Church Attendance and the Survival of the Republic
John Hancock -
The polling data grows more dismal every year. For several years, polls have shown that only 39% of Americans say they attend worship at least once a week (“How Religious...,” 2009; cf. Newport, 2010). However, more recent research suggests that the actual “head counts” of those who actually show up for weekly church services is half that figure, i.e., 17.7% (Barnes and Lowry, 2018). That means that the vast majority of Americans no longer attend church of any kind. It is hard to believe that the nation could shift from a time when most Americans attended church on Sundays for Christian (not Hindu, Muslim, or Buddhist) worship, to a time when most Americans do not attend worship. It is hard even to imagine a time when the “Blue Laws” were in effect—laws that encouraged church attendance by prohibiting commercial activity on Sundays—and were endemic to American culture from the colonial period forward. Yet, here we are, with Americans growing increasingly irreligious, drifting further and further from Christian morality and civility. Indeed, church services historically have been a central means of disseminating Christian values to the population.
The Founders of the American Republic stated explicitly that the promotion of the Christian religion in America, particularly via church attendance, is essential for the preservation of the country and the civil institutions of the government. For example, John Hancock, whose signature is so conspicuous and prominent on the Declaration of Independence, in his inaugural address as governor of Massachusetts, expressed to his fellow citizens:
A due observation of the Lord’s Day is not only important to internal religion, but greatly conducive to the order and benefit of civil society. It speaks to the senses of mankind, and, by a solemn cessation from their common affairs, reminds them of a Deity and their accountableness to the great Lord of all. Whatever may be necessary to the support of such an institution, in consistence with a reasonable personal liberty, deserves the attention of civil government (as quoted in Brown, 1898, p. 269).
Among the many corrosives now eating away at American civilization is the widespread citizen neglect of Sunday Christian worship. This failure to publicly acknowledge the God of the Bible and the priority of the Christian religion is one more indication of the coming demise of the nation. “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread...” (Acts 20:7).
Barnes, Rebecca and Lindy Lowry (2018), “7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America,” Outreach Magazine, April 10, https://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html.
Brown, Abram (1898), John Hancock: His Book (Boston, MA: Lee & Shepard Publishers).
“How Religious Is Your State?” (2009), The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, December 21, http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=504.
Newport, Frank (2010), “Mississippians Go to Church the Most; Vermonters, Least,” Gallup, February 17, http://www.gallup.com/poll/125999/Mississippians-Go-Church-Most-Vermonters-Least.aspx.