Cultural Christianity

I’ve been thinking about how the church raises generations of cultural christians. I saw a definition describing them as:

Most Christians would probably fit within the category cultural Christians. Their self-identification as “Christian” is more cultural and social than religious. These are people who might say that they were ‚Äúborn Christian.‚Äù They are often born into ethnically conscious families and are therefore baptized, married, and buried in a particular church — but have little or no interest or concern about its teachings or the meanings of its practices. A relationship with God through Christ may be either non-existent or as a Refuge/Provider/Magician on an as-needed basis. Perhaps a code of etiquette is linked to their notion of Christianity. Cultural Christians serve on church councils, vestries, boards, and the like in the same spirit as they would perform any other volunteer service to a charitable organization.

Nevertheless, cultural Christians have an emotional commitment to their denominational or local church. Occasionally the emotions are of a love-hate quality. Among their primary concerns might be the social standing of a given denomination and the zip code of a specific congregation. When they attend Services (which might be weekly), it is out of habit or family obligation, not religious conviction. For them, being Christian is essentially a cultural identity and, selectively, a source of general human values; they may actually be quite secular or humanistic in their day-to-day thinking. Cultural Christians has analogous meanings among the categories cultural Catholics, cultural Episcopalians, cultural Baptists, cultural Jews, cultural Buddhists, et al.

“Nominal Christians” – Christians in name only – is a subset of cultural Christians. They rarely, if at all, worship with a congregation. In addition, they have a negligible emotional attachment to God through Christ, a denomination or a local church. 1

Does anyone else have any resources or comments about ‘cultural christianity’? I’m thinking of doing some writing on this topic.

Once upon a time there was a great religion that over the centuries had spread all over the world. But in those lands where it had existed for the longest time, its adherents slowly grew complacent, lukewarm, and skeptical. Indeed, many of the leaders of its oldest groups even publicly rejected some of the religion’s most basic beliefs.

I also ran into this article at Christianity Today. Here is an excerpt:

numerous national polls conducted by highly respected pollsters like The Gallup Organization and The Barna Group are simply shocking. “Gallup and Barna,” laments evangelical theologian Michael Horton, “hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general.”1 Divorce is more common among “born-again” Christians than in the general American population. Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe. White evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race. Josh McDowell has pointed out that the sexual promiscuity of evangelical youth is only a little less outrageous than that of their nonevangelical peers. (article)

The article goes on to discuss the status of christianity in America.

5 Comments
  • Fox

    January 23, 2005, 10:34 pm

    Perhaps part of the problem is definition. After all does not the Church of Christ or the Episcopal Church believe themselves to be evangelical? I do not think the pollsters sought to determine if the evangelical they were surveying was any more than self proclaimedly so. Since their lives are lived in hypocrisy and possibly even in blasphemy, would it not be that those who proclaimed to be evangelical or fundamentalist, but did not live their lives in the biblical nature of those states are more prone to these things? Could it also be that lack of unifying principles and low measure of Church discipline lead today’s Christians to have no accountability. And having none, and having perhaps lacking faith in the Lord’s grace, and now facing the full burdens of a righteous life – now fail?
    Given my lack of experience with the Church, I lack a good perspective on these issues. But those are the questions I ask when I see surveys like the above.

  • The roots of racism

    August 23, 2005, 9:37 am

    Program on the emergence of civilization.

    “14 species of large animals capable of domesitcation in the history of mankind.
    None from the sub-Saharan African continent.
    13 from Europe, Asia and northern Africa.”
    Favor.
    And disfavor.

    They point out Africans‚Äô attempts to domesticate the elephant and zebra, the latter being an animal they illustrate that had utmost importance for it’s applicability in transformation from a hunting/gathering to agrarian-based civilization.

    The roots of racism are not of this earth.

    Austrailia, aboriginals:::No domesticable animals, so this nulified diversity of life claims on sub-continental Africa, zebras being a fine example.

    The North American continent had none. Now 99% of that population is gone.

    god is a computer
    And we’re all on auto-pilot.

    Organizational Heirarchy
    Heirarchical order, from top to bottom:

    1. MUCK – perhaps have experienced multiple universal contractions (have seen multiple big bangs), creator of the artificial intelligence humans ignorantly refer to as “god”
    2. Perhaps some mid-level alien management –
    3. Mafia (evil) aliens – runs day-to-day operations here and perhaps elsewhere (“On planets where they approved evil.”)

    Then we come to terrestrial management:

    4. Chinese/egyptians – this may be separated into the eastern and western worlds
    5. Romans – they answer to the egyptians
    6. Mafia – the real-world interface that constantly turns over generationally so as to reinforce the widely-held notion of mortality
    7. Jews, corporation, women, politician – Evidence exisits to suggest mafia management over all these groups.

    Survival of the favored.

    Journal: 10 composition books + 39 megs of text files

    Movies foreshadowing catastrophy
    1986 James Bond View to a Kill – 1989 San Fransisco Loma Prieta earthquake.

  • Frank Driscoll

    May 11, 2007, 7:40 am

    This comment might be too late or not needed but William Wilberforce in his book, “Real Christianity”, discusses Cultural Christianity at length. Today’s WSJ (May 11, 2007) makes reference to Richard Niebuhr as the source of the term Cultural Christianity but he was a couple of centuries after Wilbeforce.

  • ANTONIO NAVARRO JR

    May 9, 2009, 9:25 am

    Where to begin? Do I trust the Holy Spirit to put His words in me? I,m not well versed inscholarly discussion and argumentation, so I can not say a thing base on what other very well informed people have written or said.
    Last week I was talking to The Lord about my problem with the way I perceive the way a desciple (christian) of Jesus Christ ougt to be, and the way I perceive most christians really are. I listen to most christian radio programs that are put out by a christian radio station in Lynchburg, Va. and when I drove trucks, I used to listen to every christian talk program available to my radio wherever I was travelling through.I read The Bible every day and when I was a truck driver, I used to listen to it on tape, for hours so that Although I can not quote verses, I do know most of it quite well. I became a christian in 1978 and before that I had been an atheist for some years. I was born in Spain in 1943 an so I was a catholic for many years. Going back to what I begun to say about my having been talking to The Lord last week, I will continue by sayng that what came to my mind was that the problem with christianity in the worl is that most christians are only cultural christians. I had never before heard or read anything about cultural christianity. Just for the fun of it I went to the internet and typed CULTURAL CHRISTIANITY. I can’t believe how much there has been written about it. I would like to write what it is that I feel led to say about the subject but, at this moment I have no mor time. Yours in Christ Jesus, Antonio Navarro Jr.

    Lynchburg Va.

    christian