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Christians and Christmas in 2010: A Survey [28]

Updated on May 19, 2015

The Sad Transformation of Christmas

From What Was Once Christian Spiritualality
From What Was Once Christian Spiritualality | Source
To Commercial
To Commercial | Source
To Somewhat Profane
To Somewhat Profane | Source

And the Surveys Said -

THE Monday, December 20, 2010 edition of USA Today published an article by Cathy Lynn Grossman that discussed the results of a couple of recent surveys conducted by LifeWay Research, a Christian research organization, and another by USA Today/Gallup. The results were very interesting and to Christians, at least. a might disappointing. I present them here, with my spin on them, to elicit what I hope will be some interesting back-and-forth in the ensuing comments.

The Results; at least at the time the polls were taken. Let me say that the sample size used by each, especially the LifeWay poll, were of sufficient magnitude that, everything else being conducted properly, the results can be trusted as a reliable representation of the whole population at the time the survey was taken. I do have one caveat, however. The LifeWay survey is subject to bias simply because it starts out from a biased point of view which "could" influence its sampling technique. This is not to that the sampling techniques were anything but entirely professional, which I am sure they were, but only that the bias is more of possibility than with a secular organization. In this case, however, if there was bias, it makes the results that much worse.

  • First, just to set the stage, from a recent ABC News poll, 83% of Americans identtify themselves as some sort of Christian (64% of whom said they were Protestant and 27% were Catholic), 13% no religion, and 4% non-Christian (I fall in the middle one if that is where spiritual is captured, BTW). By comparison, the world breaks down to 33%, 15%, 52%, respectively. I must say I was a bit surprised by these numbers. I thought the percentage of Christians in America approached 90% and in the world, 50%.
  • The most top-level statistic presented is that 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas, be they Christians, atheists, agnostic, or non-Christians.
  • LifeWay found that 74% of those surveyed thought of Christmas as "primarily" religious while USA/Gallup found 51% thought so. Encouragingly to Christian leaders,that is up from 40% in 1989.
  • How does that translate into religious activities? Not very well.
  • Only 28%, about the number who identify themselves as very Conservative, read or tell Christmas stories from the Bible.
  • 34% will watch biblical Christmas movies Less than half,
  • 47% will attend church on Christmas Eve or Day
  • Only 58% will encourage others in the belief that Jesus Christ is savior.
  • 47% of respondents said that Christmas is less religious with children present
  • Even though 74% of those surveyed told LifeWay they thought Christmas was primarily religious, the same number said that most of the things they enjoy about Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus and that they celebrate Christmas because that is something you do as an American
  • In 2008, a Pew Forum found that 52% of American Christians believe at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life
  • LifeWay also found that 62% of those who follow non-Christian faiths, 89% who are simply spiritual, and 55% of atheists celebrate Christmas
  • Gallup and other polls have, over the long-term, measured general church attendance, not just Christmas, in North America at around 43%, Special studies, however, that went out and counted attendance or used other more direct measures, came up with much lower rates, on the order of 20 - 30%.

So, What Can We Say About All Those Numbers?

Quite a bit, although I promise to keep it short this time. The news isn't good for the Church leadership, although some do try to find the silver-lining. What is clear from these results is that Christian Americans talk out of both sides of their mouth. In one breath and in overwhelming numbers, they say they believe Christmas is about Jesus. But by their actions, and in almost as overwhelming numbers they show that Christmas to them has very little to do with Jesus. Simply put, American Christians, by and large, when it comes to Christmas anyway, are hypocrites with a capital 'H', don't you see.

And that makes me sad. While I am not a Christian, I do believe in the basic message of Jesus, at least that part of his message on how people ought to treat one another that can be agreed upon between Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is a good message and ought to be celebrated honestly as it once was and not as this commercial bonanza for retailer and kids that it has become.

There is a lot of fodder for discussion in those startling, to me at least, statistics that I am going to keep my promise of making this one of my shortest hubs and let you all do the writing.

And Now It Is 2015

A CNN ARTICLE TITLED No, American Christianity is NOT Dead caught my eye and prompted me to update and republish this Hub. It refers to a recent study by Pew Research and I wanted to convey and comment on some of the results.

The research and the article made a point which, while obvious to all, is often overlooked. And that is there are three types of Christians. You have the "Cultural", the "Congregational", and the "Convictional". The former are those people who identify as Christian only because that is the culture they come from; they rarely, if ever, go to church and they certainly don't center their lives around what a particular Christian denomination says they need to believe. "Congregationalists", on the other hand, identify more closely to the Christian faith and sometimes go to church. Finally, "Convictional" Christians are those who do go to church often and do center their lives around their given denomination; these are your evangelicals and fundamentalists. This latter group often claim the other two are not Christians at all (which has the effect of greatly diminishing the total population of Christians worldwide and especially in America).

While the data does show a slow, overall decline in the number of Americans calling themselves Christian, you need to understand the above to make sense of the the table below


2007 %
2014 %
Percent Change
Christians of Any Sort
- 9.9
Evangelical Protestant
- 3.4
- 13.0
Mainline Protestant
- 18.8
+ 41.6
Other Religion
+ 25.5

NOTICE THAT EVANGELICALS HAVE REMAINED almost constant, losing only 3.4%; these are your "Convictionalists". It is the "Nominal" Christians, the Cultural and Congregationalists, that have suffered the most losing 13% and 19% for Catholics and Mainline Protestants, respectively. And, where have they all gone? Mainly to the "Unaffiliated" or "None" category with its 45% increase over the last seven years.

