Sunday, February 28, 2010

Talking to Tripp on Facebook about the happy hunting ground of American religion
With this article on ‘millennials’, and the not at all new phenomenon of cultural Protestants making up their own faiths, as the starting point

Tripp starts:
I think about things like this too often. What does the so-called liberal church have to offer these people? Is it possible that the institutions themselves are the problem and not the politics? Institutional methodologies detract from spiritual growth and seeking? The Religious Right is the perfect/essential institutional expression of religiosity. The Left has begun to duplicate this through Sojourners/Jim Wallis. Are young people affiliating with those institutions because they are more likely to be of a common mind? Who can answer that question for me?
IMO liberal churches are by and for boomers who’ve taken the loss of faith at the ‘Enlightenment’ and run with it up to a point but maintain the ’50s habit of churchgoing that they were brought up with. Millennials don’t have that residual culture so either they don’t go at all or if they have a faith it’s orthodox and old-fashioned. (The octogenarian Pope’s Catholic revival has a following largely in their 20s and 30s.)
The Religious Right is the perfect/essential institutional expression of religiosity.
In the happy hunting ground of Protestant sectarianism that is America that’s arguably true; I’m hip to the distinction you make between religiosity and religion. That said I do think it’s a sort of strawman for the left to rally against; a big nothing with little real power.
John, it is certainly a straw man, yet it garnered great support and became the public face of Christianity for many people and even the Pope has to wrestle with that PR when he comes to the US. Media. Who knew?
Probably not evidence of its political power — again it has next to none — but rather the face of American Protestantism by default as the mainline denominations have declined so they no longer are (they haven’t been for about 35 years). The Episcopalians, the Presbyterians and the Methodists don’t rule public discourse like they did years ago. There are still lots of mainliners but as groups they lost their clout. By the time of Fulton Sheen, Roman Catholicism had a shot at replacing them as the face of American Christianity outside the South (arguably in parts of the Northeast it was and is!) — ‘the Catholic moment’ — but 1) Vatican II squandered that and 2) America both redneck and SWPL is still nativist Protestant at heart and I wonder if RCs ultimately could have overcome that. Eastern Orthodoxy will always be an ethnic minority and the boutique church of a few converts (slight uptick in recent years). There. I’m even-handed.
Ha! Well done.

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