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New-Fashioned Values

May 11, 2011

So what’s more important in life, maintaining an established tradition, or conforming to the times?  If you’re talking clothing, then I probably have one answer, at least if you want to sell the clothes (though I’d probably only ever buy a traditional tux, I’m that kind of guy…).  That said, I think it’s an entirely different thing when it comes to religion.

The 2 million member Presbyterian Church (USA) has become the latest mainline Protestant denomination to implode on sexual standards. On May 10, Presbyterians in Minneapolis became the needed 87th local presbytery to vote for deleting the denomination’s expectation for ministers and elders of “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.”

Well, whee.  What way could you better identify the traditions of a Christlike faith than by sleeping around the town, or cheating with member of the congregation?  Note that the Presbyterians initially put this clause in two decades ago to combat the sexual liberalization of the church.  Oh, how times change.  And the numbers change as a result.

Forty-five years ago, one in every five Americans belonged to the “seven sister” mainline Protestant denominations.  Today, only one in 15 Americans still does. Although secular elites often portray a secularizing America, actual church attendance in America has remained remarkably constant across the last 75 years. But among non-Catholic Christians, attendance has shifted from mainline Protestant to more evangelical churches.

Catholics have held pretty firmly to the beliefs that made the church strong for the past, oh, twenty centuries.  There has been some erosion at an individual church level, but it’s pretty clear that The Vatican has been fairly consistent, even it “it’s detriment” (and even as the church grows worldwide).  And the evangelical churches are growing all over, most of them starts from other evangelical churches that are drawing in people tired of a faceless large church that doesn’t reflect their values long-term.

Speaking as a kid who grew up Catholic, and who now sits firmly in an evangelical church, I can say that I moved from traditional and biblical to traditional and biblical.  The occasions where I’ve run into a church that wouldn’t kick me out for being a loon, I’ve kicked myself out before I got tempted.  And on that, I know a variety of people who will usually join a church once they realize that the church would be willing to kick them out for bad behavior.  It’s the reverse-Groucho that make us all feel like we really belong.

As to what the “progressive” churches are teaching?  Well, I think they’re teaching that you can always join a club with some singing and social hours that don’t enforce the  moral lessons they purport to teach.  Thanks, but I’ll go get some old-time religion.  It’s good enough for me.

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