Does mainline liberal Protestantism have just 23 years left?

512px-Ruins_of_Holyrood_Abbey,_EdinburghMore on the plight of mainline liberal Protestantism. . . .

Evangelical scholar Ed Stetzer calculates that at the current rate of decline, mainline liberal Protestant churches will cease to exist in 23 years.

He crunches the numbers and suggests the reasons.  For example, “Over the past few decades, some mainline Protestants have abandoned central doctrines that were deemed ‘offensive’ to the surrounding culture,” but that strategy doesn’t work.

Wait a minute:  Isn’t that the sort of thing that we have been hearing from the evangelical church growth movement?

Stetzer doesn’t really believe that these churches will cease to exist and he laments their decline.  But would it be good if they cease to exist, or is a liberal church better than nothing?  Is there a point to institutional religion without the religion?  Doesn’t that leave just an institution–with all its trappings of bureaucracy, self-protection, and regulation–without a purpose?

I would say that the rumors of the death of mainline churches may be greatly exaggerated.  There still have their Christian pastors, theologians, congregations, and members. But their future may be in their becoming more conservative.  This may be happening.  The Methodists, for example, have embraced the pro-life cause and show some skepticism about the gay agenda, though the church is still torn over those issues.  Conservatives in those denominations often struggle over they should stay and fight–until they are thrown out–or leave, thereby abandoning their church to the liberals.  And it is theoretically possible that some of today’s secularists might start attending the increasingly secularist church bodies.
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The 10 characteristics of Germans

German_mosaic_2The United States, as is often said, is a nation that rests of ideas rather than ethnic identity.  Immigrants wanting to become citizens must pass a test on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and civic participation.

But other countries are based on ethnic and cultural identity.  How can they integrate immigrants from other societies?  What, exactly, is the cultural identity these would-be citizens need to integrate into?  That can be hard to define.

The German interior minister Thomas de Maizière has taken a crack at it.  He has proposed 10 principles of Germany identity.

He is getting lots of criticism for this from rivals to his Christian Democratic party, headed by Angela Merkel.  The left is accusing him of being anti-Muslim, nationalistic, too-Christian, etc.

There have been news stories about this, but they don’t give the 10 principles!  I have found them in a very bad translation and offer them to you after the jump.

What do you think of these?  Do they confuse what “should be” with “what is”?   Do they present the dark side of German history as if it isn’t really German after all, or does it handle that part effectively?  Does this list give a basis for an “enlightened patriotism,” or is it a new version of the German nationalism that gave us World War II?  Do these describe “modern” German culture or do they apply also to the German culture of the past that has made positive contributions to Western civilization?  Do any of these apply also to German-Americans?  Is this kind of exercise helpful or futile?

Could there be a similar list defining the America identity or would that be an offense against American diversity?  If there could be such a list of American cultural principles, what might that look like? [Read more…]

Shouldn’t liberals be going to liberal churches?

6209348934_ccf5e3159a_zMainstream liberal Protestantism is dying, with a decreasing number of people bothering to go to their churches anymore.  This is ironic because, in many ways, the message of those liberal congregations is now widely shared among our cultural elite:  be tolerant of all; be progressive; don’t worry about the supernatural; conform to the culture.  But though the cultural elite has embraced the social gospel of liberal Protestantism, hardly any of them bother with liberal churches.

Ross Douthat, himself a conservative Catholic, argues in the New York Times that those who are liberal politically and culturally should start attending a liberal church.  Even out-and-out non-believers in the supernatural will experience little conflicts with their beliefs.  And there are benefits to church attendance that would be good for them.

Douthat says that it would be good for the cause of liberalism to be grounded once again in some kind of church.  Liberalism, to have an impact, needs an institutional home.  He also throws out this priceless line, referring to recent tendencies:  “Liberal Protestantism without the Protestantism tends to gradually shed the liberalism as well, transforming into an illiberal cult of victimologies that burns heretics with vigor.”

Read what he says, excerpted and linked after the jump, but then consider:  Why is it that liberals tend not to go to liberal churches?  Can you have the benefits of going to a church without holding to its beliefs?  Why is mainline liberal Protestantism in such a state of decline?  What happens to a Christianity purged of its supernatural elements?

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Court rules that Civil Rights laws cover LGBT bias

640px-Lyndon_Johnson_signing_Civil_Rights_Act,_July_2,_1964Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights law bans discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, and sex.  The 7th Circuit federal appeals court ruled that the category of “sex” includes sexual orientation.  This would mean that any kind of discrimination against LGBT folks is illegal.

The ruling only applied to the 7th Circuit Court’s jurisdiction:  Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.  That restriction isn’t made clear in all of the news reports I have read. But it sets up the issue for resolution by the Supreme Court.

Traditional thinking considers homosexuality in moral terms, rather than as an “identity.”  This ruling, if upheld, would bring the law down on the side of “identity,” something the culture has seemingly already done.

Where does that leave the moral traditionalists, including most conservative Christians?  (My discussion continues, with a report on the ruling, after the jump.) [Read more…]

Jokes about race and sex are out, so religion takes their place

bully-624747_640In the culture of the workplace, it is now taboo to make jokes about race.  Nor can you make jokes about ethnicity.  Nor can you make jokes about disabilities.  Now you can no longer make jokes about sex.  Or gender.  So what can you make jokes about?  Religion.

Those now forbidden attempts at humor at other people’s expense were part of the pattern of bullying and harassment that sometimes took place at work.  Sexist humor often offended women in the office.  Now religious people are feeling the harassment.

So says a British study, reported on after the jump.  Do you think this is happening in the United States as well?  Why do you think workers–usually, ironically, in the jolly spirit of camaraderie–feel they have to find a class of people to target?  [Read more…]

Why April is the cruelest month

A_view_across_the_desert_landscape_of_Big_Bend_National_Park,_Texas“April is the cruelest month.”  That snatch of poetry always comes to mind when the calendar turns to April Fool’s Day.  But surely April isn’t the cruelest month!  April showers bring May flowers!   April marks the time when Winter is over and Spring has sprung!  So why would the poet T. S. Eliot say that April is the cruelest month?

Well, that is the first line of a long, difficult poem called “The Waste Land.”  It plays off of the legend of the Holy Grail.  When the chalice Christ used for the first Holy Communion was lost, due to a terrible sacrilege, the whole country turned into a waste land.  Vegetation died, turning the land to desert.  Nothing would grow.  Animals stopped giving birth.  Life became barren, sterile, dry.

Eliot was using that legend to explore what he saw as the spiritual wasteland of modern times.  Here too we have lost what is sacred.  He describes our emotional wasteland.  He writes about the sterility and lifelessness of the Waste Land in terms of uncommunicative marriages; a bored typist and a house-agent clerk who engage in unloving, dehumanizing sex; a woman who casually talks about her abortion.

April is the cruelest month, to people like that, because they don’t want the new life that Spring heralds.  They are happy to be spiritually dead.  They don’t want to be born again.  They feel threatened by the rain that could bring new life to the desert of their lives.  They think the prospect of new life is cruel.

In the course of the poem, amidst many other patterns of imagery, we find the motif of “death by water.”  At the end of the poem, a quester is walking in the desert towards the ruined grail chapel.  He has the sense that someone is walking beside him.  (Eliot’s footnote identifies the allusion as pointing to Christ on the road to Emmaus.)  At the very end of the poem, it is thundering and starting to rain.  Soon after he published the poem, T. S. Eliot was baptized.  Water brought life to Eliot’s own personal wasteland.

The most acclaimed, innovative, and radical poet of the modernist movement, who knew the waste land in his own heart, converted to Christianity.

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