Religion

The Likely Outcome of the Methodist Schism

An interesting analysis from Prof. Mark Movsesian (St. John's).

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

I read this post on the Law and Religion Forum (one of the few blogs to which I subscribe via Outlook), and asked Prof. Movsesian for permission to reprint, which he graciously gave:

In the past couple of decades, American Protestant churches have suffered divisions on the question of homosexuality, and same-sex marriage in particular. Conservative congregations and dioceses have seceded from progressive national bodies, which has led, in some cases, to acrimonious, high-profile litigation over church finances and property. For lawyers and scholars who study law-and-religion, these disputes raise complicated and interesting legal questions. For the litigants, they are often emotional and painful conflicts—divorces, really—that leave everyone, winners and losers, worse off.

It seems that the United Methodist Church (UMC), America's second-largest Protestant denomination, will not be able to avoid a split over LGBT issues. The Methodists may, however, avoid litigation. This week, a group of church leaders announced a plan for the dissolution of the worldwide church that would allow conservative congregations and conferences to leave the main body and join a new conservative denomination. Under the proposal, the UMC would give the new denomination $25 million and allow departing congregations to keep their property, and departing clergy, their pensions. The UMC seems likely to approve the plan at its next general conference in May.

Observers believe that most American Methodist congregations, which support same-sex marriage, will stick with the main body. But the UMC is a global entity, and, worldwide, the opposite may be the case. In a post at Juicy Ecumenism, Mark Tooley observes that the majority of Methodists today live in Africa, where the church is growing. African Methodists are quite conservative on LGBT and other issues.

As a global matter, then, the large majority of Methodists may end up in the new, conservative denomination. If that is the case, Methodism will reflect the same dynamic that exists in Christianity worldwide: growth in conservative churches in the developing world, decline in progressive churches in the developed world. Another sign that Christianity's center of gravity may be shifting from the global North to the global South.

Here's an excerpt from Tooley's analysis:

My prediction: General Conference will approve a version of this plan. During several subsequent years of sorting, United Methodism's current 6.7 million members in the USA will drop to about 6 million. About 2.5 million will join the conservative church, and about 3.5 million will be in the liberal church. Nearly all the 5.5 million overseas members, mostly in Africa, will join conservative church, so the conservative denomination will have about 8 million members globally….

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  1. How many of those Methodists are active, and how many merely have their names on the rolls?

    I’m an atheist who believes no religion is true. However, religion wields an incredible amount of social and political power, so even us atheists have an interest in what is going on in the institutional church.

    As a sociological matter, liberal religion doesn’t “work”. Unless one takes the traditional theology seriously and literally, there is really no reason for religion to exist since everything else that it does can be done just as well secularly. You don’t have to believe in God to believe in strong communities, feeding the poor, taking care of your neighbor, etc. The only thing that actually requires religion is reconciling man to God. Hence, liberal religion is largely a way station on the highway to secularism. That’s the reason conservative megachurches are growing and liberal mainline denominations are shrinking.

    What’s going to happen is that in the United States, as in Europe, vital Christianity is in the process of dying before our very eyes, while leaving a shell behind. It may take another generation to happen, but that’s the direction in which things are headed. Evangelical support for Trump has done massive damage to the church in that regard, from which the long term consequences will be staggering.

    In the meantime, the Southern Hemisphere is still culturally conservative, which is reflected in its churches. Before too long, Africa and South America will be sending Christian missionaries to evangelize the United States.

    1. I go along with your general thesis, that religion liberalizes on its way to fading away. But Trump has done no damage to religion. If anything, it is Progressives who have boosted support for anti-liberals over gun confiscation, the Green New Deal, and socialism in general, and that support can’t help but bleed over into support for religion, even if only as tolerance rather than conversion.

      As for “taking another generation”? In your dreams! Religion may be fading, but slowly, and organized religions more than the grass roots variety. If there were shares in religion, I’d be glad to make you a bet on religion still going strong in 50 years, let alone a single generation.

      1. Thanks to anti-democratic institutions like the electoral college, gerrymandered House seats and Wyoming’s ability to cancel out California in the Senate, support for conservative causes appears far greater than it actually is. That aside, the damage Trump has done to religion is that a lot of Americans see the raw hypocrisy of the family values party enthusiastically supporting someone with Trump’s family values, and millions of people have left the evangelical church as a result. And you don’t have to take my word for it; there’s ample polling data to show that I’m right.

        1. “anti-democratic institutions like the electoral college, gerrymandered House seats and Wyoming’s ability to cancel out California in the Senate, support for conservative causes appears far greater than it actually is. ”

          And good that we have these institutions, since this isn’t a national democracy in which we live, but a union of independent states, a republic.

          You might benefit from a perusal of the Federalist Papers.

