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Mother Jones:" Myth of Moral Majority" repercussions

Thursday, May 22, 2008 

I'm going to sound like a honest-to-goodness rightwinger at this point. Mother Jones had an online article about the myth of the moral majority in America reporting the claim by Pew of 40% weekly church attendance in America. Actually, it seems 20% is the absolute cap on regular church attendance. An excerpt about writer Christine Wicker, a prodigal Southern Baptist who returned to her childhood denomination, but questioned the realities thereof:

"Take that 40 percent church attendance stat. Looking around her half-empty Southern Baptist church outside Dallas, Christine Wicker had her doubts. Wicker, a veteran Texas newspaper reporter, was born again when she was nine but drifted away from her evangelical roots in adulthood. A few years ago, she returned to the Southern Baptist Church to both renew her faith and write The Fall of the Evangelical Nation, an insider's look at evangelicals' power, wading in where secular journalists feared to tread. When she started looking into the numbers on church attendance, she found that researchers could vouch for only 18 percent of Americans being regular churchgoers—less than half the accepted figure. That led her to wonder about the already widely reported claim that 25 percent of Americans are evangelicals; could the real number also be less than half that?
In size, only the Catholic Church dwarfs the Southern Baptist Church, the biggest evangelical denomination and by far the most organized and fastidious of the Protestant record keepers. But Wicker discovered that the numbers the Southern Baptist Convention (sbc) releases for public consumption tell a much different story than the ones it uses internally. The organization claims 16 million members, but as one reverend cracks, "the fbi couldn't find half of [them] if they had to." A 2006 sbc report states that only 11 million of its members live in the same area as their home church anymore; that number includes those who've been double- or even triple-counted elsewhere. It also includes perennial no-shows and those who attend services at "bedside Baptist" (they sleep in on Sunday but show up for Easter and Christmas). And that's not to mention those who've lost their religion or converted to another faith. If their names were ever on "the roll" at a Baptist church, they're probably inscribed there for life."

I grew up a Southern Baptist "evangelical" who has certainly opted not to follow that hateful religious path. Many of those with whom I grew up in the same denomination have joined some of these "megachurches" that spring up with more dangerous ideology because they don't answer to a broad organization that keeps an eye on orthodoxy. James Dobson occasionally says things that may be objectional to SBC leadership, particularly the predominance of "charismatic" believers in the evangelical movement. SBC will never advocate charismatic tongue talking, at least not in my lifetime.

I know that the SBC still counts me as an SBC believer as well as those friends I mentioned who haven't darkened an SBC door except when they visit parents(not me, I never go to church with my parents when I visit) or attend funerals. The SBC have always counted practically anyone who has ever joined an SBC congregation. I know of some who have become UMC or Presbyterian faithful as well as SBC members who converted to the Catholic church, the " Great Whore" mentioned in the Revelation according to every SBC pastor I've ever known or heard preach personally just like John Hagee, the Hitler and anti-Catholic enthusiast. Hagee and the evangelicals political coalition relied heavily on Catholics to vote down Dems and voting their "values" at the polls and selling out America to the devils Bush and Cheney(along with Kristol, Krauthammer, Wolfowitz, et al---I suppose I'l be accused of anti-Semitism--nah, just anti neo-conism).

