”It looks like the two-party system of American Protestantism—mainline versus evangelical—is collapsing,” said Mark Silk, director of the Public Values Program. “A generic form of evangelicalism is emerging as the normative form of non-Catholic Christianity in the US.”
What does that do? Anybody who is liberally minded just assume the religious right defines Christianity and will have nothing to do with it. Christian faith has ceased to be a live option and during the Bush years when Christianity became identified with this, even more so.
It was something I had to cut through a lot doing campus ministry. To plant the idea that there was another way of doing Christian faith. It worked for some students, but overall it’s a hard proposition to break through.Thus the UCC advertising campaign.
I think it ends up being a shame, because it feeds into itself. The more mainline decline, the more rise of the religious right, the less likely folks who are liberally minded would even consider Christian faith.
It shuts off a religious option, reduces the diversity and plausibility of the faith for many, cuts off possible and creative sources of interaction between the church and the wider society that the mainline had engendered for over a century.
It becomes established enough that genuine anger is had when someone challenges it. I remember a piece about a women reform rabbi in Israel and she was verbally attacked by the orthodox and secular Israelis. They found a third way incomprehensible and unsettling.
That worries me. I run into it from the right and left, both upset that I could identify as a progressive and a Christian. Both invested in this polarized religious environment. Some of that is found in the debates with Orthodox and Time for Change.
Folks like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens count on and stoke this religious polarization. Folks like Al Mohler do too. As a liberal Protestant, I’m still interested in breaking out of this unfortunate religious situation.