What is your religious persuasion? The question is a standard one in the census polling process.
America’s population was 318.9 million as of 2014, according to Census Bureau statistics. Polling numbers that year showed that 70.6 percent of Americans identified themselves as Christians. This was a significant decline from polling done in 1990, in which 86 percent of Americans said they were Christians. Wikipedia has it that America has nearly 247 million Christians, the highest number of Christians of any nation, although there are other nations with percentages of Christians that are higher.
So, when asking people what is their religion the response will most often be, “Christian.” Or, they will answer by giving the particular denomination within Christianity with which they identify.
Such is the natural response in this land that was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. But, it is not the natural response that the Grand Poll Taker is seeking, but the supernatural. Based upon God’s analysis of His polling statistics hangs the fate of cultures, societies, and nations.
We can get a sense of Heaven’s polling methodology, I think, by looking at a specific case in which such census taking was employed—to an extent, at least. It is a most fascinating exercise considering planet earth’s apex nation, so far as super-power status, in human terms, is concerned.
The twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah—if we might think of them in that sense, such as we think of Minneapolis/St. Paul as “twin cities”—were powerful commercial societies of their time. These, of course, are infamous as cities whose fate is the stuff made of legend.
During the course of most any week, I come across one TV documentary or the other on one of my favorite such channels that goes into great detail about these cultures. Most often, the documentarians spend their time debunking the true biblical account, choosing instead to give every conceivable reason why these great commercial centers no longer exist. The film-makers tell the biblical story—in their own usually warped versions—but then give natural reasons why Sodom and Gomorrah were obliterated.
Until relatively recent times, the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah and their destruction was most often scoffed at by historians. The cities were considered but mere legends. But digs at the southern end of the Dead Sea that continue to bring that civilization to the salty surface makes it crystal clear. These were real places that were devastated by fire and brimstone—just like God’s Word proclaims in the Genesis account.
Now, what does all of this have to do with America and statistics on the number of Christians in the nation? We remember the statement by Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth Graham. We’ve all heard the statement many times. The perspicacious Mrs. Graham famously said: “If the Lord doesn’t judge America [for its wickedness] He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Many of us are in total agreement with her assessment. The reason for that quite harsh assessment is that America, it can be argued, has in some aspects gone even beyond the sinfulness of those two ancient cities. We could examine any number of ways this is true, but for brevity’s sake, I’ll mention only two. We’ve looked at these in great detail a number of times in these commentaries.
First, the most glaring similarity, with regard to Sodom and Gomorrah as compared to the United States today, is the matter of homosexuality. That was the great sin emphasized in the Genesis account of God’s dealing with that culture in judgment. I don’t have to go too deeply into the similarity, because we are all familiar—totally—with things going on just in the past couple of years in this country. The God-ordained union between a man and a woman has been changed by the courts of this land to pervert the God-given institution called marriage. Sexual activity that the Creator calls “abomination” the lawless, God-defying of America call “gay.” And, this is not to diminish the equally abominable sexual activity within the heterosexual world—fornication and adultery.
Secondly, the matter of abortion comes front and center in the comparison. Babies in the womb and small children in that ancient society undoubtedly cramped the style of the deviants of the time. The products of the unbridled sexual activity made it easy to sacrifice those babies upon the altar of convenience. The deeper that people went into debauchery, the more self-absorbed and willing to go to any lengths to make their next thrill more exhilarating.
In Sodom and Gomorrah we are talking about cities of thousands; in America we are talking about an entire nation of more than 300 million. They could have aborted only thousands; we—it is fully documented—abort more than one million per year. Recent undercover video evidence flashes proof in our faces for all to see. Planned Parenthood and its like gives irrefutable evidence that we have gone beyond that ancient people in the degree of unrighteousness perpetrated. And, it is the term “unrighteousness” that is the heart of the matter in the polling question with which we began this essay. The question: What is your religious persuasion?
The nation is, according to the answers given the pollsters, overwhelmingly Christian, even considering the drop in the numbers from 1990 until 2014. We are supposed to believe that 70.6 percent of America’s 318.9 million people are Christians. Again, that’s more than 247 million claiming to be Christians.
Now we come to the title of our commentary this week, Almighty’s Analysis of America.
People can say they are anything. The human pollsters must take down what they are given. The term “Christian” is accepted at face value and marked on the polling sheet. The Lord of Heaven, however, the Creator of all things—including the human being—goes infinitely more deeply into His polling process. To Him, the precise definition of the term “Christian” is of eternal importance.
The term “Christianity,” in Heaven’s economy, is tied to “righteousness.” To be a Christian, one must be righteous. But, the Bible says the following: “As it is written, There is none righteous no not one” (Romans 3:10). How, then, can anyone be a Christian—that is, how can anyone be considered righteous?
God’s grace gift provides the answer. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
God sees as righteous only those who have believed in His Son, Jesus Christ for salvation from their sins. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23); “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
When one is “saved,” he or she is “righteous” because God sees righteousness only in His beloved Son, who died as sacrifice for all of mankind.
Now we will get back to this matter of America and the percentage of those who say they are Christians. These figures don’t compute—don’t add up. Mrs. Graham was right. America’s degree of depravity, by any stretch, doesn’t come under God’s definition of righteousness. Revisiting our thoughts on Sodom and Gomorrah, God spoke with His servant, Abraham. He informed Abraham that he was going to have to destroy those wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of the great sins of those people. The account is found in Genesis 18:23-33.
Abraham was terribly grieved and pleaded with the Lord. He asked if God could find fifty people who were righteous would He spare the cities. God agreed, but could not. Abraham then pleaded for God to search for forty-five, then forty, then thirty, then twenty, then ten righteous people in order to justify not destroying those places. In each case, the Lord tried but couldn’t find even ten. Among the many thousands in Sodom and Gomorrah, the Almighty’s Heavenly Census Bureau couldn’t find ten people who believed in Him in order to be considered righteous.
As I said, the documentarians are still reporting the findings of the archaeologists who are digging up the destruction of those doomed cities.
More and more I’m wondering—like Ruth Graham must surely have wondered—about the possibility of America’s ultimate fate being, if not in fact, in very like manner to that suffered by the city prophesied in Revelation chapter 18. A most encouraging truth in thinking on these things is that God found the man named Lot, a citizen of Sodom, to be “righteous” in His holy eyes. A few of Lot’s family were obviously considered likewise, because the Lord removed them from Sodom before the fire and brimstone fell. God said to Lot about that removal to safety: “Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither” (Genesis 19:22a).
The Lord told Lot that His judgment couldn’t fall with its total devastation until the righteous Lot was first taken out of harm’s way, and that meant until Lot and his family were completely removed—taken out of—that wicked city. Be encouraged, those of you who are righteous—who believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. Jesus, Himself, in His ascended position at the right hand of His Father, makes a promise to a future generation. He uses the Greek verb “ek,” meaning “out of” in His promise. I believe that promise is made to the generation alive today. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from [out of] the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth“(Revelation 3:10).
The Lord counts you among those who will, perhaps very soon, hear the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, “Come up here!” (Revelation 4: 1).