Thursday, October 31, 2019

"Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold..."

I am really enjoying The Dispatch and, for the time being, it is free. From David French today:
I urge everyone to read Ross Douthat’s insightful piece in Tuesday’s New York Times. He makes a key point about the continuing decline in American Christianity—it’s mainly occurring in the more lukewarm quarters of the faith. Here’s Ross:
The relative stability of the Gallup [church-attendance] data fits with analysis offered by the sociologists Landon Schnabel and Sean Bock in a 2017 paper, “The Persistent and Exceptional Intensity of American Religion.” Drawing on the General Social Survey, they argued that the recent decline of institutional religion is entirely a function of the formerly weakly affiliated ceasing to identify with religious bodies entirely; for the strongly affiliated (just over a third of the American population), the trend between 1990 and the present is a flat line, their numbers neither growing nor collapsing but holding steady across an era of supposedly dramatic religious change.
Put another way, Americans who used to categorize themselves as Christians by default or heritage—those nominal Christians who rarely darkened the doors of a church—are more likely to simply say they don’t belong to any faith.

A verse in the book of Revelation comes to mind: “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” ....

...[W]hile Protestant attendance numbers are relatively steady (because the Evangelical church grows as the Mainline shrinks) the Catholic condition is more grim: “after a long period of immigrant-supported stabilization, in the current ‘aftershock’ it’s mostly Catholic mass attendance that’s been falling, even as Protestant church attendance bobs up.”

Thus, it’s not exactly right to say that America is becoming a “post-Christian nation” in the way that Europe is thoroughly secularized. In reality America is becoming a religiously divided nation—divided not between Christian sects, but rather between the faithful and the secular, with the faith community comprised of a critical mass of devout believers with a much smaller number of nominal or traditional hangers-on.

Finally, Ross accurately identifies a fascinating cultural reality. It’s simply wrong to say that the faithful are clustering in one American political party. White Evangelicals have moved decisively to the GOP, yes, but black Democrats are one of the most devout American demographics.

In fact, the Democratic Party contains an interesting alliance of both the most faithful (African-American) and secular (white progressive) communities in the United States. ....

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