          1. No need to peruse the Federalist Papers since no one disagrees with you that that’s what the rules currently are; whether in 2020 we are well served or ill served by those rules is a separate question. It’s also beyond the scope of my comment, which was that because of those anti-democratic institutions, support for conservative positions appears far larger than it actually is. Whether you think that’s a good thing or not depends entirely on whether your team is the one benefitting from suppressing the public will.

            1. What’s good is individuality, and democracy — tyranny of the majority — rides roughshod over that.

              Individualism can simulate socialism with contracts. Socialism cannot tolerate individuality, let alone simulate it.

              1. Under any political system, or even no political system, some people will see their policy preferences enacted into law and others will not. The losers will inevitably feel tyrannized. But what makes tyranny by the minority preferable to tyranny by the majority? Who says the minority is any better at making policy?

                And please do not say bad things about socialism if you support the electoral college, since the EC is the most socialist system imaginable. Under it, my vote does not count as my vote. Rather, it counts only as part of that collective entity known as the State of Florida. I only get to participate in the political process as part of a state collective. If conservatives had any principles, they’d support abolition of the EC on that basis alone.

                1. Yeah, right, the Electoral College is socialism. Pull the other one.

                  See, your words betray your narrow mind. You think only of government imposing the same number and types of laws, and the only difference is whose ox gets gored.

                  You cannot comprehend the idea of government just butting out and letting people solve problem spontaneously.

                  You probably think slavery was imposed by capitalists or some such nonsense, and it took a righteous and powerful government to eliminate slavery. You probably think Jim Crow was a backlash by those same powerful capitalist cronies, and it took another powerful government 100 years later to replace that with affirmative action.

                  You simply cannot conceive of the idea that the Louisiana railroad and its customers were happier with integrated rail coaches. You imagine it must have been the railroads imposing segregation and tricking the Supreme Court into confirming it at the behest of evil capitalists.

                  Fuck off, slaver. Government is the evil here, not people.

                  1. As for the electoral college being socialism, what else do you call a system in which only the collective has a vote?

                    Your policy preference for the government just butting out is one policy preference among many. Because it’s your policy preference, you think it is entitled to special pleading. But it is simply one policy preference among many, and in a democratic society should be treated the same as every other policy preference. Nobody’s policy preference should win simply by using the rules to stack the deck.

                    1. Yes, yes, got it, majority tyranny is your preferred outcome, so it wins.

                      You just cannot comprehend the concept of people spontaneously solving their problems on their own without harming anyone else. It is inconceivable. The only possible solutions are those from the tyranny of the majority, and that means government. That is why you see the Electoral College as collectivist, socialist.

                      I haven’t encountered such a narrow fettered mind in a long time.

                    2. majority tyranny is your preferred outcome,

                      And yours is minority tyranny.

                      You probably think slavery was imposed by capitalists or some such nonsense, and it took a righteous and powerful government to eliminate slavery. You probably think Jim Crow was a backlash by those same powerful capitalist cronies, and it took another powerful government 100 years later to replace that with affirmative action.

                      I don’t know what your version of history is, but the (real) slavers were in fact capitalists, and slavery was in fact eliminated by the Union victory and 13th Amendment. And Jim Crow was in fact a backlash.

                      And one more thing:

                      This “fuck off, slaver” slogan is ridiculous. Using it marks you as an idiot. You’d be wise to stop.

                    3. You are ignorant. Slavery was only legal kidnapping because government made it so. Jim Crow was government-mandated backlash. Affirmative action is government-mandated reverse racism.

                      Individualism is NOT the minority imposing their will on the majority. It is ALL individuals minding their own business. The only “freedom” taken from the majority is the ability to impose their will on individuals.

                      Criminy. The delusions people impose on themselves to save their consciences and to avoid facing the reality of government is just amazing.

                      Yes, you are a slaver if you cannot comprehend any of that.

                    4. Humans evolved to live in community. Humans do not do well living by themselves. Living in community means that occasionally you have to do things that benefit the community, even if you don’t want to, and even if you personally would be better off doing something else. Your argument is with evolution, and good luck winning that one. It’s the reason libertarians never get more than about 1% of the vote.

                      And yes, you do advocate tyranny of the minority. No matter how pressing a problem something may be, and no matter how badly the majority wants the government to fix it, it can’t be done so long as someone somewhere objects that it violates his individualism.

                    5. What kind of warped definition of individualism do you have? How ignorant are you?

                      Individuals cooperate quite well. Individualism doe snot mean living in isolation. Are you one of those fools who thinks anarchy is chaos, and that individualism means in isolation? My god you have a sorry view of humanity to think that humans will not cooperate without a government telling them what to do!

