Claims about America

The grand confluence of Protestantism has dwindled to a trickle over the past thirty years, and the Great Church of America has come to an end.

…The death of Mainline Protestantism is, as we’ve noted, the central historical fact of our time: the event that distinguishes the past several decades from every other period in American history.  Almost every one of our current political and cultural oddities, our contradictions and obscurities, derives from this fact: Mainline Protestantism has lost the capacity to set, or even significantly influence, the national vocabulary or the national self-understanding.

That is from Joseph Bottum, An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America.

The Tea Party, the great stagnation, etc., maybe you can find it all right here.

Don’t worry people, just joking on that one…

Comments

I am very interested to read this and get a full sense of Bottum's arguments.

But my first reaction to his thesis is that one could be forgiven for looking at America's rising inequality, weak safety net, and recent secular (as in "trend", not "non-religious") shift rightward to think that the influence of Mainline Protestantism is still very much alive and well.

Perhaps you're confusing the Mainline Protestants with the Evangelicals? The influence of the Evangelicals is indeed alive and--although not doing as well as it was during the Bush era--they still have tremendous influence in some regions.

Should have clarified that I was speaking mostly to economic policy. On social issues, I agree with you that we see a lot of Evangelical influence today though perhaps less so than in the mid-2000s.

If there's anything we should be afraid of it is the Mormons.
They are set to overtake Evangelicals as the larger and more influential religious movement.

Um no. Evangelicals dominate the politics of every former Confederate State but Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. Really only in Florida are they not the dominant faction in the Republican Party is the three states they don't dominate outright. Even in a state like Ohio home schoolers and evangelicals are likely a large plurality of the engaged Republican Party members.

Should be easy to find data to backup those claims.

No, not easy to find data. "Evangelical" is a disputed term. Its broadest descriptions are advocated by fundamentalist that wish to overstate their influence and secular interest groups that want to fan the fears of an inquisition. I tend to think "evangelical" is not a useful term at all these days.

Living in the South, I don't think that's true except as window dressing. While southern politicians still make a fair amount of Christian noise during campaigns, legislatively there's nothing significant that I can see that has an evangelical flavor.

"Evangelicals dominate the politics of every former Confederate State but Florida, North Carolina and Virginia."

That's not true in Tennessee.

Maybe we're working with different terminology, but my image of Mainline Protestantism involves the National Council of Churches, Rockefeller Republicanism and New England do-gooders.

Mainline Protestantism today is more or less the American "Religious Left," as the various church bodies move left on both theological and political issues, while their congregations diminish in size.

Calvin Coolidge was a mainline Protestant, so you might add some figures to your tableaux.

one could be forgiven for looking at America’s rising inequality, weak safety net, and recent secular (as in “trend”, not “non-religious”) shift rightward to think that the influence of Mainline Protestantism is still very much alive and well.

One could be forgiven for figuring you do not know the Mainline bodies from a cord of wood.

Please, no Straussian jokes.

The American "culture" is increasingly a Pagan culture.

Death? Mainline Protestants are still the third largest religious group in America, or the second largest if grouped together with the Historically Black Churches in the Pew Survey on Religion. http://religions.pewforum.org/reports

I'll admit that you'll almost never see a non-Evangelical Protestant clergy member on the 24 hour news channels, but maybe that has more to do with the booking process and the priorities of the Mainline denominations than with how influential they are behind the scenes.

Time magazine remarked a generation ago that about half the religious programming on radio and television in 1959 was produced by or featured the clergy of denominations affiliated with the Federal Council of Churches, and that these clergy had disappeared completely 25 years later. In my own lifetime, mainline broadcasting consisted of something called Lamp Unto My Feet on CBS (cancelled ca. 1979) and a syndicated children's program called Davey and Goliath, which was produced by one of the Lutheran denominations (and disappeared from the airwaves ca. 1972). That was it. Time's explanation for this was as follows: TV executives sell eyeballs, and the mainline ministers had few because they were a crashing bore.

You know, Scott, of the mainline clergy I have been acquainted with, I can recall one or two born after 1930 who were anything but tedious or vaguely disgusting to talk two. The one's I can recall were distinguished thus: both had had careers in business that they'd given up to go into the ministry. And both were born prior to 1945.

And yet if we look at the ideology guiding the elites, it very much resembles a religion, albeit a hodgepodge of paganism, voodoo and remnants of Christianity.

Judeo Christian religions used to be a form of government: they were the dominant governing institution behind day to day practical functions such as education, health, altruism, and civic life.

Today, western governments are a form of religion: They govern all the practical stuff, but they also have become the dominant institution that tells people what behavior is allowed and moral and what is not. They are the dominant authority on abortion, homosexuality, divorce, child support, race issues, education and all the social glue that holds everything together.

Ah, yes, "Judeo-Christian", much like Communist-Capitalism and Monarchy-Republicanism.

No, as in Judeo-Christian. The earliest Christian communities were drawn from the Jewish populations of Ancient Palestine and Christian communities make use of Old Testament.

True but irrelevant. Until somewhere about the middle of the 19th century, essentially all Jewish influence (except maybe Spinoza) on western civilisation was transmitted through Christianity. So there was no need for the "Judeo". Even now there may be no need: men such as Marx, Freud or Einstein functioned as intellectuals (bad, bogus, and brilliant, respectively) not specifically as Jews. Of course, anyone who doesn't understand that Christianity began as a Jewish reformation, and who pictures Jesus as a sort of blond North West European pootling about in Galilee, might underestimate the Jewish influence on western civilisation. But how many people can be so dim?

True but irrelevant.

No, perfectly relevant to the import of his remarks. Sober up, sister.

dearieme March 24, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Even now there may be no need: men such as Marx, Freud or Einstein functioned as intellectuals (bad, bogus, and brilliant, respectively) not specifically as Jews.

I disagree with that. I think that Marx and Freud were influenced by being non-Christians but not openly. They seem to be motivated by a massive animus against Western Christian society. Which had, admittedly, been busy persecuting their ancestors for much of the last 2000 years. They may not have been religious, or even officially Jewish in the case of Marx, but that doesn't mean they had assimilated.

Art Deco March 24, 2015 at 5:16 pm

No, perfectly relevant to the import of his remarks.

I assume the import of his remarks are anti-Semitic and so we can all agree they are wrong. But do Jews and Christians share a lot of values? Christianity started out as a Jewish heresy, but it adopted a lot of Western philosophy along the way. I don't think it makes sense to put them in the same category any more (with the exception of people like the Reform Jews who in their turn are so assimilated to mainline Protestantism that they are not so Jewish).

