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July 14, 2012


Can Liberal Christianity be Saved?

As a result, today the Episcopal Church looks roughly how Roman Catholicism would look if Pope Benedict XVI suddenly adopted every reform ever urged on the Vatican by liberal pundits and theologians. It still has priests and bishops, altars and stained-glass windows. But it is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.

Yet instead of attracting a younger, more open-minded demographic with these changes, the Episcopal Church’s dying has proceeded apace. Last week, while the church’s House of Bishops was approving a rite to bless same-sex unions, Episcopalian church attendance figures for 2000-10 circulated in the religion blogosphere. They showed something between a decline and a collapse: In the last decade, average Sunday attendance dropped 23 percent, and not a single Episcopal diocese in the country saw churchgoing increase.

This decline is the latest chapter in a story dating to the 1960s. The trends unleashed in that era — not only the sexual revolution, but also consumerism and materialism, multiculturalism and relativism — threw all of American Christianity into crisis, and ushered in decades of debate over how to keep the nation’s churches relevant and vital

The entire article can be found at the New York Times.


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25 comments

As C.S. Lewis suggests, these folks are welcome to their sincerely held opinions, but the collars and mitres need to go.

[1] Posted by Cindy T. in TX on 7-14-2012 at 06:12 PM · [top]

Agreed Cindy T. These folks should be honest and give up any pretense of being Christian. Let them design their own “faith” and leave historic Christianity alone.

[2] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-14-2012 at 06:44 PM · [top]

Liberal Christianity is first, foremost, above and before all, a political project.  As we’ve seen so many times recently, where doctrine and politics are at odds, it is invariably doctrine that must yield.  What’s more, it’s a political project of a faction that almost universally scorns religious belief, and Christianity in particular (Islam is much more appealing to them for a variety of reasons).

So left-liberal Christianity is whipsawed by its tendency to alienate anyone not substantially in lockstep with its political agenda and by being politically attractive only those that despise Christianity to begin with.  This is not a recipe for a growing church, or one centered on the Gospel.

[3] Posted by Jeffersonian on 7-14-2012 at 08:02 PM · [top]

I find womyn and effeminate men in clericals and dog collars almost as creepy as clowns.

[4] Posted by Jim the Puritan on 7-14-2012 at 08:17 PM · [top]

Liberal “Christianity” is cognitively unstable by nature.  As a belief structure, it exists in a no man’s land between agnosticism and orthodoxy.  It says stuff like God is an enormous miracle incapable of performing minor miracles.  And it holds that the Bible is trustworthy when it comes to mysticism but not when it comes to basic ethics.  People may twist themselves into these unholy positions over time, but people aren’t stupid enough to buy into them directly.  Note that I’m not talking about a few contradictions here or there across a giant belief system.  I’m talking about a network of probabilistically linked beliefs stretched past the breaking point.  Because liberal christianity has stupidly and heretically opposed orthodoxy to much of the scientific worldview, the tension on liberal christianity will only grow stronger as science progresses. 

Psychologically, liberal christianity is institutionally self-destructive.  It assaults objectivity and norms in order to regress to narcissistic entitlement

The meaning of organization in bi-parental and anti-paternal Psychology

In the simplest possible terms, organization refers to the structuring of exchange relationships (Blau, 1964; Homans, 1950). An organization refers to a system of exchange relationships that has an identity, in the sense that it is thought of as a specific agent within the overall pattern of exchange relationships. Even on this minimal level, it is easy enough to see that the images of organization that are reflected in bi-parental and anti-paternal psychologies are diametrically opposed in a very important way.

Within bi-parental psychology, organization makes sense and organizations make sense. The maternal element is present in the sense of belonging that the organization affords, and in the way that it is seen as a route to the ego ideal. The paternal element is present in the way the organization is understood as being part of the exchange structure of social life. The individual who accepts benefits from the organization will therefore be expected to accept the responsibility of balancing the exchange.

Focusing on the responsibilities of the exchange process highlights the difference in the way organization is seen from the standpoint of the two psychologies. For a structure of exchange makes objective demands on its participants, demands that need to be fulfilled whether the participants want to fulfill them or not. The paternal element makes it possible for those demands to be legitimized and accepted as obligations. From the standpoint of anti-paternal psychology, however, there can be no purpose beyond free expression – no lunches, so to speak, aside from free lunches. It is impossible to make sense of the demands inherent in the exchange framework. They must, therefore, be experienced with rage, and resented as intrusions, violations, and acts of hatred.