                      Tell me how it is any of the majority’s business whether I wear a motorcycle helmet. How does my decision on that affect anybody else?

                      Tell me how it is anybody’s business if I buy sex or drugs, or listen to satanic rock, or drink 15% beer, or grow a vegetable garden in my front yard.

                      Go ahead and explain how any of that is any matter urgent enough to require tyranny of the majority.

                    6. Your idea that anything other than the state of nature is slavery is pretty warped, compared to just about everyone outside like sovereign citizen crazies.

                      General welfare laws are part of every society since the Code of Hammurabi. Tilting against that windmill is, as was noted, tilting against some fundamentals of humanity.

                      It is a fundamental of how societies work that they work to prevent their members from getting addicted to opiates. Caring for children and the elderly as well. Read your social contract again.

                    7. If you think my view of the world is that black and white — anarchy or dictatorship — it is you that has a black and white view of the world, and you come down on the side of no government is too big.

                      How about answering my questions?

                      1. Why are helmet laws, prostitution, drugs, alcohol, and satanic rock lyrics anybody’s business? You may think opiates harm me, but why does that make it your business? My opiate usage does not harm anybody else. That makes you a busybody nanny statist; a slaver. Fuck off.

                      2. Why do you think anarchy is isolation, or that humans never cooperate except under threat of death? Why do you have such a pessimistic view of people, and why do you think your view is the only valid one, to the extent that it is just and proper for you to force your view on me at the point of a gun?

                    8. Slavery was only legal kidnapping because government made it so.

                      “legal” only matters if there is a government. So sure, without a government it wouldn’t be “legal”. But without a government, we would also have slavery.

                      As we saw all across the world for most of human history.

                    9. I agree with you on several of the specific examples you cite that they are not the state’s concern but it’s a huge leap from that to government can never coerce people at all.

                      You’re idea that without government we could all just get along is quaint to say the least. What would happen is that might would make right and the strong would dominate the weak. That happens all too often even with government; without it it would be a million times worse.

                    10. @EscherEnigma

                      You are another who conflates anarchy and chaos.

                    11. @Krychek_2

                      Butting out does not necessarily mean no government. Stop seeing the world in black and white. Stop reading what you want to read instead of what I wrote.

                    12. @Á àß äẞç ãþÇđ âÞ¢Đæ ǎB€Ðëf ảhf

                      You are another who conflates anarchy and chaos.

                      By pointing out that slavery is closer to the default human condition then any property-respecting government is?

                    13. @EE

                      By assuming that the choice is dictatorship, by the majority at best, or chaos/anarchy.

                    14. @Á àß äẞç ãþÇđ âÞ¢Đæ ǎB€Ðëf ảhf
                      By assuming that the choice is dictatorship, by the majority at best, or chaos/anarchy.
                      First-off, if you define every possible government as “dictatorship”, then yes, your options are dictatorship or anarchy. In order to have a third option, you have to loosen your definition of “dictatorship”.

                      Second-off, how the hell did you get that from

                      “legal” only matters if there is a government. So sure, without a government [slavery] wouldn’t be “legal”. But without a government, we would also have slavery.

                      As we saw all across the world for most of human history.

    2. “As a sociological matter, liberal religion doesn’t “work”. Unless one takes the traditional theology seriously and literally, there is really no reason for religion to exist since everything else that it does can be done just as well secularly”

      I’ll disagree here, on a couple fronts.

      1. Liberal religion “does” work, depending how you phrase “liberal.” If you start arguing for things like “ending slavery” and so on, liberal religion works quite well.

      2. On a larger scale, religion works well at getting society to organize and do things that are good for society as a whole, but that are individually disadvantageous. And while there are secular mechanisms for this, they are frankly, not as effective as religion. There is a reason certain religions have been so successful historically, and spread so widely, and it’s because they have been more effective at certain social manipulations. Let’s address some of these.

      A. Islam. The organizing force of Islam allowed for what was basically an unorganized group of desert nomads to invade, destroy, and replace one of the greatest civilizations of the western world. Could secular forces have done this? Perhaps. But Islam was certainly more effective.