Or let me put it this way, Denis Prager has a story about someone interviewing for a new Rabbi:

http://www.jewishjournal.com/dennis_prager/article/can_halachah_ever_be_wrong_20120111/

Then he asked them a question: Suppose you ordered an electric shaver from a store owned by non-Jews, and by accident the store sent you two shavers. Would you return the second shaver?

Nine said they would not. One said he would.

What is critical to understand is why they answered the way they did. The nine who would not return the second shaver were not crooks. They explained that halachah (Jewish law) forbade them from returning the other shaver. According to halachah, as they had been taught it, a Jew is forbidden to return a lost item to a non-Jew. The only exception is if the non-Jew knows a Jew found the item and not returning it would cause anti-Semitism or a Khilul Hashem (desecration of God’s name). The one who said he would return it gave that very reason — that it would be a Khilul Hashem if he didn’t return it and could be a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name) if he did. But he, too, did not believe he was halachically bound to return the shaver.

If you interviewed ten thousand mainline Protestant ministers, I doubt even one would say you should not return the shaver. Even fewer if you specified that the shop owner was Jewish. And yet here is a well respected Jewish figure, reporting a well respected Jewish rabbi, in a well respected Jewish newspaper, that only one out of ten rabbis would and only then because he was afraid that the goyim might do something worse.

There is no such thing as a Judaeo-Christian value. Judaism is closer to Islam. Which is no surprise. But Christianity is no longer that close to either. Well, closer than to Buddhism I suppose.

No, the import of his remarks was that Judaism and Christianity are polar opposites. They are not.

Then he asked them a question: Suppose you ordered an electric shaver from a store owned by non-Jews, and by accident the store sent you two shavers. Would you return the second shaver?

Yes, such moral dilemmas happen every day.

**If you interviewed ten thousand mainline Protestant ministers, I doubt even one would say you should not return the shaver. Even fewer if you specified that the shop owner was Jewish. And yet here is a well respected Jewish figure, reporting a well respected Jewish rabbi, in a well respected Jewish newspaper, that only one out of ten rabbis would and only then because he was afraid that the goyim might do something worse.**

No one that knows what he is talking about respects the black hats. The proper comparison isn't a mainline protestant minister, it's a snake handling, faith healing Pentecostal.

They seem to be motivated by a massive animus against Western Christian society. Which had, admittedly, been busy persecuting their ancestors for much of the last 2000 years.

That's the point. Jews are enemies of Christendom, like communism is the enemy of capitalism. As with other group hatreds, Jews' hatred of Christendom gets expressed through persecution fantasies.

That’s the point. Jews are enemies of Christendom, like communism is the enemy of capitalism. As with other group hatreds, Jews’ hatred of Christendom gets expressed through persecution fantasies.

If I thought it would do any good, I'd suggest when you find yourself making remarks like this, you try inserting the name of a real person and seeing if it is something other than laugh out loud funny. As in,

Dr. Shapiro is the enemy of Christendom, like communism is the enemy of capitalism. As with other group hatreds, Dr. Shapiro's hatred of Christendom gets expressed through persecution fantasies.

Art Deco March 24, 2015 at 5:45 pm

No, the import of his remarks was that Judaism and Christianity are polar opposites. They are not.

That I agree with.

Art Deco March 24, 2015 at 5:52 pm

Yes, such moral dilemmas happen every day.

As opposed to what? Thou shalt not kill? I suspect refusing to return property to non-Jews is a lot more common than wanting to murder one. But I don't live in New York. However, the point is not about how common it is but about the philosophical underpinning. That does not have to be common to be significant.

NewYorkJew March 24, 2015 at 5:53 pm

No one that knows what he is talking about respects the black hats. The proper comparison isn’t a mainline protestant minister, it’s a snake handling, faith healing Pentecostal.

Prager is Orthodox but not Ultra-Orthodox isn't he? He seems fairly mainstream to me. I will agree that the more Reform a Jewish congregation is, the closer it will be to Christianity. But that is just assimilation.

Jon March 24, 2015 at 6:15 pm

As with other group hatreds, Jews’ hatred of Christendom gets expressed through persecution fantasies.

Well not entirely a fantasy.

If I thought it would do any good, I’d suggest when you find yourself making remarks like this, you try inserting the name of a real person and seeing if it is something other than laugh out loud funny. As in,

Dr. Shapiro is the enemy of Christendom, like communism is the enemy of capitalism. As with other group hatreds, Dr. Shapiro’s hatred of Christendom gets expressed through persecution fantasies.

Your difficulty with the difference between singular and plural is kind of amusing. But, um, here on planet Earth, individual human beings often express their hatred of others via persecution fantasies. Maybe if you got to know some humans, this would seem obvious rather than funny to you.

"But how many people can be so dim?"

Higher than I can count in my life time?

So Much for Subtlety, another resident expert on the Jews. I'm wondering how many people would really return something mistakenly sent and addressed to them by a large corporation.

I have experiment for you, leave $100 in a wallet with a phone number included in a non-Jewish neighborhood and see how often you get it back. Do it in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish one, and compare. I'd bet you would do better in the Orthodox neighborhood.

Prager has issues with the ultra-Orthodox so he trots out some examples of (alleged) bad behavior. Prager leaves out two interesting aspects (1) Most Jews, like me (Reform) and Prager, would be counted as "idol worshipers" (non-Jews by these extremists) (2) The context is that finding something is the world's biggest pain in the butt for the strict ultra-Orthodox.

http://www.aish.com/jl/i/fw/91465714.html

Finding the Owner
Once you find an object, you’ll need to post signs in the area (or on Craigslist), and ask around for who may have lost such a thing. As an example, you would publicize: "Briefcase found on July 1st on Brookville Drive. To claim it, call 555-1234."

The key is to divulge enough information about the object so the owner will know it refers to him, but not too much information that someone could unscrupulously come and claim the object. Whoever calls to claim the briefcase would be required to give a “siman” – e.g. basic identifying marks like color, size, and perhaps some of the contents. In this way, we are certain that the object is properly returned.

In the interim, the item may not be used; it must be cared for and kept in a safe place. However, if it gets lost or stolen, the finder is exempt.

What happens if no one comes to claim the item? The Sages say that you must hold onto it “until Elijah the prophet comes” and identifies the rightful owner.

Judah Benjamin Hur March 24, 2015 at 7:11 pm

So Much for Subtlety, another resident expert on the Jews. I’m wondering how many people would really return something mistakenly sent and addressed to them by a large corporation.

