As demographics change, now what?
Demographic changes are rarely heralded as “crises,” unlike issues such as climate change, but they are happening all the time and their fallout can be profound if a nation does not value the foundations of its civilization. Take a look at the changes happening in the United Kingdom and United States.
According to a report in The Associated Press, “Some 46.2 percent of the population of England and Wales described themselves as Christian on the day of the 2021 census, down from 59.3 percent a decade earlier.” This could create a problem, framed this way by Andrew Copson, chief executive of the charity Humanists U.K.: “No state in Europe has such a religious set-up as we do, in terms of law and public policy, while at the same time having such a nonreligious population.”
Indeed, religion is deeply ingrained in British civilization. The Church of England, headquartered in London, was founded in 1534 and King Charles III, among his duties, is “defender of the faith,” which means he has taken an oath to be a committed Anglican. Also, the monarchy, as it is currently constituted, will be held by a white male into the next century. In a time when, culturally and demographically, many in the Western world are rebuking white, male, Christian history and traditions, it may be time to think about what these traditions have contributed that is worth preserving.
America’s demographics are changing as well. The Census Bureau projects that by 2045, America no longer will be a majority-white nation and by 2050, according to Pew Research, no longer will be majority-Christian. The challenge for Americans over the next 25 years, then, will be to embrace that the governing principles and values that make us a great nation supersede racial, religious and cultural identity.
America was created by white, Christian men, for the most part, but our Founders did not seek to create a white, Christian nation. Our history has shown us to be the global hub for diversity. In 2020, Pew reported, “The United States has more immigrants than any other country in the world. Today, more than 40 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country, accounting for about one-fifth of the world’s migrants.” We have done more than create a great nation — we have nurtured a unique civilization.
As we fast approach the “browning” and secularization of America, there is a fundamental question we should answer: Are we an amalgamation of distinct cultures, or are we one civilization that subsumes cultures yet allows each to flourish? Put another way: Is our identity based on distinct races and cultures, or are we a diverse people evolving into the “American race”?
A nation based on identity is a modern version of the Articles of Confederation, the original governing structure of the United States. Under this structure, the Library of Congress notes, “Congress could not raise funds, regulate trade, or conduct foreign policy without the voluntary agreement of the states.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines identity politics succinctly as “what is demanded is respect for oneself as different.” The grievance culture it has spawned sees America through the lens of oppression, racism, sexism, or a culture or way of life damaged by colonialism, imperialism, cultural appropriation and even genocide. This has led to calls to reconstruct our history (recall the New York Times’ 1619 Project, for example) and repudiate many of the societal values on which our civilization was built.
According to the National Museum of African American Race & Culture website, “Whiteness and white racialized identity refer to the way that white people, their customs, culture and beliefs operate as the standard by which all other groups are compared.” An infographic created by the museum equates foundational values such as traditional family structure, rational thinking, Protestant work ethic, Christianity, respect for authority, delayed gratification, savings and timeliness as constructs of “whiteness.”
Our journey through history has made America what it is. We cannot retrace or erase our steps; we can only strive to understand and use this history to provide lessons going forward to guide our ever evolving — and hopefully, improving — civilization.
In 2026, America will commemorate the 250th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence. America250 is spearheading this effort. Roughly 20 years after this event, if the predictions hold true, America no longer will be a predominantly white, Christian nation. So, should America250 highlight our differences or celebrate our civilization? Arguably, the “more perfect union” our Founders foresaw was the “American race” — an integrated people who have taken humanity to its zenith. That is a banner under which we all could march.
Dennis M. Powell, the founder and president of Massey Powell, is an issues and crisis management consultant and the author of the upcoming book, “Leading from the Top: Presidential Lessons in Issues Management.”