“Ross Douthat is a Fruit Fly” and Other Responses Around the Blogosphere

There have been quite a few responses and reactions to Ross Douthat's New York Times piece since I posted my own response and round-up (as there have been other responses to other reporting on the recent Episcopal General Convention here in Indianapolis). There are several excellent ones, but the most striking title award goes to Rev. Matthew Lawrence, for his post, “Ross Douthat is a Fruit Fly.” The post contains a lot of insight, but what I valued most was the irony of Liberal Christianity's alleged wane in popularity being leveled as a criticism against it. Too often, conservatives have criticized liberal Christianity of doing what is popular. You can't have it both ways.

Rachel Held Evans expresses her sense of being caught between liberal and conservative, not fully comfortable with either pole.

Diana Butler Bass suggested that the issues of declining numbers are found across the spectrum and so the real question is not Douthat's, “Can Liberal Christianity be Saved?” but simply whether Christianity can be saved. [This post was in my last round-up but added as a late addition, and so I thought I should mention it again here.]

Derek Penwell turns the tables on conservative critics of liberal Christianity. Here is a taste:

What I want to challenge is the persistent and difficult-to-kill assumption that conservatives occupy some kind of religious and ethical high ground, and that any deviation from a particular kind of conservative orthodoxy isn’t merely a matter of interpretation, but is tantamount to initiating hostilities against God, motherhood, and the flag—all of which, interestingly enough, are conflated in some people’s minds. But that’s another article.

The smug certainty with which some conservative religious and political types believe not just that they occupy the side of truth on every issue, but that they occupy the side of God’s truth is alarming—not because they believe these things of themselves so uncritically (self-righteousness is a time-honored religious and political posture onboth sides of the ideological divide, after all), but because so many in the culture agree to cede them this authoritative land of milk and honey.

Steve Douglas made the best use of a sci-fi metaphor, discussing the challenges and concerns for those who contemplate decloaking as theologically liberal having crossed the neutral zone.

Chaplain Mike interacted with Douthat, Bass, myself and others.

Henry Neufeld offers his perspective as a “passionate moderate.”

Rod the Rogue Demon-Hunter asks what the church getting saved would actually look like.

Adele Stan responded by comparing the situation for the more liberal Episcopal and more conservative Roman Catholic churches.

Jay Emerson Johnson offered a powerful response summed up eloquently in his opening sentence:

I am socially and politically liberal because I am theologically and religiously conservative.

Jon Meacham points out that the view that some forms of Christianity have not evolved and changed is at odds with the evidence from church history.

Rev. Winnie Varghese articulates her vision as an Episcopal priest of what her church stands for and where it is headed.

Bruce Epperly advocates both listening carefully to Douthat's criticisms, and continuing to press onward with reformation and needed change.

Cliff Martin shares an example of respectful conversation between viewpoint in a Facebook group that I am a part of.

See also ProgressiveChristianity.org, which has reproduced a couple of the above articles and has many other relevant resources.

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  • Eric

    Thanks for these. I’m wondering when we will reach the point where people stop listening to anything Douthat has to say about religion.

  • Frank


    Too often, conservatives have criticized liberal Christianity of doing what is popular. You can’t have it both ways.”

    Actually it is both ways. Liberal Christianity attracts because it allows people to live they way they want. It dies because the god it paints is not God.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Frank, you have both failed to understand what I wrote and been misinformed about Liberal Christianity. It does not suggest that you have managed to achieve a corner on the only true God if you either misrepresent or cannot comprehend the viewpoint of your opponents. Care to put a bit more effort in and try again?

    • Consumer Unit 5012

      I lost track – where in the Bible does Jesus endorse the Republican Party and their platform of War, Wealth, and Waste? This must be in some book my Liberal Bible left out, which never seems to quit with the admonitions to leave some of the harvest for the poor, give someone the shirt off your back, not let rich people into Heaven, and so on.

  • John Petty

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