Starting anything with a childish insult is hardly going to get you anywhere. I wonder how many would too. Or I would if it was remotely relevant. For a start the issue is not a large corporation. It was "a store". That implies a small scale operation to me. But I know you need to spin this any way you can. Also, and more importantly, the question was not about what people would do in real life. It was a theological question. Nine out of ten Rabbis produced a theological justification for cheating a business.

I have experiment for you, leave $100 in a wallet with a phone number included in a non-Jewish neighborhood and see how often you get it back. Do it in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish one, and compare. I’d bet you would do better in the Orthodox neighborhood.

Great. The relevance is precisely nil.

Prager has issues with the ultra-Orthodox so he trots out some examples of (alleged) bad behavior.

Read the frickin' article if you are going to criticize it. It starts:

Many years ago, one of the most respected Orthodox rabbis of our generation, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of Efrat, told me the following story —

Not Ultra-Orthodox. Who is Rabbi Shlomo Riskin:

"Shlomo Riskin (born May 28, 1940) is the founding rabbi of Lincoln Square Synagogue on the Upper West Side of New York City, which he led for 20 years;[2][3][4] founding chief rabbi of the Israeli settlement of Efrat in the West Bank; dean of Manhattan Day School in New York City; and founder and Chancellor of the Ohr Torah Stone Institutions, a network of high schools, colleges, and graduate Programs in the United States and Israel. He belongs to the Modern Orthodox stream of Judaism.[1]"

Prager leaves out two interesting aspects (1) Most Jews, like me (Reform) and Prager, would be counted as “idol worshipers” (non-Jews by these extremists)

So what?

The key is to divulge enough information about the object so the owner will know it refers to him, but not too much information that someone could unscrupulously come and claim the object.

It comes from a store. It has the rightful owner's name right there on the return address. This is not a big issue. But keep changing the subject. It may work.

These "Christian communities" would be the ones who rejected Judaism, often in very strong terms. But you'd know that as a "Catholic", wouldn't you?

Let's face it, today's Jews have one thing in common with yesterday's: they loathe Christianity, sneer about Christians, and even have a special complaint about Christians trying to convert Jews. Doesn't exactly sound like a religious-cultural continuum to someone who isn't a crazy shekel-worshipper.

So Much for Subtlety March 24, 2015 at 7:27 pm

Starting anything with a childish insult is hardly going to get you anywhere.

Sorry, but I treat this as a family web site. I'd prefer to use a more "adult" insult.

Read the frickin’ article if you are going to criticize it.

Prager wasn't cricizing Shlomo Riskin, but the scholars who were almost certainly ultra-Orthodox.


It comes from a store. It has the rightful owner’s name right there on the return address. This is not a big issue. But keep changing the subject. It may work.

The rule Prager references is about returning lost objects. Some Rabbis around 1500 years ago said you don't have to return them to "idol worshippers" which I explained that part of the reason is that returning a lost object is a huge burden. Just giving a bit of context.

(Not a big fan of Gomer Pyle, but I recall they had an an entire episode about him trying in vain to return money to the phone company.)

One difference between ultra-Orthodox Jews and most others is they take their rules seriously. If there were a rule about "turning the other cheek" they would, unlike maybe 99.9999% of others.

Judah Benjamin Hur March 24, 2015 at 8:08 pm

Prager wasn’t cricizing Shlomo Riskin, but the scholars who were almost certainly ultra-Orthodox.

But the story is about Riskin's effort to hire an Orthodox Rabbi. Ten Orthodox Rabbis turned up. The story has nothing to do with Prager's dislike of the Ultra-Orthodox.

The rule Prager references is about returning lost objects.

No it isn't. Because there is a rule for Jews and a different rule for non-Jews. They were not asked about returning a shaver. They were asked about returning a shaver to a non-Jew. The rule he references looks like one about damaging people who are assumed to be enemies of the Jewish community.

So Much for Subtlety March 24, 2015 at 8:33 pm
Because there is a rule for Jews and a different rule for non-Jews.

The legal interpretation about returning items by the applicants distinguishes between observant Jews and others, including non-observant Jews. (based on a 1500+ year old rabbinical exclusion for "idol worshipers" which is based on a 3000+ year old law that applied to every human.) .

Of course, one wonders if this story actually happened, but in any case, the answer would be similar if the item were owned by an atheist or Reform Jew.

Your difficulty with the difference between singular and plural is kind of amusing. But, um, here on planet Earth, individual human beings often express their hatred of others via persecution fantasies. Maybe if you got to know some humans, this would seem obvious rather than funny to you.

I know plenty of humans, including several Jewish doctors. No, they are not suffering from persecution fantasies.

Judah Benjamin Hur March 24, 2015 at 9:42 pm

The legal interpretation about returning items by the applicants distinguishes between observant Jews and others, including non-observant Jews. (based on a 1500+ year old rabbinical exclusion for “idol worshipers” which is based on a 3000+ year old law that applied to every human.) .

You keep trying to disrupt this discussion by 1. making it all about you and 2. insisting that this is about lost goods. First, it is not about you. Second, there is no reason to think the laws for returning lost property apply here given only you mention them.

Dr. Shapiro sounds like a typical Jew

So does Art "Catholicstein" Deco

Kind of like Star Wars Original Trilogy and the later "Prequel" Trilogy.

It's just another PC nonsense word, one used more often by "conservatives" than liberals. In 99% of the cases either "Christian" or "religious" can be substituted and the meaning of the sentence does not change.

On the contrary you seem to be arguing for a form of government that is a form of religion, at least your religion.

Over the recent time frame government influence has drastically decreased on abortion, homosexuality, and divorce. Instead of telling people what is moral they're actually letting them decide for themselves.

letting them decide for themselves.

As in letting them unilaterally break contracts.

--

Robert Bork was once asked if we could 'legislate morality'. His reply: "We legislate little else".

"Over the recent time frame government influence has drastically decreased on abortion, homosexuality, and divorce. Instead of telling people what is moral they’re actually letting them decide for themselves."

I find that to be an unlikely statement. The regulations in Obamacare alone have significantly increased mandated payments for abortions with insurance policies. Various court rulings have specifically mandated same sex marrigage, various states have specifically restricted same sex marriage, both are signs of increasing government influence.

Recently there was the case of the Cake bakers who were coerced to bake a cake for a homosexual couple or be subject to penalties. Which is a specific instance of government dictating morals.

"Various court rulings have specifically mandated same sex marriage,..."

I seemed to have missed that court ruling. Do I have to divorce my (opposite sex) wife now and remarry?

Certainly right about the declining influence of mainline churches-they were key backers of the civil rights movements and had at least a couple martyrs in that movement: in the 50's you had Big Business, Big Labor, Big Government, and Big Churches. But I'd doubt the direction of the causal arrow--"derives from": women's rights/participation in the workforce (which has the effect of depriving the churches of their most energetic workers), the blossoming of the libertarian movement with its anti-institutional bias, the advance of science and education, seem more likely causes of the decline of the mainline churches, not the other way round.

