January 25, 2016

The suicide of the liberal church

Chris Hedges, Truth Dig - The number of adults in the mainline Protestant churches—Presbyterian, Unitarian-Universalist, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, Congregationalist—decreased from about 41 million in 2007 to 36 million in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. And the average age of the congregant is 52. The Catholic Church also is being decimated; its decline has been exacerbated by its decades-long protection of sexual predators within the priesthood and the Vatican’s relentless campaign, especially under John Paul II, to force out of the church priests, nuns and lay leaders who focused their ministries on the poor and the oppressed. The Catholic Church, which has lost 3 million members over the last decade, has seen its hold on the U.S. population fall to 21 percent from 24.

Mainline seminaries and divinity schools have been merging or closing, and enrollment at such schools has declined by 24 percent in the last decade. Andover-Newton, founded in 1807, recently shut down. Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pa., and Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia plan to merge. Union Theological Seminary, where black liberation, feminist, womanist and queer theologies have their roots, appears to be on the verge of selling “air space” to a developer to construct a luxury 35-to-40-story condominium building on its campus. General Theological Seminary in New York City, a school founded in 1817, has sold much of its property to developers, and it ended tenure for its faculty after the professors went out on strike to demand the removal of Dean and President Kurt Dunkle. Dunkle, who epitomizes the infusion of corporatism into the church, worked for many years as a lawyer doing commercial litigation before being ordained.

The self-identified religious institutions that thrive preach the perverted “prosperity gospel,” the message that magic Jesus will make you rich, respected and powerful if you believe in him. Jesus, they claim, is an American capitalist, bigot and ardent imperialist. These sects selectively lift passages from the Bible to justify the unjustifiable, including homophobia, war, racism against Muslims, and the death penalty. Yet there are more students—2,067—at the evangelical Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary alone than at the divinity schools and seminaries of Yale, Harvard, Union, Vanderbilt and Chicago, whose combined enrollment is 1,537.

The doctrine these sects preach is Christian heresy. The Christian faith—as in the 1930s under Germany’s pro-Nazi Christian church—is being distorted to sanctify nationalism, unregulated capitalism and militarism. The mainstream church, which refuses to denounce these heretics as heretics, a decision made in the name of tolerance, tacitly gives these sects credibility and squanders the prophetic voice of the church.


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