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, March 16, 2009

Religion in America: Not Encouraging

Here's a take on the decline of the mainline, the rise of folks not identifying with religion, the way the religious right has defined Christianity, and how that has closed off the resources and possibilities of the religion in the wider society.

Key quotes:

"The problem was the issues the evangelicals focused obsessively on- abortion, gays often seem warped to many others. Those who might once have called themselves Christian suddenly found the label toxic, if it meant identifying with such a specific political agenda. And so as evangelicalism rose, atheism and nonaffiliation emerged as a reaction."

'What one yearns for is a resuscitation of a via media in religious life-the role the established Protestant churches once played. Or at least an understanding that religion must absorb and explain the facts of modernity...It seems to me that American Christianity, despite so many resources, has ignored its intellectual responsibility"


At 3:51 PM , Blogger orthodox said...

It's not that Christians are focused "obsessively" on these issues. Rather, other groups in society focused "obsessively" on changing thousands of years of status-quo, and Christians are in reaction to that. I guess if the government was leading an attack on the trinity, that would be the obsessive focus. However it is not that, it is these other things.

How absurd that people would do a switcheroo and make this about Christians being obsessed when they are simply upholding the status-quo. I would think the radical forces upending the Christian position of all of history must be the ones who have an obsession by any objective standard.

This is a bit like Hitler writing an article complaining about how Britain has an odd obsession with not liking mass murder.

At 8:55 PM , Blogger Dwight said...

There's nothing inherently sacred about the status quo.

At 6:47 PM , Anonymous Cowtipper said...

The main problem with organized religion is that it's too prescribed and dominated by authority. They become political entities that use the vast numbers of adherents to influence politics, instead of a true search for spirituality, which can really only happen on an individual level. I'm firmly in the pro-gay-rights camp, but I would accept someone doing a whole lot of soul-searching and deciding for themselves that homosexuality is wrong. What I can't stand is people blindly believing whatever the head of their church tells them to think. I think that as our access to overwhelming amounts of viewpoints and perspectives continues to grow, a more personal sort of spirituality will resonate more and more with people.

The decline of Big Religion can't come soon enough, if you ask me.

At 12:10 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


You are showing your underlying hatred of orthodoxy.

You affirm ... Evangelicals focused obsessively on certain issues...bad bad evangelicals

orthodox points out that it is not Christians that are obsessed but attempting to protect a culture of life and truth, from those who are obsessed with death and immorality.

You then throw up a red herring, saying there is nothing sacred about the status quo.

You are using red herring and diversion arguments rather than focusing on what is true and right. Orthodox merely made a truthful observation, and rather than concede the point, you throw out a red herring.

While it might be accurate to point out that over the last several decades Evangelicals have been focused on certain very important cultural issues, it is unfair to paint them as obsessed.

In fact, as the last election indicated, many evangelicals abandoned these cultural and moral pillars and voted contrary to these things because they were falsely lured into thinking that there was another way of reducing abortion and slowing the moral decline of the culture. They were wrong, but many were sympathetic to the liberal appeals.

Rather, I think this will cause true disciples to once again take up the mantle of truth and the great commission. Getting burned by liberalism, will hopefully cause many to once again return to what is right and true. My hope and prayer is that another true revival of the Spirit is coming.

At 5:08 PM , Blogger Dwight said...

It wasn't a red herring. It was the substance of orthodox's claim. "changing thousands of years of status quo" is the problem for him and for those of the religious right. I just pointed out that some things that are "status quo" are not always right to defend.

I didn't use the word obsessed. Andrew Sullivan did. But it is a measure of "orthodoxy" for most evangelicals I know. They weren't willing to split the Anglican communion over a Spong, heterosexual and somebody they should find as their antithesis. They do it over a relatively orthodox bishop, who is gay. Because that's the driving issue. Not the trinity, not atonement, not inerrancy, but the gay, in particular. In any case, they've done a good job of branding Christianity in their image, so most folks who might not agree with these kind of social politics or creationism, etc. don't touch Christianity with a 10 foot pole. That's a problem imho.

At 6:45 PM , Blogger orthodox said...

"There's nothing inherently sacred about the status quo."

Whatever. The point is that those changing the status quo are going to have to front up and take responsibility for the social upheaval caused by it. You can't change the way things are done and then point the finger of blame at the other guy for causing the upheaval of change.

At 8:40 PM , Blogger Dwight said...

Folks working for justice usually cause a bit of upheaval, including Jesus. It goes with the job description.