Sir, frequency of religious observance was at it's peak around about 1957, when women constituted a third of the work force. More married women with workaday jobs is not why you have sloppy liturgy, Marty Haugen, vague and half-baked sermons, the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, demographic implosion in the religious orders, the disappearance of even an annual confession, divorce among clergymen, homosexuality among clergymen... More working women is why the cookies at church-socials are storebought. That's a problem, but only a minor one.

I'd point to the declines since the 1950's of the League of Women Voters and the AAUW, two outriders of mainline Protestantism, as also victims of the expansion of opportunities for women. Women who have a full time professional job have little time to devote to church activities. Not familiar with the Catholic side of the argument, but there were a lot of nuns leaving the orders during the late 60's on, finding opportunity in the secular world.

Just what is the mission of the League of Women Voters?

Women were not sequestered in 1957. In a world where the attrition rate for marriages suggested that perhaps 20% would be dissolved by the courts and where most women were married by their 22d birthday, that third of the workforce largely consisted of married women. (And an aspect of the increasing share of the workforce women occupied was derived from postwar affluence permitting retirement by men). You have married women in professional managerial jobs (which was rare in 1957), but such work employs perhaps 13% of the labor force. Most people were and are wage-earners.

The decline in church attendance was less notable than the loss of seriousness in the institutional mission of local congregations. That loss of seriousness was on the supply side (of course interacting with their clientele).

Some thoughts:

The decline of Mainline Protestantism goes together with the decline of WASP dominance in politics and culture. Some results include an America with less realism in foreign policy and perhaps a more political academia though this is less certain than the decline of realism in foreign policy.

I am looking forward to reading Bottum and compare him to Ross Douthat's argument in Bad Religion. It is amazing how dominant Protestantism was as the arbiter of America's values and character, even up to the 1980s.

Fans of the old WASP order lament the loss of commitment to detachment, duty, and modesty (especially financial) that the best of the WASPs represented. To the extent that the decline of the Protestant guard was voluntary, and represented an embrace of openness, equality, and greater emphasis on merit, the "decline" can be seen as a positive if the new, more diverse elite can continue to carry the best traits of the Protestant rule. But if it is now a free for all with the loss of worthy traits in leaders, then Protestant decline is really a big and bad deal.

the new, more diverse elite can continue to carry the best traits of the Protestant rule.

Actually, what we got was rule by shysters.

The last I looked at a survey of the religious affiliation of the members of Congress, mainline Protestants were well-represented. OTOH, Southern Baptists, Pentecostals and 7th Day Adventists that were politically under-represented. Now, it may be that there has been a shift from fewer Episcopalians to more Methodists, which is more of a high church to mid church dynamic.

Much like the passenger pigeon, American was once covered by teeming crowds of WASPs. They (and the bees) died in the last 20th century, presumably victims of climate change and too many martinis. Allegations that the bred too much with jews and produced sterlie children has been mooted as an idea, athough resarch scientists at the Cis-Gendered University claim the superior breeding technicques of homosexuals and Asians did them in.

116th edition of the Encyclopedia Galactica, FE 1020

What is the purpose or role that secular culture cannot supply?

They handed over to unlimited government the corporal/worldly works of charity/mercy and so abandoned whatever moral standing they had therein. And, they walked, no ran, away from promulgating the rewards of eternal life (which far supass any earthly delight) which Christ purchased for us through His life, death and Resurrection. They abandoned concern for the hereafter (say, zeal for the salvation of souls) and grasped at temporal ecstacies of the here-and-now.

To whatever you mean by "mainline" protestant churches, add vast swaths of Catholicism; they committed ecclesiastical suicide when they deemed that 5,000 years of Judeo-Christian faith and morals teachings, i.e., objective truth, either subject to change at the whims of the deniers of said teachings: adulterers, fornicators, racial racketeers, secularists, sodomites, and statists or decided that said teaching are plain evil - take your pick.

But hey! Pass that joint over here.

I really love how Christians only started to use the "Judeo-Christian" line when they lost the power to persecute those pesky "murders of God" (apparently, the time Jews spent in Ghettos and having their religious freedom denied by Christians is part of these unbroken 5000 years. Go figure). I love even more their desesperate attempts to pretend each and every change (a new revelation, two new Gods, Son and Holy Ghost, rejection God's promisses to Abraham, Jacob and Moses) they made is a part of those unbroken "5,000 years of Judeo-Christian faith and moral teachings".

1. No, 'Judeo-Christian' was a term that emerged in 1955 as a courtesy. The larger society everywhere retained 'the power' to persecute Jews. They just elected not to (and never really had in North America).

2. Jews in early modern Europe found ghettos useful as a dedicated space away from troublesome others.

3. There is nothing desperate and no pretense about it.

"Jews in early modern Europe found ghettos useful as a dedicated space away from troublesome others."
Who were those unamed "others"? Martians, vegans, salesmen? Evidently, the limitations of religious freedom, pogroms, and other limitations were beautiful demonstrations of Christian love...
"There is nothing desperate and no pretense about it."
Yes, it is a lie, a desesperate Orwellian attempt to convince people we have been in war against Eastasia for the last 5000 years. "This new understanding of the relationship between Catholics and Jews is also reflected in the revised liturgy of Good Friday in a particular way. The pre-1962 version of the Good Friday Prayer had Catholics praying for the "perfidis Judaeis", the 'unfaithful Jews'"-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relations_between_Catholicism_and_Judaism#Background. Or do you prefer to talk about Luther?
"No, ‘Judeo-Christian’ was a term that emerged in 1955 as a courtesy. The larger society everywhere retained ‘the power’ to persecute Jews. They just elected not to (and never really had in North America)."
Or, if you want to be honest, those who would like to persecute (in name of the Jewish deity, no less) them can't do it anymore ("they murdered God" doesn't hold well in the court anymore, and even the good old American version of the numerus clausus would be frowned upon nowadays if it is obvious that the only goal is to keep Jews out) and had to change (again) their unchanging "5000 years of moral teachings" (well, better late than never, right?) becuse the "larger society make them. They could have used some "courtesy" in the first 1955 years, right? The term "Judeo-Christian" is a cynical attempt of self-serving creeps to convince Jews that "we are all in the same boat" without mentioning that some people are more prone to be thrown overboard than others.