      B. Christianity and the birth of nationhood: One of the lesser appreciated facts of Christianity was its mandate that “cousins couldn’t marry.” Previously, this happened quite a lot. It was advantageous to keep social and financial capital within the family, by marrying within the family. Nepotism wasn’t a “dirty” word…it was advantageous. However, wider social bonds were formed at a far more limited pace. By mandating wider marriage, social bonds were expanded, and small family-tribal groups instead led to wider, national groups of people, which brought in the concept of “nationhood”. It’s difficult to envision a secular policy which would have done this as effectively. Christianity had several other benefits (knowledge, charity, antislavery) which were socially useful

      C. The coming future: The challenges of replacement child-rate.

      What is critical here to understand is the role religion may have in promoting and expanding society. One of the greatest near-term risks sociologically, is the coming crash in population. Having children is advantageous for a society. But from an individual perspective, it’s disadvantageous fiscally. Religion can (and does) persuade people to have kids anyway. There have been multiple types of secular programs to try to encourage people to have more kids. They have…mixed results. Meanwhile religion seems to be consistently more effective

      1. Armchair Lawyer, I don’t disagree with your examples, but they actually support my point that conservative religion works far better than liberal religion does in the sense of actually creating change. It wasn’t a liberal islam that swept across the Middle East, nor the current milquetoast version of Christianity that reshaped Europe, sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. Yes, liberal Christianity deserves plaudits for ending slavery and Jim Crow, but it was conservative Christianity that made those events necessary in the first place. Once religion liberalizes, usually its value as a social force dissipates, though there are counter examples.

        And I don’t expect Christianity to die out completely in the US; it hasn’t in Europe. I expect it to be taken less and less seriously until it is largely a figurehead, given great respect in public dialogue but completely ignored otherwise. Kind of like the Queen of England.

        1. “Yes, liberal Christianity deserves plaudits for ending slavery and Jim Crow, but it was conservative Christianity that made those events necessary in the first place. ”

          I don’t get this, at all. What were the liberal Christian churches or movements that helped end slavery, and what made them liberal? And likewise for the conservative Christian churches or movements that you suggest led to slavery and Jim Crow?

          1. I grew up in the old, pre-civil-rights South. At the time, the Southern Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist churches were united in teaching that God ordained racial segregation, and that civil rights workers were in rebellion against God, the Bible, and God’s established order. There are multiple Biblical passages that teach racial segregation and I can recite every one of them, because I was raised on them. And fifty years ago, pointing out that that is in fact what the Bible teaches would have been greeted with a yawn in any conservative Southern church; the reaction would have been *of course that’s what it teaches.*

            The churches that opposed Jim Crow, at least at first (most of the churches eventually and grudgingly came on board) were decried as socialists if not communists. Of course, they mostly supported government social safety nets too, which gave ammunition to the charge.

            1. I can quote those verses, too. All of them were late-stage rationalizations. Note that:
              1. The institution of slavery goes at least as far back as all of recorded history. That means it probably predates religion – and probably by a lot.
              2. During its early days, the anti-slavery movement was largely based in and supported by churches and churchgoers. This was especially true of the English and American anti-slavery movements.

              Religion, like any weapon, can be used for good or evil. While it’s wrong to ignore the times it’s used for evil, it’s equally incorrect to ignore the times it’s used for good.

              1. All of them were late-stage rationalizations.

                I think it’s useful to look at the difference in the anti-gay arguments found in Baker v. Nelson (1971) and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). Simply put, in 1971 anti-gay-marriage sentiment was so widespread that actually articulating support for it was seen as unnecessary.

                In 2015, public opinion had moved so far that all four justices that dissented felt the need to write their own dissent. They each went through quite a few “late stage rationalizations”, something that would have been entirely unnecessary decades before.

                Christian support of segregation in the American south was pretty similar. In 1864, you didn’t see religious support for segregation, because it was assumed, even by the abolitionists. It’s only when segregation started losing support that churches started coming out with increasingly contrived excuses to support it.

                Heck, look at Christian responses to gay folk. Decades ago, you didn’t see folks quoting bible passages to condemn gay folk, it was so widely understood that you didn’t need to. It’s only when that view started losing that Christians started getting specific in how the bible condemned gays.

                “Late stage rationalizations” are always a sign of how popular the view was, even if they are also a view that the old view is losing.

            2. Actually, both the Southern Presbyterian Church and the Southern Baptist Convention endorsed desegregation in 1954. Obviously I don’t know what Krycheck’s individual pastor may have said–and if he can remember a sermon from the 1950s he is either very old or has a very good memory–but the institutional record is clear. Also, I would hesitate to classify people like James Russell Lowell (“They enslave their children’s children who make compromise with sin”) as “liberal Christians.” The liberal Christians I know are always insisting that we need to compromise with everyone in the world, except maybe Republicans.

              1. both the Southern Presbyterian Church and the Southern Baptist Convention endorsed desegregation in 1954.

                And yet their congregations remained bastions of segregation for many decades.

                Pretending that white Southern churches favored desegregation is complete ahistorical nonsense. If you don’t believe me, maybe you can believe the Southern Baptist Convention, which passed a resolution, in 1995 , apologizing for its support of slavery and segregation. See here for more.

