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>> Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Christian Science Monitor recently had an op-ed column regarding "The coming evangelical collapse."

We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.
The victim meme in these first few paragraphs is unbelievable. For this writer, holding sway over public opinion due to your religious beliefs is a right! Andrew Sullivan actually describes this merging of politics and Christian beliefs as "Christianist" or "Christianism" depending on the context.
This, to me, is the critical distinction between a Christianist and a mere Christian. One wants to infuse politics with religion; the other wants to respect both, separately, and to keep religion private.
A logical distinction that is lost on plenty of people. But guess what, younger people actually do not identify themselves as religious.
Of course, I find it interesting that the only options in the graph above seem to be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or none. Is Buddhism or Hinduism not an option? Anyhow, as one of the researchers stated/speculated:
In the 1990s, it really sunk in on the American public generally that there was a long-lasting ‘religious right’ connected to a political party, and that turned a lot of people the other way…In an earlier time, people who would have been content to say, ‘Well, I’m some kind of a Protestant,’ now say ‘Hell no, I won’t go.’
Fucking duh! Take this quote from Republican Kenneth Blackwell, who was in contention for the RNC Chair position:
"Chairman Steele, as the leader of America's Pro-Life conservative party, needs to re-read the Bible, the U.S. Constitution, and the 2008 GOP Platform. He then needs to get to work -- or get out of the way,"
The Bible is the most important thing to Republicans? What happened to the Constitution? The Federalist Papers? Declaration of Independence?

Add in the Catholic Church's multiple sex abuse scandals and is it really so hard to believe that, if young people have the choice, they'd rather not go to church?

But back to the original op-ed piece. The top two reason he gives for the collapse of evangelical Christianity are
1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.

The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can't articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.

2. We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we've spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.
Ignorance. Pure ignorance. I've always found it amazing how little some of the most rabid Christianists are unaware of the history surrounding Christianity and how certain beliefs came to be. Most of these folks would just rather read the Left Behind series and pretend to know it all based on novels. You know, fiction!


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