Courtesy? LOL. You should read Thiago Ribeiro's comment, and take it to heart. Maybe you'll accept that Thiago Ribeiro is an enemy of Christendom? There is no point to be "courteous" with the likes of him, because he hates you not for what you do but for what you are. A shabbos goy is still a goy.

Exactly. Insane, visceral, bug-eyed, foam-flecked, unquenchable hatred. Hatred which cannot be appeased or reasoned with.

You missed the part about the Blessed Virgin being a whore. Were you pressed for time?

A gentleman doesn't talk about ladies. But we can talk about her sons if you want. I recall an old Jack Chic tract , "Allah Has No Son", so let me tell you something, "God has no wife."

Please. It's obvious to everyone that Mary was cheating on Joseph. It's bad enough he fell for god did it, but that the rest of you bought it is hilarious.

How did us Blond devils lose the power to persecute your tribe?

I am not sure, but must have happened in a tragic way if all whining about how Christians are oppressed in the West is to be believed. Or maybe they (a big enough number of them to keep the rest in a tight leash) learned that loving thy neighbor and persecuting him are different things (who could have known, right?). Apparently, the ghettos, the destruction of holy books, the social limitations, the humiliations were not a Christian way of dealing with other human beings (better now than never, I must say).

Hey a true believer! Maybe you can explain to us how you can be a monotheistic religion and have three different gods. I always wondered about that one.

Hey a smug atheist. Quite a few succint and elegant formulations explaining that have been written over the years. Easy enough that illiterate medieval peasants understood the logic. But I'm going to guess not sufficiently easy to broach your understanding.

"Easy enough that illiterate medieval peasants understood the logic."
As Reagan said about liberals, the problem with illiterate medieval peasants is not that they are ignorant, it's that they know so much that isn't so.
As Einstein said about the many Aryan Physicists who "proved" him wrong, it they were right, one would be enough.

Re: T. Shaw. I can't tell if you're also quoting from Charlie's encyclopedia or some other.

Don’t worry people, just joking on that one…

In all seriousness, I don't think post-religious or atheistic society is sustainable. A society that cannot find a way to connect with the metaphysical and translate that into its own cultural expression will be replaced by one that can.

Project much?

Alternatively: societies that have medicine, security, prosperity, and a pretty good understanding of natural processes doesn't need to cling to myths and fairy tales in a desperate attempt to feel like they understand the world.

Or maybe Denmark is doomed after all.

Denmark is doomed.

Superbugs, suitcase nukes, monetary shocks and degraded human capital can change all those things. But you don't have to be a religious or theistic person to posit that a formal, practiced religion appears necessary to a cohesive society that can reproduce itself.

Neil deGassy Tyson said so, so it must be true.

I would like to know specifically by what mechanism you think lack of religion is dooming Denmark. I suspect you're thinking of demographic changes due to low fertility and the immigration of illiberal peoples. These factors, even if true, have nothing to do with the Danes' lack of religion. I suppose if they were more religious they might be more inclined to have babies and deport non-Christians, but that seems like a very convoluted justification for going along with religion.

A-G, am I interpreting you correctly as saying that you think everything might seem fine and dandy in Denmark until a big shock comes along that shatters the Danes' willingness to live in a multicultural society, resulting in chaos? If so I actually think that is a legitimately good point, but I don't see how religion is relevant in that.

These factors, even if true, have nothing to do with the Danes’ lack of religion.

Oh yes they do.

But Rome's fall had nothing to do with Christianism's rise to power. No, sir. And it is inspiring that Roman elite could balance Christian religious monopoly, slavery and compulsive backstabbing. Byzantium is another interesting case. But those Danes, they are the really evil ones. Evidently WW I had nothing to do with all those wonderful Christian governments-no, sir, life is coincidence upon coincidence-and had no bad consequences whatsoever.

Rome wasn't an atheist debate club before Christianity; its citizens worshiped the Greek pantheon. And Christian societies hardly have a monopoly on warfare and brutality. You appear to have a knee-jerk hostility to Christianity, as if it's the only religion in the world.

No. I'm saying that insofar as your thesis is that affluence and advanced technology crowd out religious faith, circumstances can change.

But I actually don't agree with that. I know a number of affluent doctors who are devout Christians, Muslims and Jews for example. (Geniuses seem mostly atheistic, but geniuses comprise only a tiny fraction of any society.) I just don't think atheistic societies can produce enough children or remain coherent or sufficiently united against outsiders over the long term. Perhaps I'm wrong.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. I just don't see what you see.

The preceding societies were not sustainable; if they were, they would be around, right?
"A society that cannot find a way to connect with the metaphysical and translate that into its own cultural expression will be replaced by one that can."
I see, to survive, we a fairy tale, ANY fairy tale will do, Truth be damned.

Christian society lasted like 1400 years. SJW/Buzzfeed/Broad City culture is looking threadbare after about 70. Your taunts read like panic.

Now, the Christian Roman Empire, Byzantium, the Victorian Age, those were sustainable, that is why they are around, strong and healthy (the unsustainable society is the one alive, the sustainable ones are the dead ones, OK, nothing is as stable as death). By the way, it is not clear how good for me is a society I can't accept as mine-Catholics were unanimous in attacking the Reformation, how can the Protestant society be the same as theirs and who decides, you?- one of the most famous Portuguese writers, Father Bernardes, wrote that the Protestants dedicate their lives to tear the Lord's tunic up. I am not sure it is an enthusiastic support. Well, if everything else fails, we can bring back Slavery, Servitude, pogroms, this must do the trick and make our society as wonderful and sustainable as our forefathers' ones...
"Your taunts read like panic."
Of course, talking to you, I am facing a no-win scenario. "Against stupidity even the gods contend in vain"

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.

A society that cannot find a way to connect with the metaphysical and translate that into its own cultural expression will be replaced by one that can.

Why?

I mean, what mechanism will cause this replacement, exactly?

(Note from below, we could just as easily have said, in 1770, that "a king appears necessary to a society". Or, earlier, slavery.

That religion has historically been omnipresent - and practiced, formal - does not tell us it's necessary; just that it's not incompatible.)

Except that many societies prior to 1770 had functioned without kings. And look you can replace a king with another source of executive power and slaves with machines and third world labor what are you substituting in to replace religion?

Replacing the kings has not worked out all that well.

That's a counterfactual, and hard to argue, but given the fact that I'm nobody special, but that I'm typing this comment on a state-of-the-art laptop from Indonesia while free to practice whatever form of religion or sexuality I wish, knowing that I can return to history's most advanced technological meritocracy with super-advanced healthcare, culture, and economic policy, within 30 hours, I'd argue that non-monarchical society has done pretty damn well for itself.

