that call themselves Christian. I finally chose to quit trying to fool myself and others and admit I just didn’t “get it” despite decades of throwing myself into ritual, theology and community. I “put on the clothes” of a Christian, confessed all the right things. I could easily teach theology or catechesis classes, I know that stuff backwards and forwards, far better than most people I met. I chose communities where theological knowledge was high and we had in-depth discussions, bible studies, catechetical studies all the time, often I led or co-led them. Prayed daily (most of the time), read through the bible every year, attended mass regularly… &c. I even tried Protestantism for a while because the community at my catholic parish was seriously lacking outside structured activities like the classes or masses.

          • So it seems you care for nothing about the Faith except for the novelty. Hoping for a group of suburban people would make you feel better about your deep shame over sin with distractions like bake sales instead of reminding you to repent.

            It is on you. you have free will, you rejected God chasing after mere feelings, and were made reprobate. God will not stop you from damning yourself, you have to prove yourself worthy, God does not have to prove himself to you.

            Judging the Church by fellow reprobates and heretics is a strange move. Clearly ordered to rationalization.

            The Church is indefectible, you are not. you are trying to make the Church out to be sinful like you are in the hopes that means you can project your sinfulness on the Church in the hopes that absolves you. It does not, but that is what is called projection caused by the mortal sin of despair. It is you who is not trustworthy, proven by your hatred as a childish means to ignore, but also by your total ignorance of who you are and what the Church is. If you really were what you claimed to be, then you would know he Church as she actually is, rather than a strawman you use to cover up your own faults so your ego that has no right to exist cannot challenge itself.

            This Venerable Fulton Sheen quote is for you:

            A dogma, then, is the necessary consequence of the intolerance of first principles, and that science or that church which has the greatest amount of dogmas is the science or the church that has been doing the most thinking. The Catholic Church, the schoolmaster for twenty centuries, has been doing a tremendous amount of solid, hard thinking and hence has built up dogmas as a man might build a house of brick but grounded on a rock. She has seen the centuries with their passing enthusiasms and momentary loyalties pass before her, making the same mistakes, cultivating the same poses, falling into the same mental snares, so that she has become very patient and kind to the erring pupils, but very intolerant and severe concerning the false. She has been and she will always be intolerant so far as the rights of God are concerned, for heresy, error, untruth, affect not personal matters on which she may yield, but a Divine Right in which there is no yielding. Meek she is to the erring, but violent to the error. The truth is divine; the heretic is human. Due reparation made, she will admit the heretic back into the treasury of her souls, but never the heresy into the treasury of her wisdom. Right is right if nobody is right, and wrong is wrong if everybody is wrong. And in this day and age we need, as Mr. Chesterton tells us, ʺnot a Church that is right when the world is right, but a Church that is right when the world is wrong.ʺ

            you are wrong, but your ego will not let you admit you are wrong because of your capital sin of pride; so you lash out and sink deeper into a pit. Therefore this malady you have is the mortal sin of despair, which cannot recognize itself.

          • David N. Gray

            From your recent comments, I’m now getting the impression that by “God” you mean simply a conceptual and motivational idea inside our own minds, not an external reality with independent volition. If so, then we’re really not talking about the same thing.

          • Kevin Vail

            A fair point, but how do you know that external reality? I think you would have to know it using the same body and mind that you use to know everything else and that perception has a structure that’s knowable and limited
            . An infinite God has to make Himself known through your very finite perceptions, that’s a problem obviously.

          • David N. Gray

            Hmm, it seems now that you are arguing yourself out of the very possibility of what you started by saying that you had been seeking. You’ve got your mind tied in quite a knot there. Seems like you’re over-thinking this. (ref Mark 10:15)

          • Kevin Vail

            Another layer of the problem would be you don’t know God through direct sense perception. You have two options here, either some sort of mystical experience, which is not common or through stories about God which are told by others. Even Christians don’t say the Bible is dictated by God. It’s told by human authors with human modes of expression, ie language. Language is a human creation, therefore limited in what it can express. It has to be a language you understand. Each word and phrase has a range of meanings, they are symbols or signs if prefer that point to something in the world that you can grasp. So we arrive at the starting point of the symbols used by humans to communicate experiences.

        • Ah, so you are a man who thinks denying God will apotheosize you. Do you have any idea what nietzche actually got? It wasn’t his desired ascendency, so what was it?

    • If the Churchbhas little power, why do you fear it? Is this your attempt at “gnosis?” Trying to plead it away and hopes that bends reality to your will?

      For a self-deified man, you certainly rule weakly.

    • Andrew Mason

      Why are humans naturally religious? It makes sense if humans were designed to be in a relationship with God, but if not why the feature?

