Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Catholics Becoming Liberal Protestants Is Not The Problem

I have been following the back and forth people are having about the Ross Douthat article "Can Liberal Christianity be Saved " and Diana Bass Butler's Can Christianity Be Saved? A Response to Ross Douthat .

I was going to comment on Butler's Southern Baptist observations because I think she might be missing the real dynamic going on. However this caught my eye:

The Roman Catholic Church, a body that has moved in markedly conservative directions and of which Mr. Douthat is a member, is straining as members leave in droves. By 2008, one in ten Americans considered him- or herself a former Roman Catholic. On the surface, Catholic membership numbers seem steady. But this is a function of Catholic immigration from Latin America. If one factors out immigrants, American Catholicism matches the membership decline of any liberal Protestant denomination. Decline is not exclusive to the Episcopal Church, nor to liberal denominations--it is a reality facing the whole of American Christianity.

A few remarks on this. While it is true that the Church on the ground is moving in a more conservative directions this is fairly recent. It is very much having to recover from decades of when the Church on the ground was in much liberal and progressive hands.

She is right about the loss of members and stopping that is of prime concern. However why and where are these people going?

This relates to constant theme I see among the Catholic elite and their friends in secular newspapers. That is unless the Church changes it's position on "x" to a more liberal position people will leave.

Now no doubt some leave over that. Some of course go nowhere

But the far GREATER problem as to loss I find is that many Catholics leave to go to Evangelical/ Pentecostal / Fundamentalist Churches that hold by the way some very conservative positions.

I have known Catholics that have become Episcopalian or Methodist etc. But I know far far far  more Catholics that go into the Conservative Evangelical ranks . There are many reasons for this. To be honest decades of bad Catholic education plays a major role. An recent poll conducted in just one diocese showed the shocking results of that. From that poll wel earn that 57 percent of the Catholics believed Jesus had sinned during his time on Earth and also thought Christ was “no different” from other human beings . Only 28 percent of non-Catholic Christians thought Jesus had sinned.

It is no wonder that when sadly many Catholics hear the Gospel Message clearly and become convicted of it that it happened in a non Catholic setting.

Speaking of the Southern Baptist 10 percent of their congregations are non Anglo. I bet that is largely ex Catholic Latinos. Instead of talking about how we need to approve things like gay marriage , we might need to think how we can get  resources to states like Arkansas where the Pentecostals, the Baptists, the Adventist , etc are picking off Catholic Latinos and others in droves.


Unknown said...

I can't speak for other places in the country, but from what I see here in Houston, Latinos - when they leave the Church - usually leave for an independent/pentacostal church, not for the Southern Baptists.

Of course, we have a lot of the mega-churches in town here, so my experience might not be typical.

We see more black folks going Southern Baptist than Latino.

James H said...

That that is interesting. I have been assuming that it was more Latino than black but perhaps I am wrong there

Rick67 said...

I find DBB a bit tiresome on this issue. I assume she's a better scholar than I am or will be. But she has more than demonstrated that she is not an impartial observer - she openly favors full blown "liberal" Christianity which she regards as the original faith of/from Jesus. And is rather defensive regarding the cliche that "conservative churches grow, liberal churches decline".

Can liberal churches grow? Sure. Can conservative churches decline? Sure. What I have never seen her adequately address is the *overall pattern*. To whit, "Conservative churches/denominations are either growing or declining at a lower rate than liberal churches/denominations. The bottom line is that liberal churches/denominations appear to interest modern Americans *less* than conservative ones." This in and of itself does not prove "conservative" Christianity is more or less "true". But it calls into question the Spongian mantra that in order to keep the disaffected, in order to attract more people than we lose, we need to go liberal.

You hit the nail on the head, asking the appropriate question, "Okay, so people leave the Catholic church, but how many leave because they think it's too conservative? and how many leave for liberal denominations?"

Note that Douthat is, toward the end of his piece, *generous* toward and appreciative of "liberal" Christianity. Is DBB generous toward and appreciative of "conservative" Christianity? Such contrasts are revealing.