Est. May 2008

19 July, 2013

Religious Progressivism

Robby Jones, clipping information from a PPRI/Brookings ‘religious orientation scale’, writes:
… a significant number of Americans—approximately 1-in-5 (19 percent)—are religious progressives.
He goes on to write:
The biggest challenge religious progressives face is the considerable racial and religious pluralism among their ranks.

Notably, nearly one-in-five (18 percent) religious progressives are “unattached believers,” those who are not formally affiliated with a religious tradition but who nevertheless say religion is at least somewhat important in their lives. Compared to religious conservatives, this internal diversity presents a formidable organizing handicap for religious progressives, who generally have a more fractured infrastructure, and also raises the bar for advocacy efforts that need to put forward a coherent message.

Millennials are nearly twice as likely as the Silent Generation to be religious progressives (23 percent vs. 12 percent). Among Millennials, religious progressives significantly outnumber religious conservatives; additionally, 22 percent of Millennials are nonreligious.
Now, why would ‘unattached believers’ and Millennials (22% of whom are nonreligious) lean toward religious progressivism, rather than, say, religious moderatism or religious conservatism? Well, if you take a look at my  previous post you might get an idea.

Note that those groups which label themselves religious progressives ‘generally have a more fractured infrastructure’ and have apparent difficulty ‘put[ting] forward a coherent message’. This sounds to me as though religious progressive groups aren’t all that rules-oriented (remember, rules, rules, rules are why people avoid the church). Here’s my idea why.

I remember reading somewhere that one of the successes of the McDonald’s franchise is that no matter where you go in the world, if you hit a McD’s and order a Big Mac (for instance) that Big Mac is going to be the same. This uniformity in service is what helps McD’s be as good as they are; if McD’s – or any other worldwide fast-food business – left the menu, the preparations, and the rest up to the individual managers, it would be chaos, and McD’s wouldn’t be as successful as it is.

Same goes for the worldwide church; if you’re Roman Catholic, you have a reasonable expectation that no matter what RC church you go into anywhere in the world, you’re going to get the same ‘meal’ – same Mass, perhaps spoken in a different language. The same with Missouri-Synod Lutheranism, or Episcopalian, or any other Christian denomination. It’s because these denominations have rules they follow, rules that every member knows. There’s a fellowship of believers because of these rules (to a certain extent), not in spite of them.

But Millennials and the ‘denominationally-unaffiliated’ don’t like rules imposed on them – they would rather be allowed to make the rules up for themselves. If they can affiliate themselves with some group of religious people who share that same mindset, they’re happy.

When it comes to organized denominational Christianity, Millennials and ‘denominationally-unaffiliated will gravitate to the church which is most like them – the church which either has few rules or has rules they end up not enforcing; the church which is more feelings-driven than rules-driven; the church which doesn’t make them feel guilty about their behavior. The most prolific practitioners of this kind of ‘soft Christianity’ just happen to be liberal progressive churches.

Makes sense that Millennials and ‘denominationally-unaffiliated’ would be drawn to them.

And much like moths drawn to a flame, they’re going to end up burned.

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