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