It’s really remarkable how cause and effect seems to repeatedly elude liberal Christians:
IN 1998, John Shelby Spong, then the reliably controversial Episcopal bishop of Newark, published a book entitled “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” Spong was a uniquely radical figure — during his career, he dismissed almost every element of traditional Christian faith as so much superstition — but most recent leaders of the Episcopal Church have shared his premise. Thus their church has spent the last several decades changing and then changing some more, from a sedate pillar of the WASP establishment into one of the most self-consciously progressive Christian bodies in the United States…..
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.
For some reason, despite the observable fact that chasing after the world and attempting to “appeal to today’s young people” has been negatively affecting church attendance since I was in junior high, no one ever seems to question an assumption that so repeatedly and reliably fails. It’s no different than politics and the fallacy of moderate appeal. People without direction seek leadership, and when the Church refuses to stand for its Christian principles as defined in the New Testament and provide intellectual leadership against the zeitgeist, it not only sacrifices its reason to exist, but counterintuitively, also loses its primary appeal.
Of course Douthat, being somewhat of a moderate conservative, fails to recognize that the gifts of progressive Christianity he cites, “Social Gospel and the civil rights movement”, were both intellectually poisonous and societally destructive in the long run. Liberal Christianity shouldn’t be saved and it won’t be saved. Having cut itself off from its Christian roots, it should be abjured by the rest of the Church and left to its inevitable demise.
There were surely wolves in sheeps clothing who helped engineer the demise of the liberal denominations and congregations, but it should not be forgotten that they were abetted by many foolish and short-sighted individuals who were genuine Christians. One of the great shortcomings of nearly every church I have ever attended is the complete lack of vigilance for the wolves. Paul warns of them, and yet most churches never stop to think that among their most avid volunteers are likely those who seek to destroy the institution.