We’re still in Christmastide (through January 6, Twelfth Night), so I am continuing — and concluding — a short series on Americans’ views of Christmas.
On Monday, I explained that there really is a war on Christmas: Jesus offends.
On Tuesday, I recapped Pew Research’s ‘5 facts’ about Christmas in the United States. That was the big picture.
Now we drill down into Pew Research Center’s detail, published on December 12, 2017: ‘Americans Say Religious Aspects of Christmas Are Declining in Public Life’.
In short, the people conducting the war on Christmas are winning. And, yes, there is a war on Christmas.
A summary with excerpts from Pew follow. Emphases mine below, unless noted otherwise.
The numbers of Americans celebrating Christmas are still over 90% per cent, however, less than half of those celebrating now consider December 25 as primarily a religious holiday:
Currently, 55% of U.S. adults say they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, including 46% who see it as more of a religious holiday than a cultural holiday and 9% who celebrate Christmas as both a religious and a cultural occasion. In 2013, 59% of Americans said they celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday, including 51% who saw it as more religious than cultural and 7% who marked the day as both a religious and a cultural holiday.
Americans are not bothered too much about the declining emphasis on the religious aspects of Christmas. Some of those polled perceived a de-emphasis; others did not:
Overall, 31% of adults say they are bothered at least “some” by the declining emphasis on religion in the way the U.S. commemorates Christmas, including 18% who say they are bothered “a lot” by this. But the remaining two-thirds of the U.S. public either is not bothered by a perceived decline in religion in Christmas or does not believe that the emphasis on the religious elements of Christmas is waning.
There is also a political party split on those perceptions:
A higher share of Republicans than Democrats express the view that the religious aspects of Christmas are emphasized less now than in the past (68% vs. 50%). And the partisan gap is even bigger when it comes to whether this perceived trend is seen as negative. Fully half of Republicans and those who lean toward the GOP say they are bothered “a lot” (32%) or “some” (20%) by a declining emphasis on the religious aspects of Christmas. Among Democrats, just one-in-five say they are bothered “a lot” (10%) or “some” (11%) by these changes.
There was also a political divide between the two parties’ adherents and church attendance at Christmas:
Nearly two-thirds of Republicans and those who lean toward the GOP say they will attend church on Christmas (65%). Among Democrats, 45% plan on attending religious services this year.
There was a slight religious split — between Protestant Evangelicals and other denominations — with regard to the seasonal greetings ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Happy Holidays’:
Most white evangelical Protestants say they prefer for stores and other businesses to greet their customers by saying “merry Christmas” during the holidays. But evangelicals are somewhat less likely to express this view today (61%) compared with 2012 (70%).
Within every other major Christian tradition, there are at least as many people who say the holiday greetings used by stores and businesses don’t matter to them as there are who say they prefer “merry Christmas.”
As for the biblical narrative, Pew asked their subjects about belief in four biblical Christmas details: the Virgin Birth, Jesus in a manger, the angel announcing His birth to shepherds and the arrival of the Magi. All results below are comparisons between 2014 and 2017. All show a decline.
Those who believe in the Virgin Birth have declined by seven per cent: 73% to 66%.
Those who believe that the Christ Child lay in a manger declined by six per cent: 81% to 75%.
Those who believe that the angel announced His birth to shepherds declined by seven per cent: 74% to 67%.
Those who believe the Magi visited Jesus declined by seven per cent: 75% to 68%.
The number who believe all four events took place dropped eight per cent: 65% to 57%.
Worryingly, fewer Christians believe these events took place:
Overall, the share of Christians who believe in all four of these elements of the Christmas story has dipped from 81% in 2014 to 76% today. This decline has been particularly pronounced among white mainline Protestants (see below for details).
The survey report did not say why, but the decline could be due in part to churches’ de-emphasis on the Bible in general. Many denominations are now social justice centres, nothing more.
The decline in three years’ time was most marked among Millennials, adults born after 1980. These are all big drops:
Millennials’ belief in the Virgin Birth fell from 67% to 55% — 12 points.
Their belief that Baby Jesus lay in a manger fell from 78% to 65% — 12 points.
Their belief that an angel announced His birth to shepherds fell from 68% to 54% — 14 points.
Their belief that the Magi visited Jesus fell from 75% to 57% — 15 points.
The percentage of Millennials believing all four events took place fell from 59% to 44% — 15 points.
This generation is now raising children. What are these parents telling their offspring about Christ’s birth?
Something is very wrong with the Christmas picture in the United States.
End of series