A Pew study
found the number of Americans who identify as Christians has dropped sharply in the past seven years, but the news isn't all bad, Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary told Newsmax TV
Actual numbers of the most two conservative Christian groups – evangelicals and the traditional black church – have risen over the same period, Land told "Newsmax Prime" host J.D. Hayworth.
The real decline, Land said, is among more liberal "mainline" churches.
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The percentage of evangelicals in the overall population has gone down by .9 percent, but the overall American population has grown, meaning that there are 2 million more people who identify themselves as evangelical Christians today than there were in 2007, Land noted.
The same is true of the historically black church, which declined from 6.9 percent to 6.5 percent, though there was an increase in absolute numbers.
But mainline Protestants continue to implode, Land said, falling from 19 percent to 14 percent of the overall population.
"It's hard to imagine that in 1960, 45 percent of Americans identified with mainline Protestantism and now it's 14 percent," Land said, "which shows you that when you go from the Ten Commandments to the Ten Suggestions, you lose ground."
Christianity is without doubt losing influence on American culture, but it isn't caused by acceptance of same-sex marriage and other issues, Land said.
"I would say the reverse is true," he said. "I would that the declining influence of orthodox Christianity … among American Christians has led to the changing views on same-sex marriage and pre-marital sex, and other things. Those are symptoms of a real heart problem in America."
Pop culture has even influenced members of the church, Land said.
"Frankly, the most practiced religion in America today – it's practiced by a lot of Baptists and a lot of Catholics and a lot of other Protestants as well – is radical individual autonomy: I, myself, and me," he said.
That leads to a decline in the influence of Christianity because people are focused on self and self-gratification.
"Contrary to what Rick Warren said several years ago, you know it's not about you," Land said. "Too many Americans still think it's about them."
But Land is hopeful for the future, saying that major spiritual revivals have happened in the United States, though they generally occur during times of crisis.
The last time it happened in America was in the Great Revival of 1858, which followed the catastrophe of the 1857 depression, he said.
"People were very, very concerned about a real, honest breakup of the nation and a Civil War over slavery," Land said. "In one year, a million people were added to the church rolls in America. One million people out of a population in the north of 26 million. It elected Lincoln, and within five years slavery was gone."
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