The most popular religion in America

From John Ortberg…

What do you think is the number one most popular religion in America?
I’ll give you a hint: its not Christianity.
Its also not Islam, Judiasm, Buddhism, Taoism, or the Home Shopping Network.
According to Christian Smith, a sociologist at Notre Dame, the primary expression of faith in our day–at least for young adults–is what he calls “Moral Therapeutic Deism.”

This religion is characterized by five beliefs:
* There is a God who created earth and watches over it
* God wants people to be nice, fair and good (as it taught in the Bible and most other religions)
* The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about yourself
* God doesn’t need to be involved in your life except when there’s a problem that needs Celestial Performance Enhancement
* Good people go to heaven when they die.

This is a religion that is far more about comfort, individualism and conformity that it is about meaning, calling, and sacrifice. What makes it particularly challenging is that it is not offered through a new MTD movement or denomination. It is actually catching on and being practiced in churches where we leaders think of ourselves as historically Christian.
It cannot sustain a life.
It cannot build a community.
It cannot call people to take up a cross.
We want something more.

One other piece of bad news has to do with where young adults learn MTD.
I’ll give you a hint. Its mostly from older adults. These are themes that have captured our culture in such deep ways that we’re hardly aware of them.

The good news is that God is much bigger than Moral Therapeutic Deism. He has a way of showing us what we idolize.

–when someone goes through a crisis or pain;
–when someone is inspired to devote their life to a cause greater than themselves;
–when someone is called to sacrifice their own comfort or success for a hurting world;
–when someone engages in the intense study of the God revealed by the writers of the Scriptures;
–when someone grows bored with a faith that is nice and comfortable and distant–

then God is once more breaking through.
MTD is just one more on a long list of idols.
But, somewhere deep down, the human heart keeps hungering for the real deal.

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3 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Faith

3 responses to “The most popular religion in America

  1. I like John Ortberg’s books. His “If you want to walk on water ….” is one of my favourites.

    I’ve never put a name to it before but I agree that MTD is rife. In reality these people are creating their own god because their god has nothing in common with the living God.

    One of the biggest problems I find with these people is that they are about the hardest to reach. They have fixed ideas of god and eternity – wrong ideas but hard to penetrate ideas. All we can do is to talk of Christ and Him crucified – and live a victorious life before them.

    • John Ortberg is one of my favorites but I’ve not read the particular book you mention.

      I agree that it’s hard to reach those stuck in MTD because it seems to represent God while all the time allowing the focus to be on us; a deadly combination!

  2. “If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat” is a challenge to get out of our comfort zone – and to experience God’s best. I recommend it.

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