In less than two weeks, nearly nine out of 10 Americans are going to celebrate Christmas. Here are the numbers: In a nation of 300 million, about 85 percent of us are Christian. And since we are now in the wake of the mid-term elections and all the talk about the conservative Christian voting block, it got us thinking:
What is a Christian?
Preachers are becoming rock stars and filling giant stadium-size churches -- Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, Robert Schuller, Rod Parsley, to name a few. Some Christians, such as James Dobson and his massive evangelical audience (radio, books, Internet) have impressive agenda-setting influence. While at the same time, a lot of mainline Protestant and Catholic churches are having trouble filling the pews, and those who do attend are getting grayer.
Christian-themed movies are blockbusters (The Passion of the Christ, the Chronicles of Narnia) and Christian books have topped bestseller lists. One-in-five Americans read one of the "Left Behind" books and Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life" is hugely successful.
All of this speaks in part to the organic nature of faith and Americans' need to believe. Christianity in America is such a uniquely American thing. It has taken a faith and values bulwark that has survived for centuries and morphed it to fit one of the most dynamic cultures in the world -- ours.
For American Christians, one size doesn't fit all. That may be why the diversity within Christianity has never seemed greater. And yet, for all the talk of what separates Christians from one another (that's what always seems to make news, anyway), Christianity does provide a great source of strength and comfort for literally hundreds of millions of Americans.
So, here's the plug. Tonight, in our 11 o'clock hour, we're going to take a try at answering this question: What is a Christian? (It's a giant task, so this will no doubt just be a first attempt.)
As expert guests, Anderson will talk to Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Jim Wallis, author of "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It" and president of Sojourners, a progressive Christian ministry, along with Dwight Hopkins, a professor of theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
In the hour, we'll approach American Christianity through a variety of prisms -- evangelicals (and the belief of some that these are the Last Days), capitalist Christians (God wants you to prosper, if not be wealthy), conservative Christians, questioning Christians, gay Christians, fundamentalist Christians. And for those of you who call yourself Christian, you might wonder, just what kind are you?