While the article seems to downplay this a bit, to me it is quite impressive. It does bring America more in line with the rest of the world where evangelical and fundamental Christianity has suffered much larger declines. The author should really consider the other data, like in the Table 2 below, before suggesting Christianity in America may not be going the way of Europe.

Long-Term Outlook. - Percent of Total US Population

Silent Majority 1928 - 1945
Baby Boomers 1946 - 1964
Generation X 1965 - 1980
Older Millennials 1981 - 1989
Younger Millennials 1990 - 1996
Total Christian
--- Protestant
Historically Black
--- Catholic
--- Other Christian Groups
Other Faiths
Don't Know/Not Sure

CONSIDER WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN AS THE GENERATION before me and my generation (1947) begin to die off; 15% of my high school class (1965) has bit the dust as of 2015. The die-off of baby-boomers and those who came before us is only going to accelerate over the next 20 years, isn't it?

Notice that from the Silent Majority to the Baby-Boomers, the percentage of Americans who thought of themselves, in their birth cohort, as Christians dropped from a very high 85% to a still very respectable 75%. But suppose America was made up of only Gen Xers, those thinking of themselves to 70%, 15 points below the high. BUT, if only Millennials existed, America would be only 56 - 57% Christian! To me, that indicates a significant long-term decline of American Christians ... does it to you?

This pattern is not limited to just the "Nominal" Christians, it applies to "Convictionists" as well. The only sub-group of Christians that doesn't seem to be affected by age are black Christians. What is increasing, however, is "Other Faiths" (which has doubled over the ages) and, obviously, Unaffiliated.

Clearly, the only thing that is going to reverse the trend of the de-Christianization of America is 1) is the Millennial generation changes course and suddenly become religious and/or 2) the next generation is composed primarily of Christians.

Religion Corner


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    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 7 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Thanks Tony and Amen to that.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      I think that Christmas has been commercialised so much that the commercial opportunity to rip people off because of setimental attachments is now the most important feature of the season and the day. People seem to get caught up in a kind of madness at Christmas time and it has become a time of increased depression and suicide rates which is very sad.

      I don't think the actual date of Jesus' birth is relevant anyway. It's rather an academic question.

      Thanks for sharing the results of these two polls. They are interesting.

      Love and peace


    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 7 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      CMerritt - That is a wonderful two cents, two dollars even. There isn't a thing you said that I can disagree with nor would I want to. That is why, in my hub, I said I was sad things have turned out as they have and why I hold the teachings or the idea of Jesus Christ in such high regard even though I do not do the same for the Christian or other monotheistic churches. As to the athiests, I don't really agree with them either but that is for another hub.

      Obviously, I count you in that 23% who actually observe Christmas for what it is meant to be and hope you are correct that many I call hypocrit, aren't in their heart.

    • CMerritt profile image

      Chris Merritt 7 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

      Okay, here is my take on Christmas. I personally find it a wonderful time to reflect upon Jesus Christ, and his significance to the world based upon the Christian belief. I have accepted my personal beliefs, based upon the teachings by the Holy Bible. The significant impact that Christ has had to millions and millions of people is astonishing. Although no person is perfect, ah heck, let's just say it, we are far, far from perfect. Yes, this has set up a whole new meaning to the word Hypocrit. I cannot argue that. But, please don't dismiss the millions and millions of wonderful folks that was developed because of the "role" that Christ left for all of us. I'm not even talking about the spiritual significance, just the face value of His presence on this earth some 2000 plus years ago. Now, throw in the personal and spiritual touch that He has left, and the masses of folks who have turned their lives around for the good. The drug addictions, the obnoxious lifestyles that was eradicated, due to the spiritual significance that Christ has given.

      So, despite any real facts of exactly when He was born is in my opinion, irrevelant. The fact that this day is commerating as the birth of the Savior to Mankind is real. Now just because many people has fallen into the trap of the commericialization of this day, does not mean that, in their hearts, they don't still take time to pay tribute in their own way.

      I think there is a growing push by athiests to disassemble all religious aspects of this day. I think they have accomplished a lot over the last few decades. I think there is a new breed of "Christians" that may not be the traditional believer, but still holds this day close to them on a personal level, even IF, the come across as a Hypocrit.

      at least that is my two cents.


    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 7 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Thank you for your comment Bucks Here. I suppose you would have to be correct regarding Christmas not being a part of the Bible. While it would be possible, timeline-wise, it wouldn't be probable given the purpose of the New Testament. Also, celebrating Jesus' birth in Winter is a bit problematic in itself because Scripture shows that to be impossible unless the seasons have reversed themselves over the last 2000 years. I suspect public celebration would have to be after Christianity was formally legalized by Emporer Constantine in 313. The first record of the celebration of the birth being on Dec 25th was in 354 AD. The more important date in that time was Jan 8, the date of Jesus' baptism. This date was celebrated for the next 600 years or so. Why the celebration was moved to a pagaen holiday and made in honor of a birth that couldn't have happened in that season is anybody's guess; maybe it was in honor of Constantine.

    • Bucks here profile image

      Bucks here 7 years ago from South Africa

      You have a very interesting article.

      My little bit, will just say that Xmas or Christmas has no affiliation in true Christianity, it never did. In honesty its not even a biblical incident, or celebrated by Biblical Christians.