A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Monday, November 29, 2004

If one wants to understand why it seems as if religion has changed in this country, has been captured by the right, a number of issues would need to be examined. But this chart summarizes well one of the factors: the decline of the mainline and the growth of evangelical protestant groups. Of course what would be interesting is to pair this chart with the number of Americans who have ceased to identify with a religion all together. I suspect you'd find the numbers rise as religion is largely understood to be under the province of a certain conservative agenda.

One reason which has been given for such a situation is that people desire certainty. As Wesley Blog writes "People want absolutes and they want to hear leaders who speak authoritatively." A recent piece on how evangelical churches are growing while the mainline are shrinking in New Hamphsire hit upon the same theme. But what if the world is constituted in such a way as to prevents us from having such certainty? Is religion doing people a favor by giving them what is not rightfully had?

There was some flap over the women's division of the Episcopal Church, specifically the content of their website. And because tactics change little it should not be surprising that the right has also been looking at the Presbyterian Women's Ministry website only to discover that it is "out of line with the Bible and with the Confessions of the PCUSA." Deborah Milam Berkley, who pinned this piece happens to be the wife of Jim Berkley, head of Presbyterians for Renewal and the person who brought up the charges against Jane Spahr for her blessing of a same sex union.

And now for some good news pieces. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has called for conservatives opposed to homosexuality to stop using inflammatory words against gay and lesbians. I don't think it will change the rhetoric but William's leadership on this issue is still important. The Dutch Reformed church of South Africa apologizes for it's treatment of gay and lesbians. It's one of my hopes that such a thing will start taking place in this country. And Progressive Christian has been wrestling with a number of important questions from historical critical scholarship of the Bible to evangelism. A new site for me to add to the blogroll.


At 11:55 AM , Blogger Jim said...

As someone who lives in the N'east, I've noticed a trend in the types of churches springing up. There are many "seeker-friendly" churches. I've attended some in the past (2 years ago); what I found is a very anti-intellectual vibe, based entirely on emotion and contemporary music that is repetitive and slightly hypnotic. The Vineyard denomination is one that comes to mind. Very post-modern in thinking.

Churches like these will continue to gain people in our dumbed-down, soundbite culture. Most of these tend to be somewhat conservative in theology and very pro-USA and pro-Bush.

The mainline denominations struggle to compete as their services are still based in a modernist-paradigm, with more liturgical worship, which most people have little understanding about and why they should participate in these older rituals.

At 6:33 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to be rude, but you are doing something here that drives me utterly crazy; Conflating the words "religion" and "Christianity".

I'm quite unaware of Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, Budhism, Zoroastrianism, Voodo or any Native American religions having been captured by the right wing (In this country). Heck, not even Judaism or Catholocism have really been captured by the right in the same way protestantism has been.

This idea that Religion = Protestant Christianity seems not only offensive to me, but dangerous. The favorite tactic of the right is to claim that morality descends from and is dependant on god. Thus, they can claim Atheists and "secular humanists" as being inherently immoral. The same can not be said of, say, Buddhists. In fact, it's rather difficult to explain why Buddha was less close to god then Jesus.

It's therefore in the best interests of those who would oppress us religiously to make sure that, in the public mind, the only religion that exists is their religion.

So far, Republicans have done a wonderful job; the Democrats are portrayed as being not religious enough, despite the fact that no high profile candidate was an atheist, or even an agnostic.

The religious right is pushing the idea that there is only one faith; If you don't have their faith, then you must not have any faith at all.

Um... That was a bit long. Sorry. I don't mean to sound like a complete jerk or anything, but this is very important to me.

-Chris Hazell

At 7:34 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to Jim,

I do not think it is fair to label these fast growing denominations as "anti-intellectual." While I agree that they are based too much off emotion, and, as a Catholic, I am slightly annoyed by a lot of them, most of the pastors have at least studied (and a good precentage can actually read) Koine Greek, which is no small task to learn. Furthermore, most of them must attend a seminary to get their ordination, again, not a really easy accomplishment. Many people in the pews are lawyers, doctor, CPA's etc. While they do not reflect or meditate in church the same way I would, or the way I think we all agree they probably should, I do not think it is fair to label them as anti-intellectuals because they worship differently, and vote differently from you. It seems like you are convincing yourself of it, and why would you need to do that?

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At 2:50 AM , Blogger Debbie said...

I just read a piece on MSN about finding people who have your same name when you do an Internet search for your own name, so I idly did an Internet search for my name, and came up with your blog posting from 2004. Maybe you'll never see this comment, but if you do, I thought I'd correct a few inaccuracies. My husband Jim was never head of Presbyterians for Renewal, although he did work for them. He is currently head of a different group called Presbyterian Action. And he did not bring up the charges against Janie Spahr. He just pointed out to the people in her presbytery that she had been doing those weddings. They took it from there.

You might want to be a bit more careful about your facts.

Also the reason that we were looking at the Presbyterian women's website had nothing to do with copying the tactics of the Episcopalians. Presbyterian women's ministries have long (as in for years) been a concern of Sylvia Dooling, who is a friend of mine, and I wrote the article at her request. We theological conservatives aren't just a bunch of knee-jerking Neanderthals. We actually have some intelligence and thoughtfulness behind what we do, just like theological liberals do.


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