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?

[Read more…]

Run it like a business?

business-1137397_640President Trump is reported to be understandably frustrated that the government can’t be run like a business.  In his company, Trump could simply given an order and his underlings would do it.  But as president, he gives an order but he has to contend with the courts, Congress, semi-independent agencies such as the Pentagon, a vast bureaucracy, and state governments, each with its own complicated workings.

I’ve listened to a pastor explain how he is trying to run his church like a business.  He is the CEO, he explained.  His members are his employees.  He said he doesn’t do hospital visitations or evangelism calls.  That is the work of his members/employees.

I do think the government and churches can learn some things from businesses.  For example, you need to balance the budget, be efficient, give good service, etc.  But the very nature of these institutions prevents them from being interchangeable in the way they operate.  [Read more…]

Garrison Keillor and the test of a good religion

Garrison Keillor has stepped away from Prairie Home Companion.  Ethan McCarthy discusses his depiction of the Midwest and its values, which Keillor loves, though he often finds them annoying.  But you’ve got to read what McCarthy says about Keillor’s depiction of the church and Christianity (excerpted and linked after the jump), which, I suspect, many of you will relate to.

McCarthy closes with a quotation from G. K. Chesterton:  “It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.” [Read more…]

New study on church-going has surprises

Pew Research has released a new study on church-going, including why people leave, how they choose a new congregation, and why people don’t attend.  Read the study here.

The reason lots of people have stopped going to church, it turns out, is not so much that they are rejecting religion in favor of scientific materialism.  Rather, the logistics of getting up on Sunday and organizing themselves and the family for a trip to church is just too difficult.

The main reason people choose a new congregation is not disagreement with the pastor of the old one (a reason given only by 11%), but because they have moved.  The factor that is most influential in choosing a new congregation?  The pastor’s sermons.

There are other surprises:  denominational loyalty is still an important factor; while many people attend church less, almost 25% of Americans are attending church more.

Take a look at the study and then read an analysis of the findings by Emma Green in the Atlantic, excerpted and linked after the jump. [Read more…]

The Communion of the Saints

The body consists of innumerable cells.  Each of these has its own distinct life–its own systems of nutrition, reproduction, and protection–and yet these cells group together to form highly specialized organs that, in turn, make up a single body.  The whole scheme, with its incredibly complex relationship of the parts to the whole and the whole to the parts, is astonishing to contemplate.  And the makeup of the body is the Bible’s explanation for the Church and for the relationship each Christian has with the others. This is the “Communion of the Saints” that we celebrated yesterday on All Saints Day. [Read more…]

Being Christian without believing in God

In Judaism, it’s fairly common to hear, “I’m an atheist, but I’m culturally Jewish.”  So why can’t a person be an atheist but culturally Christian?

It turns out that some people like going to church–singing hymns, performing rituals, being part of a community, getting morally inspired–but they have trouble with the God part.  An op-ed by Alana Massey calls for churches to make a space for unbelievers who nevertheless want to be “cultural Christians.” [Read more…]