The Death of Protestant America: A Political Theory of the Protestant Mainline

From First Things:

Among conservative Christians, much attention is devoted to the question of whether the hole in public life can be filled by either Catholicism or the evangelical churches. I have my doubts. The evangelicals may have too little church organization, and the Catholics may have too much. Besides, both are minorities in the nation’s population, and they arrive at our current moment with a history of being outsiders—the objects of a long record of American suspicion, which hasn’t gone away despite the decline of the churches that gave the suspicion its modern form.

Perhaps some joining of Catholics and evangelicals, in morals and manners, could achieve the social unity in theological difference that characterized the old Mainline. But the vast intellectual resources of Catholicism still sound a little odd in the American ear, just as the enormous reservoir of evangelical faith has been unable, thus far, to provide a widely accepted moral rhetoric.

America was Methodist, once upon a time—or Baptist, or Presbyterian, or Congregationalist, or Episcopalian. Protestant, in other words. What can we call it today? Those churches simply don’t mean much any more. That’s a fact of some theological significance. It’s a fact of genuine sorrow, for that matter, as the aging members of the old denominations watch their congregations dwindle away: funeral after funeral, with far too few weddings and baptisms in between. But future historians, telling the story of our age, will begin with the public effect in the United States.

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