Gregory Maresca

At a recent Sunday Mass, the parish’s 8th grade confirmation class participated in the Rite of Enrollment into the Book of the Elect. During the induction, the candidates were collectively asked if they were willing to receive the final sacrament of Catholic initiation – confirmation.

Their tepid response runs parallel to a recent Pew Research poll that said more than half of them will leave the faith shortly after high school. It is a crisis of epic proportions, not just for the church, society and our nation, but also for one’s eternal objective.

Pew said Christians make up 65 percent of the U.S. population, which is down from 77 percent from just a decade ago. This remarkable decline cuts across every denomination and every demographic.

The religiously unaffiliated, called “Nones,” have climbed from 17 percent to 26 percent and their number of agnostics and atheists among them have doubled. Democrats lead Republicans in becoming nones: 31 percent to 13 percent. Nones now outnumber Catholics who shrunk from 23 percent to 20 percent.

Protestants dropped from 51 percent to 43 percent, while their largest group, the Southern Baptist Convention, declined for the 12th consecutive year.

Church attendance has also wilted with 48 percent of Baby Boomers and 47 percent of Generation Xers attending at least monthly, a most paltry commitment at best; whereas Millennials show up even less at 35 percent. Moreover, one in ten Millennials identifies with non-Christian faiths, while four in ten are nones.

Church scandals, parental indifference, and feel good homilies that ignore the hard doctrines, all of which malnourish faithful souls thirsting for truth in an increasingly secular world that grows more hostile, has certainly not helped.

As our Judeo-Christian identity fades, its antagonistic shockwaves against God’s Will are felt from sea to shining sea with over 60-million abortions, LGTBQ run amok, nearly half of the nation’s children born out of wedlock, rising drug and suicide rates, and sociopathic mass shootings.

Empty pews are an ominous warning not just for churches, but freedom itself.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s recent address at Notre Dame concurred: “I think we all recognize that over the past 50 years religion has been under increasing attack.” Traditional believers have felt the “force, fervor, and comprehensiveness of the assault.” Barr called it “organized destruction,” a deliberate campaign to destroy the religious foundations of American society and those who resist “risk a figurative burning at the stake — social, educational, and professional ostracism and exclusion waged through lawsuits and savage social-media campaigns.”

In 2014, 69 percent of Americans strongly agreed that “True religious freedom means that all citizens must have freedom of conscience, which means being able to believe and practice the core commitments and values of your faith.”

The latest Barna poll said that number has fallen to 55 percent.

People of faith are becoming countercultural as these polls underscore how macro-morality is replacing Judeo-Christianity’s micro-morality that emphases personal behavior and responsibility.

Religious freedom is becoming a self-serving relic of our nation’s past; the days when it was considered American as apple pie are finished. As we become more secular, Christianity is dismissed as strictly a private concern and to believe that its moral tradition should be interwoven with public policy is politicized as eccentric and irrational. When one’s Christian values contradict and challenge contemporary mores, they are to be maligned as bigoted, biased, and malicious.

A dwindling Christian population doesn’t bode well for America’s future. Our nation’s Founders recognized that a religious-minded people are the foundation of a free society. They understood all too well that a free and limited government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious nation that accepts, acknowledges and adopts a traditional moral order that is always the precursor to any man-made laws.

When a nation rejects God, the results are never promising. Idolatry and immorality in Israel and Judah led to their fall and exile. By refusing to read and heed God’s word, the kings of Israel and Judah led their people into the immorality that ultimately ruined them.  

In contemporary America, secularism will soon replace Christianity where a soulless administrative state will drag us all into a classic Faustian bargain that no one can afford.

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