A priest from Minnesota sees a silver lining in reports that Christianity is in a decline in America.
Fr. Mike Schmitz believes that the decreasing number of Americans identifying as Christian could be “good news” for the church. In a podcast, the priest from Duluth said, “There’s something about that that is potentially hopeful because maybe for the first time in generations, we actually know where people are standing.”
“If people are going to be honest about ‘here’s what I truly believe in,’ then we as a church can be honest and say, ‘okay, I can speak to that,'” he explained.
A Pew Research Center study released four hypothetical scenarios on how the future of religion would look like in the U.S. if trends continue and it predicted that Christians would become a minority in the country within a few decades.
Religion is not meant to keep people in line, it’s meant to give them freedom. —Fr. Mike Schmitz, host of The Bible in a Year podcast
In an interview with Fox News, Schmitz said, “I wonder if it isn’t people finally being honest. It’s them finally saying, ‘my parents checked the box — I’m Lutheran, I’m Evangelical, I’m Catholic — but they didn’t do anything about it.'”
Schmitz serves the students of the University of Minnesota Duluth and he is hopeful the youth still believes in religious principles even if they don’t identify with any religion. American parents may have chosen the religious affiliation of their children, but he thinks that “They’re saying ‘I believe in the same kind of God, but I’m not going to check the box,'”
The podcaster priest draws his opinion from his personal experience with faith. Despite being raised in a Catholic family, he was largely indifferent to religion until a life-threatening illness compelled him to go to confession. That moment gave him a spiritual awakening that according to him, “led me down the road to asking God what He wants.”
Schmitz regards a religious country to be a free one and he fears that an increasingly secular society will become a less moral society and in the end, a less free one. “Religion is not meant to keep people in line, it’s meant to give them freedom,” he explained. “But not freedom to do what I want, freedom to do what I ought.”
He pointed out, “One of the big messages of Christianity, particularly for this incredible country of the United States of America, is that we’ve been blessed with freedom. We have also been given the responsibility of freedom.”
Part of Schmitz’ work is teaching young students and he uses technology in his mission of evangelization. His podcast, The Bible in a Year, from Ascension Press has ranked at the top of iTunes and Spotify’s religion charts since its launch in 2021. It is expected to hit or even cross the half-billion download mark this year.
The Bible in a Year consists of daily episodes where Schmitz reads portions of the Bible and offers commentary, reflection and prayer. Each Scripture lesson is done in under 30 minutes.