These different approaches to organization arise out of fundamentally different structures of meaning and therefore different approaches to the nature of reality and to what life holds in store for us. For bi-parental psychology, life is a struggle in which we begin with nothing more than illusion. If we are ever to have anything good in life, we must create it though our efforts. Yet, since it places the ego ideal at the end of a path that we may follow, it offers us hope of its attainment. For anti-paternal psychology, we begin with everything that is good, and lose it through no fault of our own. Meaning can be structured only around the narrative of our loss and our hatred of the forces that are seen to have unfairly taken goodness away, and who are seen to have it in our stead. In place of hope it brings us rage, envy, resentment, and schadenfreude. And, since that loss is imagined as infinite, these feelings of resentment can never be assuaged or even diminished. They are not passing feelings but structural elements of the person’s orientation toward life.

Within anti-paternal psychology, an organization cannot be approached from within the depressive position, as having some good aspects and some bad ones. It cannot seem to be a set of arrangements through which many individuals accomplish their purposes, being therefore entirely suited to none of them. Set against the perfect, effortless fulfillment that the primordial mother seemed to offer, the fact that anything is required of us and that anyone else gets anything must be experienced as deprivation – the organization seen as a locus of oppression, properly the focus of rage, envy and resentment, and deserving to be destroyed.1 When these forces are integrated into the organization, they focus the organization on its own destruction. I refer to this process of self-destruction as organizational nihilism. The danger of political correctness, then, is that the dynamics that underlie it incorporate organizational nihilism into the organization’s core processes.

http://www.sba.oakland.edu/faculty/schwartz/Political correctness and organizational - Final.htm

Liberal Christianity must evolve or die.

[5] Posted by The Plantagenets on 7-14-2012 at 08:18 PM · [top]

“the leaders of the Episcopal Church and similar bodies often don’t seem to be offering anything you can’t already get from a purely secular liberalism”. The social work program at U.W.Madison might just as well be training the clergy of TEC.

[6] Posted by Fr. Dale on 7-14-2012 at 08:26 PM · [top]

The viewpoint of this article and the WSJ article earlier this week have been standard fare in the blogosphere for a good while.  What is interesting is that they are being expressed in major mainstream media.

[7] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 7-14-2012 at 08:31 PM · [top]

How many had this thought come into your mind when you read the headline? Should Liberal Christianity be saved?”

[8] Posted by Fr. Dale on 7-14-2012 at 08:35 PM · [top]

There really is no such thing as “Liberal Christianity.”  It may be liberal but it is not Christian.

[9] Posted by Jim the Puritan on 7-14-2012 at 09:02 PM · [top]

The sad thing is, they think they are the chosen ones, prophets of a new sexually liberated, non-dogmatic, vague deity concept, god-energy worshiping “thing” that’s superior to anything that’s come before.  None are so blind as those who will not see.

I’m no theologian by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve read enough synopses of the early ecumenical councils to see liberal “Christianity” is just recycles a hodge-podge of heresies the Church has dealt with before, but never in such a confused jumble.  They think they’ve come up with something new, but as Fr. George Rutler put it, they are just new, old fools.  Their arrogance refuses to allow they’re just spewing old garbage in a new way, but it still smells the same.

[10] Posted by Bill2 on 7-14-2012 at 09:22 PM · [top]

From posts on other threads it seems quite clear that the TEC General Convention “liberal Christianity” lacks the discipline, tradition, and theology to be a sacramental Christianity.  It is a kind of Universal Unitarianism of intellectual exploration and advocacy of (politically correct) social justice and good works with a nod to Jesus.  For those who may be of an Anglo-Catholic bent it is very sad.

[11] Posted by Don+ on 7-14-2012 at 09:47 PM · [top]

Can “liberal Christianity” be saved. No, IMHO.

[12] Posted by Nellie on 7-14-2012 at 09:53 PM · [top]

Depending on how you define “liberal” and “conservative,”  I would argue that the Church needs the participation and prayer of both liberals and conservatives.  Examples of churches without liberals can be just as “unchristian” as these recent examples of churches without the meaningful influence of conservatives.

[13] Posted by BillK on 7-14-2012 at 10:14 PM · [top]

I so look forward to the extinction of those know-nothings.

[14] Posted by A Senior Priest on 7-14-2012 at 10:26 PM · [top]

#8. Good one, Fr. Dale. The answer to that question is still- No. IMVVHO. I also agree with Jim #9. There really is no such thing as “liberal” Christianity. I like how this question is phrased over at Titus OneNine which posts about the same article.
Can Reappraising Christianity [especially as practiced in Mainline Churches] Be Saved?

My comment over there:

The question in my mind is-Should this *form* of Christianity be saved?  No doubt in my mind that the one true faith is always worth saving. This pseudo-“Christian”  whatever nonsense should be allowed to die. I fear for the number of souls that will die with it.