              2. y81, I was born in 1949 so I remember sermons from about the late 1950s or so. I remember hearing that when Isaac and Jacob wanted wives, they returned to their ancestral homeland to find them, thus showing that God does not approve of interracial marriage. Likewise, when the wall was rebuilt following the Babylonian captivity, Israelites who had married outside Israel were required to divorce their wives as a condition of being part of the congregation.

                I remember hearing that God dispersed the nations at the Tower of Babel, thus indicating that he intended for nations to live separate and apart from one another, and that nations were defined by bloodline. Thus, a Negro (the term then in use) who was born in the US isn’t actually an American since the US was founded by whites for whites, and to be a white nation. He’s still a citizen of wherever in Africa his ancestors came from.

                Ezekiel uses black skin as a metaphor for sin (“Shall the Ethiopian change his skin? Then may you learn to do good, who are accustomed to doing evil”). This clearly indicates that black skin is inferior to white skin. There are other passages that were used as well, but those will do for a start.

                Oh, and I remember an elder in the church in which I grew up saying that his only objection to the Holocaust is that it wasn’t actually successful in completely eradicating the world’s Jews. He” was considered extreme, and I don’t believe many others in the church shared his view on that point. But publicly saying such a thing didn’t disqualify him from continuing to serve as an elder; I would hope times have changed and today he would be run out of the church. Likewise, I remember my third grade Sunday school teacher reading to us from Matthew in which “the Jews” told Pilate: “His blood (Jesus) be upon us and upon our children” and then telling us that the Jews had suffered over the years because of what they did to Jesus.

                1. Blog comments are a rather poor forum for reasoned historical debate, though good for anecdotes about what some Baptist elder said in the 1950s. Did I mention what one of my mother’s friends from Planned Parenthood said in the 1960s about black people overbreeding? Anyway, those who are interested in reading what actual historians say should start with David Chappell’s “A Stone of Hope.”

                  1. Did I mention what one of my mother’s friends from Planned Parenthood said in the 1960s about black people overbreeding?

                    No, but that claim isn’t exactly extraordinary. The racist history of the organization isn’t a secret.

        2. I think you’re misinterpreting “liberal” in the context of the times.

          In the context of the times for the examples given, both Christianity and Islam were very liberal, especially compared to the existing social order at the time. It’s a mistake to put a current post-modern definition of liberal on an organization’s actions centuries in the past. Instead, it needs to be looked at in the context of its time.

      2. ………………
        Liberal religion “does” work, depending how you phrase “liberal.” If you start arguing for things like “ending slavery” and so on, liberal religion works quite well.
        ………………

        I think this is semantics between liberal and modern day sjw progressivism. In the past Christianity worked well with liberalism because they were to an extent one in the same movement. Ancient Christianity was the ‘liberalism’ of its day. Nonwithstanding secular enlightenment movements. Liberal Christianity (as an elaboration or revision of old Christianity depending on your POV) was a powerful antislavery force.

        Now that the Left has transformed into a full fledged hostile rival religion fundamentally at odds with Christianity adapting its values is basically adapting the new faith so at there isn’t really a point anymore to not go one way or another.

        1. But there is. Often, the “post-religious”, secularist liberal organization fail utterly in the long term. because they fail to consistently obtain the support of the people, especially the non-elites who are asked to make sacrifices.

          The clearest cut example here is communism. But there are others.

      3. What are the near-term sociological risks of a declining population? I’m not familiar with any, other than the oft-repeated fiscal problem. And there are obvious benefits: less resource utilization, less pollution. And the only reason a declining population is disadvantageous fiscally is when, as today, the state sets up, whether purposefully or accidentally, ponzi-scheme style welfare benefits, such as Social Security and Medicare. But eventually the piper has to be paid with such programs, and persuading people to have more kids simply delays the pain.

        1. “What are the near-term sociological risks of a declining population?”

          The short answer is…the destruction of that society. A society that fails to reproduce (in one way or another) is a society that fails to exist. If it’s a short, outside force that reduces the population, that’s one thing, as the society can quickly bounce back.

          But if it’s an endemic internal force that is reducing the population, then serious questions need to be asked about how and why…and if there’s any limit to the reduction.

          There are several other major structural concerns with an internally reducing population, but we can get into those later.

          1. That’s not near-term though, that’s long-term.

            So we’re going to reach the “[…] serious questions need to be asked about how and why […]” long before we reach “destruction of that society”.

    3. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
      As a sociological matter, liberal religion doesn’t “work”.
      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

      Correct…

      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
      Unless one takes the traditional theology seriously and literally, there is really no reason for religion to exist since everything else that it does can be done just as well secularly. You don’t have to believe in God to believe in strong communities, feeding the poor, taking care of your neighbor, etc. The only thing that actually requires religion is reconciling man to God.
      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

      Looking at the current state of the world some may disagree.

      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
      Hence, liberal religion is largely a way station on the highway to secularism.
      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

      Correctomundo.

