New York Times columnist Ross Douthat discusses mainstream Christianity
(POSTED: 11/2/12) Ross Douthat, a New York Times columnist and author of “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics,” called for a revitalization of mainstream Christianity while giving a talk last month at Elmhurst College.
Douthat, a Catholic convert who considers himself politically on the right, said that over the past few decades, church membership in mainstream Protestant congregations has steeply declined even though the number of Americans who believe in God has remained constant or has even grown.
“Modernists ended up stripping away anything transcendent and mysterious from Christianity, scoffing at the miraculous, dismissing creeds as irrelevant, downgrading original sin,” he said. “This led to a danger in which politics could become their religion.”
He argued that a number of factors, including political polarization, a sexual revolution, money and globalization, have contributed to an overall weakening of institutional Christianity.
“When we ask whether liberal Christianity can be saved you have to ask, can Christianity as a whole be saved?” Douthat said. “And that’s a question that all American believers should be wrestling with today.”
“A faith lacking any institutional outlet pours itself into politics instead,” he added. “Whatever its flaws and excesses, the defining idea of liberal Christianity in the United States – that faith should spur social reform as well personal conversion – has been an immensely positive force in our national life. No one should wish for its extinction and no Christian in particular should wish for a world where Christianity becomes the exclusive property of the political right. We should wish for instead is that mainline Protestantism, liberal Christianity, whatever umbrella you want to put over it, recovers a religious reason for its own existence.”