Is American Christianity Due for a Revival?

Timothy Keller believes renewal is possible. He laments the decline in church membership and the closure & repurposing of former churches he first encountered in New York has spread nationwide. He then describes five factors as necessary for renewal and acknowledges that even those five will not be enough on their own. But only fairly late in the piece does he fully acknowledge the nature of political engagement of the white evangelical American Christian church:

American evangelicals have largely responded to the decline of the Church by turning to a political project of regaining power in order to expel secular people from places of cultural influence.

Keller, Tim. “American Christianity is Due for a Revival”. The Atlantic, February 5, 2023

More than “turning to a political project”, Christian churches have been violating the law regarding endorsement in elections, and only retained their tax-exempt status by virtue of the IRS abdicating its enforcement responsibilities.

As a Christian, and not withstanding the recent revival at Asbury University that began just days after Keller’s piece ran and continued for weeks, I have serious doubts about the prospects for a broader revival of Christianity in this country anytime soon. Keller cites Émile Durkheim and Jonathan Haidt as secular social theorists who “who how religion makes contributions to society that cannot be readily supplied by other sources.” But entirely absent from Keller’s piece is any acknowledgment of the ways in which the Christian church as an institution, and those who lead certain individual congregations, has not only failed to be a positive exemplar of how to treat its members, but has reflected and reinforced some of the worst practices of the secular world in its treatment of women, children, and those who are part of marginalized communities. This goes beyond the sex abuse scandal of the Southern Baptist Convention, or similar cases in the Catholic Church going back decades, to the arguments we are somehow still having even today over whether or not women should be ordained and function as pastors.

Twenty-seven countries are currently led by a woman in the role of president, prime minister, or chief executive, and dozens of countries have elected women as leaders since 1960, nearly 10 percent of the companies in the Fortune 500 were led by women CEOs as of 2021, but some Christian churches have decided that only men should exercise their spiritual gifts in the office of pastor–regardless of our claim to believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing God who has granted the same spiritual gifts to women as well as men. Our churches claim to believe in a Bible that depicts women as prophets, political leaders, business leaders, and ministers in the days of antiquity but denies their evident spiritual gifts in the present-day. These are not the actions of institutions in a faith ready for revival.