Reconsidering the legacy of religion’s leftward tilt

The New York Times’ Jennifer Schuessler considers a number of books looking at the history of “the religious left”:

For decades the dominant story of postwar American religious history has been the triumph of evangelical Christians. Beginning in the 1940s, the story goes, a rising tide of evangelicals began asserting their power and identity, ultimately routing their more liberal mainline Protestant counterparts in the pews, on the offering plate and at the ballot box.

But now a growing cadre of historians of religion are reconsidering the legacy of those faded establishment Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians, tracing their enduring influence on the movements for human rights and racial justice, the growing “spiritual but not religious” demographic and even the shaded moral realism of Barack Obama — a liberal Protestant par excellence, some of these academics say.

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  1. Weiwen Ng

    What I took away from the article is that progressive Christians are a bit like Obi-Wan Kenobi: strike us down and we disappear and turn even more powerful than our foe imagined. Note: I don’t mean to suggest that all conservative Christians are Darth Vader, but I won’t shy away from calling certain of their acts evil (esp. persecution of the LGBT community and twisting their theology to support Randian economics).

    We have won a number of key battles in the culture war. And we’re disappearing into the broader culture. This is … sad, I guess.

    We have a number of key battles left to win, with economic justice and reform of the criminal justice system being two big ones I can think of immediately. If we’re disappearing, who will provide the moral impetus on these issues? We’re not done, and we never will be done, but if the church does indeed die out I want to see us win those two first.

    Oh, and I am on strike from the Episcopal Church. Our music sucks. It is not engaging. We refuse to do anything about it. Some say oh, we’re the church of fancy stuff and we always will be … except that we do not use our fancy stuff in ways that are liturgically engaging to the broader community. If we want not to die off, I want us to think about that.

  2. Morningsider

    Weiwen wrote “Oh, and I am on strike from the Episcopal Church. Our music sucks. It is not engaging.”

    I have to say that any generalization about the music (or almost any other feature) of the Episcopal Church is of necessity based on a small sample of the great variety out there.

    Allen Mellen

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