Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Seven insights about Mainline Protestants

Rodney Stark explains various worldwide religious trends including U.S. Mainline decline in "The Triumph of Faith" (Photo Credit: ISI Books)

Rodney Stark is a terrific writer, and he has a new book, The Triumph of Faith. "[It] explodes the myth that people around the world are abandoning religion. Stark marshals an unprecedented body of data to reveal that the world is more religious than it’s ever been—and why everyone gets the story wrong." Although 95% of Congress checks the box for Christian (90%) or Jewish (5%), for the general public it's between 75-80%.  Meanwhile the churches that built this nation, that supported the great 19th century causes, are struggling to survive. Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists (UCC), Anglicans, Lutherans, etc. are struggling to stay alive with aging congregations hanging out banners about diversity and inclusiveness--something young people can get by joining an athletic club or chess interest group. Other churches have exploding congregations.

(1) “Protestantism is as strong as ever in America—only the names have changed.”

(2) “Not many years ago, a select set of American denominations was always referred to as the Protestant ‘Mainline’ … Today that designation, though still commonly used, is out of date; the old Mainline has rapidly faded to the religious periphery, a trend that first was noticed more than forty years ago.”

(3) “Some religious institutions—but not all—fail to keep the faith. In an unconstrained religious marketplace, secularization is a self-limiting process: as some churches become secularized and decline, they are replaced by churches that continue to offer a vigorous religious message. In effect, the old Protestant Mainline denominations drove millions of their members into the more conservative denominations.”

(4) “The wreckage of the former Mainline denominations is strewn upon the shoal of a modernist theology that began to dominate the Mainline seminaries early in the nineteenth century. This theology presumed that advances in human knowledge had made faith outmoded… Eventually, Mainline theologians discarded nearly every doctrinal aspect of traditional Christianity.”

(5) “Aware that most members reject their radical political views, the Mainline clergy claim it is their right and duty to instruct the faithful in more sophisticated and enlightened religious and political views. So every year thousands of members claim their right to leave. And, of course, in the competitive America religious marketplace, there are many appealing alternatives available.”

(6) “Even though so many have left, most of the people remaining in the former Mainline pews still regard the traditional tenets of Christianity as central to their faith. As a result, the exodus continues.”

(7) “Many liberals have attempted to make a virtue of the Mainline decline, claiming that the contrasting trends reflect the superior moral worth of the Mainline… Meanwhile, the Mainline shrinks, and conservative churches grow.”

From the review at Juicy Ecuminism by Joseph Rossell

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