Thursday, February 28, 2008

That Pew Forum survey on religion in America
Telephone interviews with more than 35,000 people

One finding and my take on it: the Roman Catholic presence, the biggest single church but always outnumbered by the Protestants combined, has always been a minority, about 25 per cent, but (like in the UK now thanks to Poland joining the EU and thus massive immigration) its size and strength right now are an illusion propped up by immigration. The generational native-born RCs shot themselves in the foot with Vatican II. Now about a third of them leave. That church has ‘the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes’ in a country with lots of that change, say the survey and The New York Times.

John Zmirak at Taki describes the problem in his church and I think Thomas Day would agree:
American bishops have largely given up on passing along the faith to the next generation of native-born [Roman] Catholics, and are relying instead on a steady influx of people who have not yet been fully exposed to the acid effects of modernity — including the dominance of “dissenters” in many [Roman] Catholic schools, the blandness and vagueness of religious instruction, the unrelenting banality of most parish liturgies (with music and rituals that would not pass muster at gatherings of the Boy Scouts), and the dismal quality of education for would-be converts. Every single adult convert to [Roman] Catholicism I have known has complained about the 4th-grade intellectual level of the programs for the “Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults” — whose initials (RCIA) should really stand for “Repelling Converts In-Advertently.” Meanwhile, those who grow up (as most U.S. [Roman] Catholics do) torn between the engrained effects of a deeply Protestant culture, and a dimly comprehended, diluted faith, increasingly drift away from our halfway Protestantized parishes... Comfy suburban “seeker” churches, thunderously enthusiastic Pentecostal sects, or stolid but largely orthodox and intensely catechetical Baptist congregations — each one is psychologically more satisfying than a gruesomely renovated old or shabbily ugly modern parish staffed by uncertain clergy who are mostly embarrassed by their church’s most distinctively counter-cultural teachings.
Pope Benedict’s RC restoration’s great if like an Anglo-Catholic you live near a ‘shrine’ church but it’s a drop in the bucket as are the Orthodox (six-tenths of a per cent). Real ACs (not high-church Protestants) of course are rarer than hen’s teeth.

The ‘evangelical base’ is growing, not surprising in the happy hunting-ground of sectarianism as Mgr Ronald Knox described it.

As for the mainline churches Episcopalians for example ‘have one of the highest rates of becoming no religion (20 per cent)’. One of yours pointed that out so don’t blame me.
Protestant churches cannot count on their members knowing anything about the history and faith commitments of their particular tradition. These folks who are migrating from [Roman] Catholic to Protestant or from liberal to evangelical or evangelical to progressive or whatever the pattern know more what they don’t want in a church than what they do want or believe.
— the Revd Dr Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite quoted at Episcopal Café via Fr Chris Tessone
For AFP the highlight is that Protestants are verging on becoming a minority. For The Washington Times the highlight is that Evangelicals outnumber [Roman] Catholics. For Jewish Telegraphic Agency it’s that Jews are wealthy, educated, and old.

However, what is surprising is that the ranks of the “unaffiliated” shows a rapid increase. One in four adults age 18 to 29 claims no affiliation with any religious institution.
Mainstream US Presbyterians decide: no ordaining unchaste gays
And, asks and answers GetReligion, why does the Episcopal Church get so much media attention?

Commenter Jay is onto something big:
The social activists in TEC are aggressively seeking societal change while their PCUSA counterparts just want certain people to get a job.
The latter are happy both to live under and give real freedom as am I; the former want to take our freedom away including conservative churches’ rights to exist and govern themselves. (Which is why some in corners of cyberspace really want to stamp out the Southern Cone Diocese of San Joaquin for example, a tiny church many miles away from most of them and no threat to them nor should it be. They can’t stand its mere existence; it doesn’t affirm them.) Tolerant conservatism isn’t good enough for them; it’s a war of absolutes politically for them as much as it was for the old Moral Majority. See Lew Rockwell yesterday on Mises.
It is essential to retain the old liberal view even in the midst of all the coming conflicts.

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