      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
      That’s the reason conservative megachurches are growing
      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

      correct

      >>>>>>
      liberal mainline denominations are shrinking.
      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

      In the little picture but in the Big Picture, the main reason is that the ‘rhythm’ of modern society no longer integrates in traditional religion. In the middle ages the flow of daily life directed you to attend church regularly or otherwise bask in a religous atmosphere all day. There’s no gameboy or Dancing with the Tards to watch so its more fun to do religious things all the time. Even if you naturally tend to be Amy Atheist all this will sway you onto the believing path.

      In ‘modern’ society in contrast the average person increasingly doesn’t come into contact with traditional religion unless they seek it out or some Jehovah’s Witness
      annoys them. There are so many pursuits/distractions even if you tend to be Ronnie Religious its inconvenient. All that stuff you used to keep score in the past just seems like a burden to do now. Plus today as yesterday people are herd animals so with far less people believing and saying so around you or openly attacking it you’ll tend to go the same direction.

      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
      What’s going to happen is that in the United States, as in Europe, vital Christianity is in the process of dying before our very eyes, while leaving a shell behind. It may take another generation to happen, but that’s the direction in which things are headed.
      >>>>>>>>>>>>

      correct

      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
      Evangelical support for Trump has done massive damage to the church in that regard, from which the long term consequences will be staggering.
      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

      Uh nope, You were on a roll and then you had to say something as wrong as this..

      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
      In the meantime, the Southern Hemisphere is still culturally conservative, which is reflected in its churches. Before too long, Africa and South America will be sending Christian missionaries to evangelize the United States.
      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

      Traditional religion is tending toward fading across the board. One of the great unspoken stories is how even Muslim countries are slowly becoming less observant. And as I said the core reasons are structural. All the nonsense political reasons people give about the church being mean or liking Trump or whatever are at most secondary factors.

      At the same time religion in general is as relevant and popular than ever. People still have an inborn need to have faith and believe in something bigger than themselves. So in the modern day we’ve largely transferred our faith to stuff such as pop culture, vague spirituality, and most relevantly such religions as feminism, environmentalism, equalism etc. These succeed by taking the personal empowerment and saviorism of Christianity up a notch. As a paladin for women’s rights to free tampons or the Alaskan sea otter or whatever you get to do battle with the forces of evil in day to day life. This is the religion that speaks to a certain chunk of people today.

      Old school religious leaders correctly assess this but then make the fatal mistake of assuming the solution is to simply steal the beliefs of these new religions rather than reforming their approach.

      Traditional religion is at a crossroads, to thrive it needs to transform. But I see nothing fundamental that necessarily prevents it from doing so and becoming successful again. What exactly it will look like its an open question but its worth a try.

      1. “What exactly it will look like its an open question but its worth a try.”

        Also worth a try: Reason.

        1. So try it, gecko.

    4. Krychek_2 wrote: ” Evangelical support for Trump has done massive damage to the church in that regard, from which the long term consequences will be staggering.”

      You are certainly right that organized religion is declining in the US — tending somewhat toward the long-term Western European model. But I’m not so sure that Donald Trump bears much responsibility. The decline, especially the long-masked decline of conservative Christianity, has been in the works for decades. Conservative churches appeared to buck that trend, and the explanation was that they actually required something of their flocks. Well, good surveys (especially the General Social Survey) showed that conservatives who moved largely went to more liberal churches, and liberals who moved tended to leave organized religion entirely. This was masked by the fact that conservatives had more children.

      Many conservative churches have been wedded to right-wing politics since at /least/ the run of the Moral Majority, founded 40 years ago. Their turn toward support of Trumpism is not an aberration, except for the fact that he is so decidedly an “ungodly” person. But why the support? As with Joe Stalin’s bromance with FDR, he is lucky in his choice of opponents. They see him as all that stands between them and a growing, secular abyss that threatens their very way of life. And they may well be right, though that’s another issue.

      Does this lose them members? Possibly. Likely even. But as part of the “big sort,” those who are left are the most committed to their world view. And what happens when Trump is no longer on the scene? With political groups, it’s common to have a period in which they “reinvent” themselves and in which the public forgets most of the details of conflict. This, in fact, works pretty successfully. There’s little reason to suppose that the process will work much different with religious bodies.

      1. I think its very possible and maybe even inevitable that traditional religion will undergo some sort of transformation and resurge again. Some people love to think civilization is ‘progressing’ and will eventually be locked permenantly into this star trekish secular left wing utopia where there will be no more need for their definition of religion and everything will be great…from their point of view and it’ll all be happily ever after. I’m not so sure things will turn out to be that straightforward. Human nature always will win out eventually.

    5. there is really no reason for religion to exist since everything else that it does can be done just as well secularly.