(Ok, maybe I stretched on the economic policy a bit, but it's better than, say, a king deciding to create new money by ...fiat... to fuel a personal war against his cousin or whatever else (I am no historian, but I've got vague memories of learning this at one point))

Many of today's most advanced societies with high standards of living still have monarchs nominally in charge - the UK, Japan, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, even Spain. I suspect the average standard of living in a monarchy probably exceeds the standard in your average nominal "Republic" by a comfortable margin, even with outliers like the US, Germany and Switzerland in the Republic camp. Not that monarchies actually spur economic growth, but the presence of a hereditary monarch in a 21st century society is generally evidence of long term social stability and capital accumulation.

@Sam Haysom

Government, science? Secular morality, ethics and philosophy? All of those are substitutes for religion. In fact, imagine all the things your imam/priest/shaman/Pope/whatever does. They are, or were, governors, tax collectors, philosophers, psychologists, and leaders. None of those things necessarily need some sort of theistic myth around them in order to still function. (Or do you disagree? What is unique to religious leaders that secular leaders cannot provide?)

As a follow-up question, how can you square the fact that many myths seem to be substituted in a successful religion, be it Allah, Yahweh, Brahma, or ancestor worship? I'd argue that religion operates on the secular plane, and therefore that its facets can be substituted for secular facets without loss, or great loss.

"Many" societies? In Europe that would be the Netherlands (not yet a monarchy in 1770), Switzerland, and a small number of Italian city-state republics.

Atheists don't make enough babies and tend to buy into dystopic ideas like 'scientific socialism.'

There is a lot of confusion to be had. See Lee Kuan Yew. This one stands well even from 1989: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/8824460/Bunke%20Lessons%20from%20Singapore.pdf

That was a good article, very telling about the principles and culture that formed Singapore. Does this culture still hold true today as it did back then?

"The importance of our differing perspectives on personal responsibility
becomes frighteningly apparent when the two school systems are compared. Reflecting
the Confucian ethic that learning is the path to the good life, education in Singapore
ranks at the top of the national agenda. On the surface, Singapore's educational philosophy
appears similar to ours, stating simply that "each child is assured a place in the educational
system where he/she is accorded an opportunity to excel to the limits of his/her ability."
The American and Singaporian interpretations of this statement, however, are much
different. Singaporians emphasize opportunity; we emphasize equality. From the start
Singaporians assume that not all students are equally capable."

Also read the following part where the author goes on to ponder on the objective of the American education system. (And note this article is way back from 1989).

In return an old article from 2003 about the experiences of an American math teacher who had to work with inner city kids.

Interview with Teacher X, Part I & II
http://www.2blowhards.com/archives/000536.html
http://www.2blowhards.com/archives/000539.html

It's difficult to discern what the seminal factor was, but one might suggest that the seminaries and divinity schools began to trade in a hybrid of literary study and garage-sale clinical psychology and social work, because they were not Christian adherents in any way other than that was part of the script if you're a seminary or divinity school professor (See Holmes Hartshorne's Faith to Doubt if you want a testament of a philosophical agnostic employed as a protestant academic). That's going to diminish the caliber of people who seek out and survive seminary formation, which in turn influences catechesis. Affluence also has an effect on the social dynamics among the young, which influences receptivity to the Christian message. So you have these feedback loops operating. Where the bottom is, nobody knows. Clergymen are not influential because a comfortable majority of them are not to be taken seriously.

Maybe people just became a little less dumb...so being told what to do, is not an option any more for many.

I read this, and I think about the wailing from corners of the right about modern day persecution of Christians, and I just have to laugh. Look, there is a galactic gulf between "People like me get to dictate cultural norms to such an extent my mere furrowed brow can make you ashamed to walk down the street or even to exist" and "protestant Christianity has zero cultural influence".

I get that the loss of influence as profound as the former can be jarring, but kind of haha welcome to the rest of the world where your position is just one of several very significant views that sway culture.

If you weren't a whiny juvenile, you'd just call a different bakery.

Is this just America? Consider the total collapse of the the established churches in northern Europe. It will not be too long before, counting only those who attend services somewhat regularly and are familiar with at least the bare bones of the creed, Anglicans are outnumbered by Catholics, Evangelicals and Muslims *in England*. Whatever it is people want from religion nowadays, mainline protestantism hasn't got it.

"Mainline Protestantism has lost the capacity to set, or even significantly influence, the national vocabulary or the national self-understanding."

His book seems like a perfect example of our time: Whining.

That word does not mean what you think it means.

By the way, Bottum is Catholic.

He's one o' them pro-same-sex-marriage Catholics.

It was an attempt at humor in order to lighten the mood. Humor often involves exaggeration. It wasn't a serious comment since I haven't read the book.

It was an attempt at humor

Try harder next time.

Or, don't joke with religious people about religion... their God was not a humorous fellow; and as we all know from Chris Rock, comedians don't end up staying in heaven.

The tenets of Protestantism, specifically its Puritan version, survive in an areligious morality that worships the acquisition of money and material goods and is devoted to work, particularly by others. The post-Puritan ideal is a capitalist society where an educated elite guides and administers the unwashed masses in a never-ending cycle of production and consumption that requires them to show up at dawn every day and produce widgets so they can buy other widgets. This is justified by the Puritan idea that no one should eat without working. The fundamentalist Christian concept of life after death may be fading away but the morality remains.

So, you're saying the movie They Live is actually anti-Puritan?

Sounds like...every society that has ever existed, since the dawn of human kind. Nothing you described there differentiates the "Protestant ideal", from any other reality in any other society.

The difference lies elsewhere.

Unless you know of some other society where people eat without working, or don't wake up at dawn to work and produce widgets so they can buy other widgets. Except, maybe a Buddhist monastery.

Yeah, someone doesn't know his history.

(Also, his religion - 2 Thessalonians 3:10 is not something those mean ol' Puritans invented; it's core Christianity, which has never, as a faith, encouraged people to sit around idle on the sweat of others*.

Now, it was quoted to the people of Jamestown, which is a Puritan enough, for sure.

But it was after almost 90% of them starved to death over the winter of 1609, which adds a rather ... significant bit of context, does it not?

* Most of the "easy" counterexamples that spring to mind don't work if you have a knowledge of pre-Modern history and Christianity, so don't bother unless you've got those.

** Full disclosure: I'm an atheist. But one that has better things to do than hate religion. Studying it is both more fun and more productive of insight.)

The letters of Saul have nothing to do with Jesus. Saul never even met him.

There are many societies where the elites eat without working and sleep in late.

