Ross Douthat, a columnist for the New York Times and the author of Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, published a column about liberal Christianity today:
[T]oday 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.
Read more. Douthat also mentions the drop in attendance in other mainline denominations.
What I find interesting about columns and books about the decline of American Christianity is that people almost always point their finger at the 1960s, as Douthat does here:
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.
While there is truth to this accusation, it’s not as simple as American religion and society being healthy before the 1960s and then everything suddenly fell apart in an age of multiculturalism. I see it so often I am strongly tempted to think it’s just lazy scholarship and writing.