      The giant memeplexes of religion and politics have battled, with politics stripping religion of direct political power.

      Then, the reasons people liked religion, were adopted by politics. These are helping the poor and sick, adoption amd orphans, etc.

      This switch was noted 25 years ago in Europe when they were looking into why religion was drying up there.

      The lesson, why religion should be denied political power (it is a way for politicians to gather people to gain power) is completely lost now.

      These political memeplexes are religions, with “for God” swapped with “for The People”. Same exact thing. Same exact problems, but with one triviality removed.

      “There will never be freedom until the last politician is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”

      Alternatively, just as religion should be forbid from doing what it wants through government, so should politics.

      I hope some of you live long enough for the First Amendment to be changed to respect people feeling bad, and the soon collapse to dictatorship thereafter.

  2. One of the lesser appreciated facts of Christianity was its mandate that “cousins couldn’t marry.”

    When did a Christianity mandate that?

    1. First and second cousin marriages were first banned at the Council of Agde (506 AD). The rules changed over the centuries since and there were always dispensations available, especially for the ruling elites, but the general rule against cousins marrying does go quite far back.

  3. If there’s one certainty in traditional religion its that becoming progressive doesn’t work. Its been tried and failed over and over again yet the leaders can’t seem to get it through their skulls. If the church is simply going to regurgitate every value wider society has then it has no function.

    1. Unitarian Universalists say otherwise.

      1. Given the only UUs I’ve known were atheists (explicitly and militantly so), my understanding is UU is more of a social club that replicates the fellowship aspect of religion without requiring, well, religion.

        1. Formally, UU’s believe in the moral authority of Jesus, not divine authority. In practice, UU accepts a wide variety of individual relationships with God. It may be purely about fellowship for some.

          Doesn’t mean it’s a social club. Or that it ignores God – go to a service one day and hear what the minister is talking about. It ain’t secular humanism.

          Regardless of your anecdotal experience, there remains a sufficient mass of believers that it still acts as a counterexample to AA’s ipse dixit that you can’t be progressive and have faith.

      2. “Unitarian Universalists”

        We are talking about religions, no? Not whatever Unitarian Universalism is.

        1. Jesus and the Bible come up an awful lot in the services I attend for whatever BS gatekeeping you’re trying for.

    2. Check out the parking lots at Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches on Sunday mornings. They’re pretty empty.

      1. That is what American progress — the great sifting, in particular — looks like. In America, reason tends to win. As do tolerance, science, modernity, education, freedom, merit, and inclusivity.

        Unearned privilege, ignorance, superstition, insularity, dogma, backwardness, and bigotry tend to be losers in America, at least over time.

        This is what has made America great.

  4. LOL. The Methodist agreement sounds like a civil compromise — pretty rare in today’s world.

    Too bad the commentors to this post can’t find a middle ground. Dangle the words conservative/liberal close to each other, then go get popcorn to watch.

    1. I’ve heard the opposite take. The take I heard is that for years Western congregations (specifically those from North America and Europe) dictated church doctrines, overruling Congregations from third word countries (particularly Africa). The African congregations didn’t like it, but were told that dealing with it is the cost of maintaining the denomination.

      Now the Americans and Europeans want to take a progressive approach on homosexuality. But, because of growth in places like Africa, they don’t have the same power over the denomination that they once did. So the Americans and Europeans decided to take their congregations and go elsewhere – precisely what they previously told the African congregations they couldn’t do in the name of preserving the denomination.

      So it seems that the Americans and Europeans won’t compromise and have decided to split the denomination instead. Now it’s just about dividing up the structure. While a divorce settlement is a settlement, it exists only because of the divorce.

    2. Well said. Basically an agreement to compromise on ‘civil’ terms, where ‘civil’ has both the ordinary language use as ‘common decency and civility’, and also the legal meaning of Civil law. For those who have been following the UMC, the surprise is that this compromise came suddenly, unexpectedly after apparently an intense but private negotiation out of the public eye.
      An important piece of the background is that last February, at a General Conference specially called to consider the problem of gay marriage, the ‘traditionalists’ had unexpectedly won, rejecting the compromise plan which most of the bishops endorsed. But that had apparently happened in large part because traditionalist forces within the church had been much more deliberate in electing conference delegates who vote for ‘tradition’, whereas more moderate groups had not chosen delegates for their ‘political’ views.
      But after last year’s vote, it was said that the sleeping bear had been awakened, and so in the past year it was becoming clear that at this year’s General Conference, the moderates/liberals would prevail, and undo last year’s action, and there could have been ugly retribution. So the mediation which has just concluded averts that. As you say, it is Civil.
      In the bigger picture, there is again a Civil matter, that Obergefell is the law of the land. The question confronting the church has been what role, if any, clergy can have in performing marriages which are permitted under Civil law. The Traditional plan which was voted last year included mandatory, punitive sanctions against such clergy involvement, and that might have been a bridge too far for a church which intends to live and work in this world. Other denominations may be more radical/visionary either to the right or the left, but Methodists, following the teaching of John Wesley, have always worked in mission in the society which actually exists around them. In that sense it is not ‘conservative’ to pretend that homosexuality is intolerable, when the civil law allows it.

