“God works in mysterious ways” is an often quoted expression. Looking at the explosion of illegal immigrant children entering the United States from Central America, perhaps God plans on using it to spark the next great religious awakening in North America. It’s an idea worth considering. Historically, there have been at least four great religious awakenings in the United States since the first one in 1731. The last great religious awakening ended in 1980.
Each of these “Great Awakenings” was characterized by widespread revivals led by evangelical Protestant ministers, a sharp increase of interest in religion, a profound sense of conviction and redemption on the part of those affected, an increase in evangelical church membership, and the formation of new religious movements and denominations.
Evangelical Christians agree that the U.S. is long overdue for another spiritual revival, and “anti-religious” attitudes in America suggest that the time is ripe for it.
A recently released research study indicates that the face of organized religion in American life is changing. Analysis of the General Social Survey, conducted by sociologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and Duke University shows, “The number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation is the highest it has ever been since the 1930’s.” According to the survey, the number of people in the U.S. not identifying with any organized religion has increased from 5 percent in 1972 to the present 20 percent. Although church affiliation maybe on the decline, religion continues to be seen as having a positive influence on American life, according to a Gallup survey:
Americans who attend church regularly and who say religion is important in their own lives are far more likely than others to say it would be positive for American society if more Americans were religious. Even so, over half of those who seldom or never attend and close to one in three Americans who say religion is not important to them personally still say it would be positive for society if more Americans were religious.
As Americans, we have a proud and distinguished history, predicated upon the foundations of family, freedom, and religion. Our country has accomplished more in its relatively short history than any other nation on earth, and it is because of, not in spite of, our deeply held convictions. Regardless of our respective faith, our society is better served, and our country is stronger, by the active, faithful, practice of religion in all aspects of our lives.—Matthew C. Moench
The unprecedented wave of nearly 50,000 new immigrants, fleeing the escalating violence and a worsening economy in their home countries of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, just may be the conduits for restoring the influence of religion in America. Besides the clothes on their backs, many of these immigrants are bringing their devout religious traditions with them —roughly 90 percent of Latin Americans are Christian. One would think Evangelical churches would be ecstatic to welcome these new immigrants as “brothers and sisters in Christ,” by extending a helping hand in what is clearly a crisis time for them.
In my opinion, it would be a missed opportunity if Evangelical churches do not reach out to this group once the immigration issues are resolved. Some years ago, American Baptist Churches saw an opportunity to revitalize dwindling ABC congregations by opening their doors to Karen refugees from Burma (now Myanmar) with great success. Perhaps, other Protestant denominations in the U.S. will follow suit by befriending these Central American immigrants. God only knows if it will result in another great religious revival for America.
As it says in Matthew 25:43-45,
I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’