[15] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-14-2012 at 10:53 PM · [top]

Liberal “christianity” has evolved into a dead end.  If evolution is true, the hypothesis states that most aberrations are fatal.  Perhaps this is the purpose of the Episcopal Organization?  To provide evidence of the dead end multitude of evolutionary happenings?  They sure seem hell-bent on it.

[16] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 7-14-2012 at 10:56 PM · [top]

Bill2, Your comment about their arrogance reminds me of Bishop Allison’s book, trust in an age of arrogance. Have you read it by chance? If not, you should. You would recognize the basic theme of the book. A very powerful book that as one reviewer (Os Guinness) stated- “I started this book in am armchair and finished it on my knees”.

[17] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-14-2012 at 11:03 PM · [top]

We can survive and will but we need to start recruiting conservative people to join the church and get it back on track.  We have been taken over by a bunch of people who really have no interest in the church other than to support their own selfish agenda.  Susan Russell needs to go along with Vickie Gene.  They have pretty much ruined the church and it has costs us millions and millions of dollars.  Funny thing is…South Carolina is our most conservative diocese and the only diocese with any growth.  The media says the church has died.  Hate to say it but it is due to the gays getting in office and getting what they want passed.  i am tired of it but will continue the fight.  We have all got to start going to National Convention and start talking to these people and try to get their life turned around.  Seems to me that most of them are sick.  Hate to sound that way but just being honest. Need to drop the political correctness and do something about it.

[18] Posted by hoggy on 7-15-2012 at 12:34 AM · [top]

The Presbyterian Church has a big ex-gay group that goes to all of their conventions.  Why can’t we? I think that is going to be my project for the next 3 years.  I don’t really know any but I can find some.  I have heard the ex-gay movement is really getting big. Sure the Episcopal church has plenty of ex gays…

[19] Posted by hoggy on 7-15-2012 at 01:05 AM · [top]

I think TEC is controlled by the progressive movement. This is similar to what happened to the democratic party. The thinking is much the same. Neither has anything to do with Christianity.

[20] Posted by Pb on 7-15-2012 at 09:57 AM · [top]

BillK, #13, it depends on whether you are talking about political liberals and conservatives, or religious.  I would agree with you if we’re talking about people who think that government programs are the best solutions to social problems (liberals) or those who think that government programs more often than not make problems worse and who favor private and market-based solutions (conservatives).  Either type could be “conservative” in religious terms, and could worship together, since the difference would not be the intention to help the poor, but on what works best.

[21] Posted by Katherine on 7-15-2012 at 12:45 PM · [top]

Another thought. The top military leadership often becomes a group of self-replicating, sensitively politically correct bureaucrats until faced with enormous challenges such as a major war when winning becomes a higher priority than political astuteness. In that vein, liberal Christian institutions might have a chance of righting themselves upon a most traumatic challenge. That challenge might well be running out of money.  The financially chastened might then observe that Christian inclusiveness is about Christ as much as it is about inclusiveness and the narrow gate is narrow because God made it that way rather than the fault of human architects and builders.

[22] Posted by Don+ on 7-15-2012 at 02:06 PM · [top]

Katherine, it seems that many will equate the political with the theological.  What I mean is that the church needs those whose gifts lead them to emphasize the welcoming grace of God and sense a call to social action as well as those who defend the truths of God and emphasize personal holiness.  People with these gifts are often in tension in the body of Christ, but reflect aspects of God that are revealed in unity in Scripture.  God has grace without sacrificing truth and holiness.  We must learn from the arrogance of the left, not repeat it on the right.

[23] Posted by BillK on 7-15-2012 at 05:26 PM · [top]

BillK, we do indeed make a mistake in equating political conservatism with religious conservatism, although it is true that many of the latter also hold to the former.  “Good works” which are grounded in the truths of God are part of His commandments.  There need be no tension.  The problem the Episcopal Church has is in equating the call to social action with leftist political dogma.  (I object also to the making of conservative political principles a substitute Gospel.)  Also, “good works,” when not firmly grounded in the traditional Christian faith, can easily become not “good.”  A case in point is the liberal Christian support for unlimited abortion on demand, in which small people made, like all of us, in God’s image, are sacrificed because they are inconvenient to adults.

[24] Posted by Katherine on 7-15-2012 at 05:53 PM · [top]

Just posted this on my FB page as a parish in the diocese’s FB page posted the NY times article. Hope this will draw in a few new readers for Stand Firm.

[25] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-20-2012 at 11:17 AM · [top]

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