      1. In that sense it is not ‘conservative’ to pretend that homosexuality is intolerable, when the civil law allows it.

        And that’s part of the problem, no?

        In most of Africa, homosexuality is intolerable, and the civil law forbids it.

      2. In that sense it is not ‘conservative’ to pretend that homosexuality is intolerable, when the civil law allows it.

        Look, I’m pro-SSM, not Methodist, and not even a regular Church-goer, but that seems like a silly argument.

        Civil law permits you to have as many gods as you’d like, make idols, use the Lord’s name in vain, sleep in on Sundays, tell your parents to piss off, commit adultery, generally lie about your neighbor (when not under oath and not defamatory), and covet all you’d like. But I don’t think that’s a good reason for just excising eight of the ten commandments.

        1. “good reason” is a question of philosophy.

          But if you look at human behavior, it’s pretty obvious that once you stop enforcing a divine command the belief that it’s a good command starts weakening.

  5. Wow, even Bob Seger is weighing in on the UMC schism.

  6. Glad to see the attempts at amicability, but it is the progressives who should leave and start their own club as theirs is the error. Unlike many issues, the question of homosexuality in the New Testament is quite clear.

    Interesting to see progressives steamroll their black African compatriots and discount their numbers and beliefs. Typical.

  7. From a Methodist…

    The disagreement in the Church is over the Book of Discipline which terms were adopted and remain unchanged for about 60 years. The BOD, in its current form, is a result of a merger of two denominations to become the UMC. The LGBT community has taken issue with the phrase within the BOD that says the Bible is the authority of the Church and the homosexual lifestyle is incompatible with the Christian life. There have been multiple votes regarding this phrase over the years and to that the liberal/LGBT groups have lost every one. Now they feel they can’t win via the ballot box or by persuasion so they are taking the route of a separation. In the “compromise” they are making the claim the Traditionalists are racists and homophobes and will have to vote to leave the Church leaving the Liberals in charge of the historic organization and the majority of the assets (remember the Traditionalists have won the majority of every vote). Along with that vote, the Traditionalists will have to admit they are racists and set aside a fund to fund court cases against their racism. Sound like a compromise to you? Me neither.

    The UMC is a global church and BOD is a governing document of the world organization and this is the hangup for the liberal side of the Church. The liberals have lost every time the amendments to the BOD have been proposed because Asia and Africa have stood solidly against a BOD amendment to accept LGBT ordination and sacramental treatment of “same sex” marriage.

    Don’t get me wrong, there is a split coming and how its treated is up to the Traditionalists. The Church organization has been lax enforcing the rules of ordination and calling churches to an account for breaking the rules regarding LGBTQ activities. It has lead to the formation of rebel congregations and thus opposition to the BOD has solidified.

  8. Seeing as most of Africa still has enforced sodomy laws, I’m not sure why this is surprising.

    It’s pretty hard for a church to have a “tolerant” position to gays when part of it is still actively trying to put gays in prison.

    1. Considering the intolerance of gays and their proponents, I see no reason to encourage them to change.

      1. Ah yes, “they say mean things, so we should make being them illegal”.

        Good rhetoric, as always.

        1. Yeah, let us ignore all of the lost jobs, the enforced propaganda from public schools, the invasion into private business practices, children being forced into sex-changes …

          1. You are literally advocating for people being imprisoned and killed, so I’m not sure why I should treat this as sarcasm.

            1. People that cut the private parts off of children SHOUD be imprisoned!!!!

              1. And let us not forget the countries where “hate speech” can land you in jail … GTFOOHWTBS

              2. Jewish Rabbis hardest hit.

                1. As if that was the same

  9. Why doesn’t the LBGT community just start their own church? There is no law against it, and they would be able to interpreter the Bible anyway they want at that point. They could find a stone tablet in a farm field somewhere to start!

    1. Why doesn’t the LBGT community just start their own church?

      Because straight people keep having gay kids, and raising those gay kids in their religion.

      So long as you do that, you’re going to have gay adults who think “I like 99% of my religion, but this bit… we can work on this bit.”

      Which is to say… if you want to avoid ever having gay folk try to change your church, you need to get your church members to stop having gay kids. So far, the only reliable way to do that is to stop having kids all-together.

      So, your call.

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