Religious polarization is the act of finding the disagreements in religious beliefs and on that basis separating ourselves from those of differing beliefs. It is the idea of moving to opposite ends of a spectrum.
In America this polarization is on the rise. As one Christian commentator noted: “The United States’ mushy Christian middle is disappearing faster than fried chicken at a church fellowship as Americans coalesce around the two poles, according to the latest data from Pew Research Center. The nones are becoming more secular, and those who still maintain a vibrant Christian identity are holding fast to the values of the faith.”
The Rise Of The Nones
According to the Pew Research Center, between 2007 and 2014, the number of religiously unaffiliated adults (called the “Nones”) in the USA has increased from 16% to 23%. Today, in 2021, that number is about 25% or 1 in 4 people! At the same time, these individuals have become increasingly secular. In 2007, 70% of the “nones” believed in God, a number that dropped to 61% in 2014, and that trend continues today. Fewer “nones” attend church once a month, pray regularly, or find religion to be very important.
Previously, religiously unaffiliated adults have had at least a nominal interest in religion. Now the nones appreciate religion less, causing a wider chasm between the shrinking Protestant population in the USA and the ever-growing unaffiliated population.
The Resolve Of The Faithful
In contrast to the secularization of the “nones” is the steadfastness of faithful Christians, who hold a variety of views that are becoming increasingly unpopular in American culture.
Among all Americans, weekly or more church attendance dropped from 40% in 2007 to 36% in 2014. While fewer Americans pray daily or attend church services weekly or more, those who are religiously affiliated are actually showing more devotion to their faith. The percentage of Christians who say they pray daily has climbed from 66% to 68%. Since 2007, more Christians say they are reading their Bible weekly, participating in a small group, and sharing their faith.
Nothing New Under The Sun
While the recent spike in religious polarization in America has occurred, the gospel message itself has always been polarizing! It creates a strong response when presented. Some will respond positively, others negatively, but there will be a response. Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, highlighted the spiritual polarization the gospel creates:
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’ Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
In verse 18 Paul starkly contrasts those who reject versus those receive the gospel by saying “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God!” Now that’s polarization!
As we ponder our proclamation of the good news in our post-modern world today, we shouldn’t be surprised that the so-called “wizards of smart”—the so-called “intellectual elite” and the “new atheists” among them, along with others who reject Christ, consider us fools and our message foolish.
Consider Your Calling
In this final section from 1 Corinthians 1, Paul concluded this:
“For consider your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “Let Him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
In this section, we who are “called out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9), are described as foolish, weak, based, and despised—not in God’s eyes, but in the world’s estimation! In sharp contrast, our identity is in Christ Jesus, “Who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
And because of HIs grace, mercy, and love extended to us through Christ, we who are called have received a holy calling—which in this section is simple—to boast in the Lord!
You see, we are called to boast in Him!
In the midst of the polarization of our current age and the inherent polarization the message of the cross has and will continue to create, may we simply be faithful to boast in the Lord – sharing the message of salvation found in the person and work of Jesus.
And though our heart should break for those who consider the message of the cross foolishness, we rejoice and take heart that people are being saved, those who consider the message of the cross the power of God! Hallelujah!
“I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18