The priests of virtually all religions are a luxury that consume more than they produce. Their services are no longer necessary for the post-Puritans, however, since the deeply ingrained societal aspects of that life are more important than salvation. The ideas of people like John Calvin, which ended the feudal age, stripped of their ecclesiastical features, continue to determine the course of American society, especially through the influence of educational institutions like Harvard University. NFL football, for instance, could only be popular in a Protestant milieu. Catholic Latin Americans are repelled by its reduction of the individual to a minor part in a larger enterprise, it's complicated structure, its lack of grace and beauty and the general dearth of enjoyment in the actual playing of the game. American football is the Protestant religion as recreation.

A few things to consider:

1) The "mainline" churches in the US are predominantly Left. Left of Left, usually. So attempts to tie it to economic or "social safety net" issues, as some posters did up top, just don't hold.

2) Their shift to the left is probably what caused their abandonment by a large majority of people, who moved on to unaffiliated churches where they didn't have to hear the Pastor talk all day about sexism, racism, the homeless and how evil money is (even though 95% of the congregation is rich upper-middle class white people).

3) To argue that this has caused a shift in, something, in American society, one would have to argue that the growing churches are in some way ideologically or practically different from the "old" mainline churches. I don't think they are. They are different from the "new" mainline churches, yes. But the dominant world view remains the same, just in a different set of churches.

4) The greatest shift, I'd say, is the rise of the Catholic church thanks to immigration from Latin countries. These churches do have a different world view and ideology, and their impact, I think, is a more obvious "culprit" for the shift in American society.

A shift which I might add, is both in the Left and Right direction, depending on which issue you're talking about.

"The dominant worldview" has not remained the same. The growing churches do not have any influence on the dominant worldview that is expressed by our economic, cultural, and political elites.

Is "elite" your new word of the week?

"the homeless and how evil money is (even though 95% of the congregation is rich upper-middle class white people)."

If you ignore pretty much all of the history of Christianity over the past 2,000 years, I suppose talking about the evils of homelessness and excessive materialism would seem left-wing but, otherwise, these are and have always been a core part of Christian teaching. And the claim about the make-up of mainline Protestantism is total nonsense: According to Pew, 46% of mainline Protestants come from families where income is less than $50,000. To be fair, your comment was about people who actually go to church rather than people who just self-identify as mainline Protestants but 95% is wild hyperbole.

This is a great discussion but possibly too academic and detached from modern realities. The great change in society is TV. Addiction to it and its offspring (video games etc.) have created the amazing dumbing down of society we see and the "be with it or out of it" ethos. The point is that viewpoints outside the consensus are derided or ignored be they true or false. Mainstream christian doctrine requires the ability to access complex ideas on ones own if it is to "work." This seems to be beyond the capabilities of the TV generation (the above discussions excepted - there will always be a few capable of independent thought.) The inmates are now running the prison.

I really would like to know exactly which complex ideas those illiterate slaves and serfs (unless Antiquity and Middle Ages Christianity is much different from mainstream Christianity)were accessing to make Christian doctrine to "work" and what exactly they were doing with those ideas that modern parishioners can't do. I somehow doubt they were all reading Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo.

By "TV generation", don't you mean the last two or three generations? More than half of American households had televisions by 1954, and 90% by 1962.

Besides, I was taught that a personal relationship with the Divine was the original promise of Protestant faiths. You can wrap it in as many layers of theology and group-specific dogma as you like, but Protestantism's initial broad appeal extended from the minimal intellectual complexity required to embrace its tenets. Then again, my perception is that most major religions began as simplified reinterpretations of existing ideas, but became grounded in increasingly complex ideological traditions over time.

Oh, lordy. If "Mainline" Protestantism is losing sway - well we need to define "Mainline". Does it not include the multi-faceted evangelicals? I would guess not, based on the comments. I would have thought they were included, though. And what is this about fearing Mormons? My g- - - heavens (excuse me), in my experience, as a subcultural group, they hold stronger familial ties, and cultural ties to religious values, than do any other named Protestant Christian group in the US. Imo, the Baptists, Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, etc adhere more strongly to hypocrisy than they do true adherance to the core values of their religion. At least, in the past 50 years.

I would agree that things have changed since 1950. No problem with that.

For light bedtime reading, I read random volumes from my 1971 Encyclopedia Britannica. And, boy, is there a lot of coverage in it of now extremely obscure old Protestant churchmen and churchwomen.

Of course, it's not that Protestantism isn't growing, it's that it's growing in independent churches rather than Mainline Protestant churches. Is Bottum's critique that Protestantism (and before the Reformation, Catholicism) is losing the cohesion derived from shared theological views? If so, he is correct. Christians don't wish to admit it, but Christianity is no less sectarian than Islam. Read the Gospel of John and, more to the point, the three Letters of John in the canon. As used there, the Christian anthem "love thy brother" doesn't mean love everyone, it doesn't even mean love every Christian (indeed, John and the Letters of John teach not to love thy brother in the broad sense), it means to love only like-thinking Christians. I suspect that's not a point Bottum is making because it doesn't fit his neoconservative vision of American exceptionalism. As I often say, Christianity has evolved from many different visions, not only of different visions for values but different theological views about who Jesus was (in the first and second centuries, there wasn't one Christianity but many Christianities), to a single church (the Catholic Church) with one creed and one set of theological views, to a splintering into two churches (Catholic and Protestant) with two sets of theological views (the Protestant Reformation), to a splintering of Protestantism into several different sects (Baptists, Methodists, etc.) with opposing theological views, to a further splintering of the different sects of Protestantism into even more sects with opposing theological views ("let's make like the Baptists and split" being a joke among seminary students), to a further splintering of the different sects of Protestantism into independent churches with their own, and in many cases idiosyncratic, theological views. For those who followed this history, Christianity has come full circle, back to the first and second centuries when there were many different Christianities. As a Christian, I share Bottum's concern about the splintering of Christianity, and I'm particularly concerned about the idiosyncratic, independent churches, whose enormous growth is more dependent on the charisma of its founder than the shared theological views (whether Catholic or Protestant) developed over the centuries. Indeed, I often emphasize this point by suggesting that the splintering of Protestantism won't end until each Protestant has his own church with his own theological views. In this narcissistic age, each can determine his own path to salvation.

The question I have for you is, "Should the perfect [your perfect], be the enemy of the good?". Isn't the actual path to salvation strictly a relationship between an individual and Jesus Christ?

John 14:6: Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.