At 9:49 PM , Blogger orthodox said...

Whatever. But don't cause an upheaval and then look incredulous when there is an upheaval. Front up and admit you are the one who did it.

At 4:09 PM , Blogger Raye said...

Orthodox, I don't think anyone who is fighting for change is not anticipating upheaval. But they feel it's the right thing to do, and that the upheaval is worth it. Change does not come easy, and I very much doubt anyone is going to be surprised that some people wont like the change. Some people were right ticked when slavery was abolished, or women were given the vote, after all.

At 4:32 PM , Blogger Nat said...

Orthodox: What does the current abortion debate have to do with Thousands of Years of 'Christian Status Quo'? At what point in history was it decided that 'ensoulment' happens at fertilization?

This is the 'Conservative' methodology. Invent a mythical past, an then act like your socially manipulative innovations are really just an attempt to reclaim the history you just invented.

At 12:51 AM , Blogger Fred Preuss said...

So your's is the church that's lost over 40% of its members and whose median age is 55?
Wow-not much of a future there.

At 1:14 AM , Blogger Fred Preuss said...

If you thought that your position in society would always be there simply because you'd always had it, you're like those who think that the banks will never take their money simply because they've never taken their money before.
You got complacent, spoiled, smug and now it's coming back to bite you. Right now you're huddled in a corner, unable to tell if the voices are trying to hurt you, offer what might be useful advice or have just come to laugh at the crazy person complaining that things aren't what they used to be, it's the fault of the fundies, but just you wait, we'll be back, yessir, it'll be Emergent, it'll be Diverse, it'll be Better than Before because God is Doing Something New....
And then the people will walk away to find something more interesting to do.

At 8:16 AM , Anonymous Kalita said...

The misunderstanding is that people believe that God's Laws have somehow changed. The reality is, man has changed the Laws to justify his transgressions.

It is in this change that the discourse, and confusion, of the hundreds of Judaic-based religious sects have come into play throughout history.

If we would realize that there is one set of Laws, since God revealed them in Genesis, the world could start living in perfect harmony as was intended.

My Peace and Prayers to you.

At 3:19 PM , Blogger Dwight said...

Every time I hear right wing descriptions of religious liberals, I have the feeling that they don't know any really. If they do, they'd have to be blatantly dishonest. I've certainly experienced God and a call for social justice. The latter is not the sole basis of religion. It's one feature of it. So social service agencies are important but also relating to the transcendent is too. I can give any number of reasons for mainline decline, I raised one of them. I have raised other reasons in other posts. While you may not be invested in that issue, this blog is.

At 3:50 PM , Blogger Fred Preuss said...

Sir, once again, let me spell it out to you:
I am NOT, and NEVER have been, a member of a right-wing political group, including any evangelical, right-wing, conservative church.
Do you have anything to say about the points I've mentioned being correct or incorrect? Other than that, all you're saying to me is "Wah, wah, wah, why are you being so mean to me? Stop being hateful!"
Without the transcendent, I have managed to live quite pleasantly so far. If you can't give me a reason for believing, please don't use your invisible friend(s) as proofs or reasons for social and political policies. If you have legitimate reasons for your social and political policies, there is absolutely no reason for any invisible friends and you can save your Sunday mornings for fishing trips.

At 12:15 AM , Blogger Dwight said...

I didn't see any points to respond to. Just insults.

At 5:12 PM , Blogger Right Side Review said...

85% of Americans are Christians, yet liberals worry about pleasing the minority. http://rightsidereview.blogspot.com/

At 6:00 PM , Blogger Fred Preuss said...

You don't even bother to dispute my assertions.
Is your church in serious decline or not?
If so, why should I bother with your church?
Why join an organization that will be about as important as Kiwanis in 20 years?

At 8:09 AM , Blogger Dwight said...

Presumably one joins a group because one believes in it, not because it would win a popularity contest

Right Side
Well as part of the 85% of Christians I'm concerned about the other 15% as well. I don't think numbers give us a position to bully. It's what hospitality is all about.

At 4:17 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that we know a lot more now about science and that religion is closed minded and living in the dark ages.

My own opinion is that it's just as plausible that angels were advanced humanoids with technology so advanced it made them seem like gods...

Some of my theories and observations are available on http://www.thejesusalien.com, which I hope you might consider linking to.

I do not wish to insult Jesus etc. because I hope all the promises he and his kind made come true... as they can be achieved technically.


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