Survey data and anecdotal evidence agree that Christianity is losing its hold on American life. The Roman Catholic hierarchy struggles to regain its credibility following the pedophilia scandals, mainline Protestantism wrestles with issues of sexual identity and attrition, and white evangelicalism has merged with the far-right precincts of the Republican Party. Moral authority, it seems, is hard to come by, with all three of the major Christian traditions--Roman Catholicism, mainline Protestantism, and white evangelicalism--facing a crisis of credibility.
Finger-pointing abounds. Many people of faith blame the rampant secularization of society in recent decades, while critics contend that Christians themselves, or at least their leaders, are blind to their own shortcomings. Some of the proposed remedies--an appeal to nostalgia, an attempt to undermine the separation of church and state, trying to throttle religious diversity, and asserting the supposed "Christian" origins of the nation--are historically misguided and would only deepen the crisis facing Christianity.
Saving Faith argues that any attempt to arrest the decline of Christianity in America must first reckon with the past, especially America's "original sin" of racism, with which Christians have been far too complicit. Christians also need to turn to the Bible, from the creation accounts of Genesis and the prophetic calls for justice, to the words of Jesus, the Word of God. We can also profit from the examples of Christians in earlier days, especially those in the nineteenth century who advocated for the abolition of slavery, for prison reform, for public education, for women's equality, and against the ravages of unbridled capitalism. The Social Gospel remains a worthy example, and the Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern sought to remind evangelicals of their once-robust prophetic voice.
Prophetic Christianity, affirming Jesus as the Word of God, renounces temporal power in favor of speaking from the margins.