Newsweek editor Jon Meacham welcomed "The End of Christian America," with the arrival of new statistics from a new religious identification study. Even though he later tries to stipulate that his own magazine’s headline is a little overwrought, he’s thrilled that the country is maturing beyond uptight Christian orthodoxy and beyond any Christian claim to insist on social conservatism:
While we remain a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even five years ago. I think this is a good thing—good for our political culture, which, as the American Founders saw, is complex and charged enough without attempting to compel or coerce religious belief or observance.
It is good for Christianity, too, in that many Christians are rediscovering the virtues of a separation of church and state that protects what Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island as a haven for religious dissenters, called "the garden of the church" from "the wilderness of the world."
As crucial as religion has been and is to the life of the nation, America's unifying force has never been a specific faith, but a commitment to freedom—not least freedom of conscience. At our best, we single religion out for neither particular help nor particular harm; we have historically treated faith-based arguments as one element among many in the republican sphere of debate and decision. The decline and fall of the modern religious right's notion of a Christian America creates a calmer political environment and, for many believers, may help open the way for a more theologically serious religious life.
Meacham routinely argues that liberal Christianity is "theologically serious." He echoed that same thought when Newsweek made the "religious case" for gay marriage. Then, Meacham tried to talk the reader off the ledge they built in their own headline:
Let's be clear: while the percentage of Christians may be shrinking, rumors of the death of Christianity are greatly exaggerated. Being less Christian does not necessarily mean that America is post-Christian. A third of Americans say they are born again; this figure, along with the decline of politically moderate-to liberal mainline Protestants, led the ARIS authors to note that "these trends … suggest a movement towards more conservative beliefs and particularly to a more 'evangelical' outlook among Christians." With rising numbers of Hispanic immigrants bolstering the Roman Catholic Church in America, and given the popularity of Pentecostalism, a rapidly growing Christian milieu in the United States and globally, there is no doubt that the nation remains vibrantly religious—far more so, for instance, than Europe.
Newsweek clearly see traditional Christianity as a pestilent obstacle to the kind of libertine America they want to create. How nice to pick the week of Easter to tell Americans that Jesus is on the wane.