Of course, the concept of justification by faith and the related concept of a personal relationship with Jesus derive from a combination of Pauline Christianity (a Gentile religion) and the Reformation (Luther and Calvin). As for the Gospel of John (written not by John, the Disciple Jesus loved, but by an anonymous author many years after the deaths of Jesus and His Disciples), the theological battle over who Jesus was has already taken place, and the Gospel of John won! While Mark, Matthew, and Luke may be at least partly historical, John is almost entirely theological. Religion and faith are theological concepts, so approaching Christianity from a theological point of view makes more sense than a historical point of view - and pointless debates about the historical Jesus. Bottum seems to favor Mainline Protestantism more for sociological reasons - its affect on cohesion - than for reasons of faith; religion can serve many purposes, social cohesion and salvation not necessarily mutually exclusive (even if Jesus was a rabble-rouser himself). I'm a cradle Episcopalean, which which means that I occupy the space between Catholicism and Protestantism, and that while I believe justification by faith is a "wholesome Doctrine", I also believe that "Good Works" are the "fruits of Faith", "they are pleasing and acceptable to God", and "spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith" (quotes from our Articles of Religion). Without Paul, there would be no Christian religion, but without Peter, James, and John, the closest Disciples of Jesus, there would be no religion true to the teachings of Jesus. All of this to say that the evolution of God in Protestantism (as I summarize in my first comment) is taking the concept of justification by faith to an extreme that would make it unrecognizable to Jesus and His Disciples, unrecognizable even to Paul. A religion in which everyone makes up his own theology is not a religion. And it cannot serve Bottum's purpose of promoting social cohesion.

Thanks Rayward for a sincere response. I think Bottum, et. al need to entertain the prospect that the fall of the mainline denominations is due to one prominent factor in my mind: the leaders of the sects were too focused on RELIGION itself. I know this may not make any sense at all, but from a social cohesion point of view, what's worse: identifying what makes us different or elevating the things that we have in common?

I fully agree that Jesus would advocate those products of faith, but he would not require them for entry into eternal life.

That said, it is not for me to judge the evolution you describe. I can tell you that, as a cradle Methodist, I've transitioned on to a non-denominational church. You would probably label this church as unrecognizable based on the criteria you've laid out related to their principles taught. However, you will find that there are very few churches in my area that have such a positive impact on our community as this one has/does. In other words, the "Good Works" which are the fruit of our faith have a more natural manifestation in my eye.

Christianity, along with all other belief systems, is constantly evolving to meet the demands of its adherents. Mainline Protestantism is declining because it doesn't offer modern Americans what they want. It's both too stuffy/conservative for secularists and too fluffy/liberal for True Believers.

Evangelical churches that emphasize a personal relationship with God are winning over the True Believers. Those who don't care about God one way or the other have dropped out of organized religion.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing. People should be free to explore their spirituality in whatever form it takes as long as they don't actively oppress everyone else.

Seems rather strange to me to talk about "sectarianism" or "opposing theological views" or "different Christianities" when speaking about the Protestant denominations.

The theological differences between them are so minute and technical, that they make no practical difference on the issue of how they affect society or the "culture". That's why so many people freely move from one denomination to another, without even realizing the differences between them. But that's the whole point of Protestantism: it comes down to the individual, not church doctrine. And that's why there are so many different churches, because they;re trying to appeal to so many individual tastes.

This is very much not the case of early Christianity, where the "different Christianities" you're speaking off, were as different in their practical and ideological viewpoints as Buddhism and Christianity are today.

"Rome wasn’t an atheist debate club before Christianity; its citizens worshiped the Greek pantheon. And Christian societies hardly have a monopoly on warfare and brutality. You appear to have a knee-jerk hostility to Christianity, as if it’s the only religion in the world."

And yet Rome fell after Christianity became State Church. So much for those "traditional sustainable" societies of yore (all dead) we keep hearing about. Evidently Christian societies have no monopoly on warfare and brutality-or virtue, by the way, no matter what you my have heard. I have a hostility to hypocrites, e.g. those people who pretend to be concerned with the survival of a society they despise when they are only upset they can't engage in the kind of savage behavior their forefathers could, cue paeans to the virtuous "traditional" times of pogroms, religious persecution (as in real persecution, "not Christians are oppressed in the West because it is getting harder to them boss everyone else around"), servitude, slavery and the pious warnings that if we don't hand them their whips back the World will stop turning).

In Latin America, the trend is a big move away from the mainstream religion of Catholicism and towards Evangelical Protestantism. Among American Hispanics, only 55% are practicing Catholics. The rest are evenly split between non-religion and Evangelical Protestantism.

Looks like there might be some kind of continental convergence here?

I think Christianity underwent the same sort of polarization as politics starting with the "southern strategy" era of Republicanism. Rockefeller Republicans didn't fit into the post-Goldwater / Reagan version of the party and the "party of Lincoln" types drifted into what is now considered center-left. And much like how the South came to dominate the GOP, the southern Evangelicals sort of pushed the New England Luthern types out of the desire to participate in the national religious conversation. As a result, as religion became dominated by the Jerry Falwell / Pat Robertson types, the descendants of those old mainline Protestants found any association with the new American Christianity to be something they didn't want to be associated with, alienating them from Christianity entirely, pushing them in a more secular and agnostic direction. That, or they joined the ranks of the Christian Coalition.

As the old joke goes, you can be the party of Lincoln, or the party of the south, but you can't be both. I think American Christianity followed a similar track.

I think a good example of the type that has been mostly lost is Dallas County Judge, Clay Jenkins, a very religious Texas Democrat who probably comes off as too religious for northern liberals, but draws scorn from Southern evangelical Christians for his stance on things like offering to house child immigrants locked in detention centers. From the viewpoint of mainline Protestantism, helping others seems the right thing to do, but that attitude doesn't seem to work in the new Christianity of the south that has become xenophobic, homophobic, and hostile towards minorities.

So, what you're saying is: you've never been to a "new Christian" church down in Texas, to see how 80% of the seats are taken by those "minorities"?

But you do make a valid point however: the distinction is that mainline Protestantism, at some point in time, turned into a cult of charity. Rather, a political party of charity. Everything that was "good", was then to be done by government. You're correct. That is a good description of the Christian Left.

It does not mean, however, that the "new Christian" evangelicals" of the "South", represent anything new. Quite the opposite. They have the same ideology as has been standard Christian ideology since the time of the Reformation. It's the "Christian left" that is the departure, and by extension, the "mainline churches" which embraced this ideology.

This is why I can't see how the decline of "mainline Protestantism" was a particularly defining moment. By the time of their decline, the mainline churches were hardly a continuation of the "Puritanism" of earlier times.

PS: Of course, you're over-simplifying things too much. There's plenty of "evangelical" churches in the "South" that are Leftists in their world view. And there's plenty of "mainline" churches up in the north that are more "conservative" than Jerry Falwell.

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