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Will 'Casual Christians' Decide This Election?

Dr. Karen Gushta | Truth in Action Ministries | Sunday, November 4, 2012

Will 'Casual Christians' Decide This Election?

At Truth in Action Ministries we regularly pray for our ministry partners, and they send us prayer requests through various channels.

Recently we received the following request for prayer — and if the person who wrote it reads this article, please know that we did pray for you and your family. Perhaps some who read this will also pray for your family.

Our whole family needs prayer. Over the years we have become lax and our children think they can “live like the devil” and still go to heaven, also our grandchildren. We didn’t teach that; but we were not “bad,” but not really good Christians — so it goes. We really need a lot of prayer for all of us. Thank you.

I was moved by this request and the heartbreak in this grandparent’s words. Reading it, I also thought of how many families in America might well write the same thing.

How many families across America are just now awakening to the consequences of “living like the devil” even as they assumed that because they claimed the label “Christian” that they were going to heaven?

There is a lot of evidence that while a high percentage of Americans claims to be Christian, their worldview is a mish-mash of secular humanism mixed with political correctness and the gospel, according to CNN.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that the chief end of man is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” How does that square with “living like the devil”? Rather than living like the devil, shouldn’t we glorify God by destroying the works of the devil — just as Jesus came to do! (See 1 John 3:8.)

In a revealing bit of research done several years back, the Barna Group identified six key faith groups (or “tribes,” as they called them) in America. The actual percentages of these groups are worth noting: Jews, 2 percent; Mormons, 2 percent; pantheists, 2 percent; Muslims, one-half of 1 percent; skeptics, 11 percent; and Christians, 82 percent.

In spite of their small numbers, each of these groups is having a significant impact in the public square and on American culture today. It seems that only the Christian influence in morality and government ethics and policy is waning. Why is this the case when there is such a large majority of Christians?

I think there’s some additional information in this same study that will help to explain. When they looked more closely at Christians, the Barna Group found an interesting divide within the group. The majority (66 percent) they classified as “casual Christians.” The remaining 16 percent they called “captive Christians.”

What’s the difference?

"Captive Christians" are described as those who “are defined by their faith” and “their worldview is built around their core spiritual beliefs and resultant values.” Casual Christians, on the other hand, are “spiritually middle-of-the-road, perhaps even ambivalent about their faith.” This group includes “minimally active born again Christians and moderately active but theologically nominal Christians.” 

According to Barna’s research, casual Christians practice their faith in “moderation.” They like to “feel religious without having to prioritize their faith.” They want to keep it as “a low-risk, predictable proposition.” The concept of a “cost of discipleship” in the Christian walk is foreign to them. They want “a faith perspective that is not demanding.”

A Casual Christian can be all the things that they esteem: a nice human being, a family person, religious, an exemplary citizen, a reliable employee — and never have to publicly defend or represent difficult moral or social positions or even lose much sleep over their private choices as long as they mean well and generally do their best. ... To them, Casual Christianity is the best of all worlds; it encourages them to be a better person than if they had been irreligious, yet it is not a faith into which they feel compelled to heavily invest themselves [emphasis added].

These Christians are not “living like the devil” but their “go-with-the-flow” attitudes allow them to be swept along with the cultural tide that is moving steadily away from biblical Christian morality toward complete moral relativism. Rather than doing the works Jesus did by picking up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God) to destroy the works of the devil, they unwittingly become the devil’s pawns.

Clearly, one of the biggest works of the devil in this generation is abortion. Yet how many Casual Christians have taken any action to oppose it? One of the most significant actions they could take, however, is one that does not risk any public ridicule or calumny since it is done in the privacy of the voting booth.

In his recent ad in major papers, Billy Graham urged Americans “to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.”

My prayer is that the majority of Americans who identify themselves as Christians — whether they are “casual” or “captive” — will heed Billy Graham’s exhortation. The lives of millions depend on whether they do or not.  

Dr. Karen Gushta is a writer and researcher at Truth in Action Ministries and has recently written How Can America Survive? -- The Coming Economic Earthquake. She is also author of The War on Children, and co-author of Ten Truths About Socialism. As a career educator, Dr. Gushta has taught at levels from kindergarten to graduate teacher education in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education and Master’s Degrees in Elementary Education and Christianity and Culture.

Publication date: November 4, 2012

Will 'Casual Christians' Decide This Election?