Christian, Christian-influenced, and anti-Christian

Ross Douthat, a Catholic columnist for the New York Times, has written about the difference between some of the various strains of orthodox Christianity and the various heresies that are still in the Christian orbit (including what he calls “Americanized Christianity”).  Then there is Christian influence, which can even be seen in people who reject Christianity.  But at some point, as we are starting to see, there is a mindset and a culture that are utterly devoid of anything Christian.  Please read his whole essay, but I quote how he finishes after the jump. [Read more…]

Reducing religion & morality to what is “useful”

More from Daniel Schwindt on de Tocqueville, this time about how Americans–because of their rationalism and individualism–tend to see both religion and morality in terms of what is “useful.”  (Again, thanks to Daniel Broaddus.) [Read more…]

American rationalism and individualism

Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in the early days of the republic, was one of the most perceptive and prophetic observers of American culture.  He’s often misinterpreted, though, which Daniel Schwindt tries to address in a fascinating essay about what the French nobleman was really saying about religion in America.  (Thanks to Daniel Broaddus for putting me on to this.)

After the jump, an excerpt about how American’s rationalism leads to an unhealthy individualism and to a distorted version of Christianity.

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Why is Calvinism so influential and not Lutheranism?

There are lots more Lutherans than Calvinists.  And Calvinism has all of those scary doctrines like double predestination and the limited atonement, whereas Lutheranism is, well, happier, with its emphasis on the certainty of grace, Christian freedom, and its affirmation of the secular realm as God’s hidden kingdom.  And yet it’s Calvinism that has been so influential in English and American Christianity and the culture as a whole.  So marvels D. G. Hart, himself a confessional Calvinist and a perceptive scholar of American Christianity.  Read his ruminations after the jump, and then offer your own theories about why this is.

UPDATE:  Anthony Sacramone, former Calvinist who is now a Lutheran, has a very helpful response.

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De Toqueville on Christianity in America

Democracy in America, written by the French aristocrat Alexis de Toqueville in 1835, is full of stunningly perceptive and prescient insights into American culture, many of which are valid today nearly three hundred years later.  Paula Bolyard discusses what he says about Christianity in the Republic, suggesting that his description of the church as profoundly influential, while distinctly separate from politics, is a good model for today.  You should read her essay, but I’ll just post her quotations from De Toqueville. [Read more…]

The end of American Protestantism?

Theologian Stanley Hauerwas has written a devastating critique of America and American Protestantism that, agree with it or not, is worth thinking about.  He argues that American Protestantism, which has been so influential in American culture, is fading away because of its cultural conformity.  (He includes a great line from Bonhoeffer, that America has a Protestantism without the Reformation.)  You should read the whole thing, but I’ll post an excerpt that deals with what he says is the American conception of freedom and its connection to divorce and abortion. [Read more…]