Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics

ross douthat

Last weekend I had one of those fantastic moments when you find an almost brand new book from your Amazon wishlist at a second hand bookstore.  The book was “Bad Religion” by New York Times Columnist Ross Douthat.  In this work the author seeks to tell the story of where Christianity is in America and how it got there.  After a week I’m about half-way through so I’ll have more to write later, but for now I just want to share some of my highlights so far.

“America’s problem isn’t too much religion or too little of it.  It’s bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional Christianity and the rise of a variety of destructive pseudo-Christianities in its place.”

“A growing number [of Americans] are inventing their own versions of what Christianity means, abandoning the nuances of traditional theology in favor of religions that stroke their egos and indulge or even celebrate their worst impulses.”

“For all its piety and fervor, today’s United States needs to be recognized for what it really is: not a Christian country, but a nation of heretics.”

“‘In the early postwar years,’ writes David F. Wells… ‘evangelicals began to think of the whole evangelical faith in para terms…  Past traditions of believing, distinctive church architecture, doctrinal language, and formalities of traditional church life all seemed like baggage that needed to be shed as rapidly as possible.’  This turn boded ill for Evangelicalism’s long-term future, because although the ‘para’ groups were immensely successful at religious mobilization, they weren’t as effective at sustaining commitment across a life span or across generations.  They were institutions for an anti-institutional faith… which meant that they were organized around personalities and causes and rarely created the sense of comprehensive, intergenerational community that both the Mainline churches and Catholicism had traditionally offered…  Instead, Evangelicalism became dominated by empire-building megachurch pastors whose ministries often burned brightly then just as quickly burned out.”

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