Poll speaks louder than ‘scholarly debate’ on what Christians believe about Christmas

An article in this week’s Newsweek on the birth of Jesus goes tete-a-tete with what the magazine’s most recent poll says Americans believe about Christmas.

The events surrounding the birth of Jesus, their historical accuracy and theological interpretations are the focus of the top story in the Dec. 13 issue of Newsweek, simply called “The Birth of Jesus,” which hit newsstands yesterday.

In his article, Newsweek’s managing editor, Jon Meacham, examines the ongoing scholarly debate over the historical accuracy of the Nativity narratives and their theological meaning. He also examines whether some of the central images and words of the Christian religion owe as much to the pagan culture of the Roman Empire as they do to apostolic revelation.

But what the magazine’s poll proves is that this scholarly debate is just that – scholarly. In fact, the survey results demonstrate that Meacham’s report does not reflect the beliefs and day-to-day reality in the United States.

The Newsweek poll indicates that 79 percent of Americans, and 87 percent of Christians, say they believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, without a human father.

In addition, 67 percent of Americans, and 75 percent of Christians, believe that the biblical story of Christmas is historically accurate. Less than a quarter of Americans (24 percent), and 17 percent of Christians, believe the story of Christmas is a theological story, written to affirm faith in Jesus Christ.

In the Newsweek poll, 93 percent of Americans say they think Jesus Christ actually lived, and 82 percent think Jesus Christ was God or the Son of God.

Fifty-two percent of all those polled believe, as the Bible says, that Jesus will return to earth someday; 21 percent do not.

For this poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates conducted telephone interviews with 1,009 adults, aged 18 and older, Dec. 2-3. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

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