The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Talk of demise exaggerated

Love of God, neighbor still core

Secular journalist Ross G. Douthat recently stirred the pot in a New York Times column by asking, "Can liberal Christianity be saved?" His piece came following the approval of a rite to bless same-sex unions by the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops. He cited the significant declines of mainline denominations starting in the 1960s.

While successful Christian bodies of late have often been politically conservative, Douthat said they've also been theologically shallow. "But if conservative Christianity has often been compromised, liberal Christianity has simply collapsed. Practically every denomination — Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian — that has tried to adapt itself to contemporary liberal values has seen" a plunge in its fortunes, he said.

Still, he said, "the defining idea of liberal Christianity — that faith should spur social reform as well as personal conversion — has been an immensely positive force in our national life. No one should wish for its extinction ...."

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