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"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mainline Decline

”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.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Why the Bible is Important

As a liberal protestant ; here’s my stab at the question of why we ought to engage the Bible even if it's all too human origins has become apparent.

How is revelation determined? Presumably determining the good in life, the wise would be of a similar basis as how you would go about the same question. The difference is we’re engaging a particular story, the resources of a given tradition.

What is revelatory, we couldn’t be dead certain but whatever points to life, to community, to well being, etc. in the tradition tells us something about God. Could other traditions do likewise? Yes. But this is our story.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t other good stories. It does mean this is the one we’ve been shaped by, our imaginations caught by. And from it, we get the good the bad the ugly.

If you think of it like family, we can recognize the value of other families and recognize something uniquely valuable, important to our self constitution in our family. They don’t simply get replaced even if we recognize there are other loving families.

There is no “clutter free” zone, so that dumping the Bible doesn't place one in an "easy place." There's no place where we escape our history. It’s a question of what tradition to engage and why.

No story is not uncomplicated, problematic, including that of the western enlightenment. So there isn’t an easier route. There’s much to commend western humanism but being easier is not one of them. Nor should it be. Otherwise it wouldn’t be true to life and it’s own history.