      What do you consider Christian symbols, and why dodid they have power? You assume of course that your concept of power equates with God’s concept of power. Note too that while Christianity may not be growing as a proportion of the population in the West, it is doing so despite persecution in the East.

      Why assume that any ‘new religion’ concocted by Europeans will be better than Christianity? If all religion is a lie then wouldn’t some sort of Atheism – a religion without a supernatural component, make the most sense from a religious perspective? Of course such a religion is unlikely to be especially healthy given the 20th century death toll but perhaps something nihilistic would suit given current Western thinking?

      • Kevin Vail

        1) The answer to this question is very complicated and partially unknown. We know the fact of the natural religiousness of man but the origins of that religiousness is a debatable question. Yours is a viable theory and one I held for a long time. It would be the theory of classical Catholic theology like Augustine and Aquinas.
        Yes, I’ve studied Christian theology in great depth for at least 20 years. I was an orthodox Catholic, I hold a Masters in pastoral psychotherapy and went to seminary

        2) What I mean by “power” is the ability of symbols to fascinate the individual, something called numinousity by some. There’s a old book by Rudolph Otto, late 19th century I think, maybe early 20th, “The Idea of the Holy”. This has been a topic of many investigations over the years but that’s a major source for the idea. It’s a cornerstone of Jungian psychology as well, but he got it, in part from Otto.
        More modern investigations look at evolutionary biology and the social psychology of groups as well as the structures of consciousness. Some sources would include Carl Jung, Jean Claude Piaget, Erik Voegelin, Anna Marie Rizzuto. Most recently Jordan Peterson is presently this case best. He can be kind of hard to follow because he’s such a polymath, he’s really drawing from a vast number of sources and consolidating their thinking, not always perfectly of course but he is a good teacher.

        3) I don’t assume anything of the kind. Religions develop naturally over centuries, largely in the unconscious, the break out into conscious experience for individuals and groups occurs for reasons that are not entirely clear. How did the classical pagan world become Christian over 3 centuries? Hard question to answer, partially it would be the result of the spread of Hellenized Judaism and the fascination the Romans had with Eastern mystery traditions.
        There were a vast number of Contrived “religions” are ideologies, like Marxism or National Socialism. They tend to be VERY bad as you point out because they are “crippled religions”. They possess, in part, that power to fascinate but they are artificial. They suffer greatly from the idea of unintended consequences. People and society really are very complicated and an ideology that reduces that complexity to a few simple principles is bound to be wrong and probably destructive.
        It’s really helpful if we look at ideologies and philosophies from the perspective of this ability to fascinate the individual, it’s made a lot of things much more clear for me. Liberalism is a religion, Marxism is a religion, Nazi’ism is a religion, &c.

      • Kevin Vail

        Here’s a paragraph from Jung, neatly summarizes part of the discussion

        Where do these mythological fantasies come from, if they do not spring from the personal unconscious and hence from the experiences of personal life? Indubitably they come from the brain— indeed, precisely from the brain and not from personal memory-traces, but from the inherited brain-structure itself. Such fantasies always have a highly original and “creative” character. They are like new creations; obviously they derive from the creative activity of the brain and not simply from its mnemonic activity. We receive along with our body a highly differentiated brain which brings with it its entire history, and when it becomes creative it creates out of this history— out of the history of mankind. By “history” we usually mean the history which we “make,” and we call this “objective history.” The truly creative fantasy activity of the brain has nothing to do with this kind of history, but solely with that age-old natural history which has been transmitted in living form since the remotest times, namely, the history of the brain-structure. And this structure tells its own story, which is the story of mankind: the unending myth of death and rebirth, and of the multitudinous figures who weave in and out of this mystery.

        Jung, C. G.. The Collected Works of C.G. Jung: Complete Digital Edition (Kindle Locations 125825-125834). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

        • Ah, so you like jung because he helps create a delusion of self-creation and “gnosis” in your head where you believe you will sneer away reality as long as it does not conform with your ego. For aiding in that delusion, you divinize poor jung as much as you try to rationalize away God to make your shame over sin go away.

          Did I send you the quote from Chesteron’s “The Maniac” yesterday? It describes you perfectly so I must have. I think I should post it again (at least half of it):

          “That publisher who thought that men would get on if they believed in themselves, those seekers after the superman who are always looking for him in the looking-glass, those writers who talk about impressing their personalities instead of creating life for the world, all these people have really only an inch between them and this awful emptiness. Then when this kindly world all round the man has been blackened out like a lie; when friends fade into ghosts, and the foundations of the world fail; then when the man, believing in nothing and in no man, is alone in his own nightmare, then the great individualistic motto shall be written over him in avenging irony. The stars will be only dots in the blackness of his own brain; his mother’s face will be only a sketch from his own insane pencil on the walls of his cell. But over his cell shall be written, with dreadful truth, ‘He believes in himself.'”

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