My point of emphasis concerning the article, which is questioning the actual impact of outright evangelicals. I haven't read the book, I just read this article about
The Fall of the Evangelical Nation, so I won't critique in-depth (I'm wrapped uo in AR history reading now). My problem is going to sound xenophobic. The cultural identity of the nation can be in the balance if we don't wake up and find a way to embrace a church-going mentality and try to save the old denominations that tend to moderate with time such as most Methodists, Presbyterians, and others of the old faithfuls that aren't tied particularly to the disastrous nexus of intolerant evangelicalism and politics these days. I don't want to be in Europe's position with declining population and declined church attendance--almost zero in some places--and an alarming growth of the numbers of Muslims and the possibility of their ideology finding more believers and actual mosque-attenders. I don't mind other believers finding America's virtually tolerant society(as opposed to what our nation was not too many years ago--invidiously racist)to their liking and moving here. Let's face it;Islam could never create this kind of tolerant nation. Islam's Golden Age, dating back to our Dark Ages and ending at the advent of the historical modern age(circa. 1500). Wahhabists began to dominate in the Islamic heartland Saudi Arabia about 1700s, but Islamic tolerance of the scholarship during the Euro middle ages blessed the folks who started the Renaissance in Christendom with the works of the ancient Greeks, who engendered classical republican democracy we enjoy today(or a more liberalized version evolving through the years). Islam has been more progressive centuries ago and threatens to descend the depths over the current crises in the world and the Islamic populist martyrdom movement hatched by Carter's arming and training of Islamic reactionaries and the GOP orthodoxy of supporting ideological nutjobs to fight the Soviets. Presdient Zia of Pakistan was a fundamentalist Islamic servant and he supported like minds fighting in Afghanistan, including bin-Laden. Blowback is hell and we have felt it since 9-11.

We shouldn't rejoice in the demise of Christian religious belief; we should be mortified. Christianity gave us an undeniable cultural center for our democratic government, though I disagree with the evangelical assertion that the founders of this democratic republic blindly followed their narrow view of God. That assertion is simply untrue and church attendance and membership have been much lower percentage-wise than today. We noticed so-called great awakenings over the years of evangelical moments over the years in the late 18th century, 1840-1860s and the 1950s because church attendance and active belief was so low from the start, particularly in rural areas including the South, where Southern Baptists began their great baptismal push in the mid 19th century and the 1950s with Billy Graham's ubiquitous crusades for Christ. The greatest humanists who ever lived in the english-speaking world or any world or age founded this nation and hammered out this constitution we all hold dear. I have heard enough of the "secular-humanist" bashing. Bash Jefferson or Franklin if you must, but I believe their ideological stubborness was good for America. Yes, Franklin describes moments he would pray or Americans should pray, hardly a deist's mentality, but Franklin has more evidence in the historical record of his secularist leanings.

I'm sorry to sound like a xenophobe, but I suppose since I supported Hillary that many left-leaning Dems would accuse me of unspeakable evils(monstrous), but I know I'm right on this one. We must moderate our Christian beliefs away from the most hateful possible worldviews. America is a marketplace of commerce, ideas, and certainly religion. As talk radio has become dominated by hateful right-wing talk shows because of their relative popularity; American Christianity has suffered an equivalent bastardization. The most vocally hateful, malcontented who need to hate the other, yet harboring a gregarious need to find at least a few like-minded toxic fellow faithful so they can hate the other together and carve out a heaven for themselves they don't mind sharing with a few select folks. Commercial religious belief has pushed aside the more social beliefs that want to promote at least a hint of utopian endeavor and improve the earth on which they'll live all their natural lives. I'm not saying SBC faithful don't try to ease the suffering of the less fortunate; my parents have worked their tails off in disaster areas to help with cleanup and helping those with immediate daily needs like food, clothing, and shelter on behalf of their denomination. On the whole, though, supporting right wing ideology in America paints them with a hateful brush denying healthcare to Americans unfortunate enough to work for employers with deficient if any affordable health care access. Their stubborness over healthcare reform is sickening to me. It's part of why I rejected my youthful fundamentalism and SBC membership. On social issues, SBC ideologues have missed the mark entirely in my view. Social issues MUST not be reduced to anti-gay lobbying, anti-immigrant hell-raising, and assorted other objectionable planks these past few years. The SBC was the major problem with the continuation of Jim Crow legislation into the 1960s and some components lasting as actual law until the present day(e.g. legislation banning interracial marriage or sodomy, not exactly Jim Crow, but it fits nevertheless). Their blindly following a war profiteer electing him not once, but twice, Dubya, is one memory I'll never let go. I would never return to the SBC on that demerit alone. Supporting an obviously toxic ideologue like Bush is a fault I can never forgive(I know, that's not very Christ-like)

Again, I have rambled, not gonna proofread, so enjoy.
posted by AR1836 at 8:13 PM 

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