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July 27, 2008

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Joules

I'm not from a mainline Protestant denomination, but our church (Church of the Nazarene) seems to be pretty strong. I heard that Eastern Orthodoxy is doing very well in America in recent years.

It seems to be divided about 50/50 between liberal politics and conservative politics among friends at my church; however, we're in Southern California so we're generally more liberal representatives of our denomination.

Ryan Davidson

Points well made. To make matters worse, Bottum seems to completely ignore the vast numbers of Protestants who never belonged to a confessional tradition, i.e. the various stripes of Baptists and independents that make up a majority of the landscape, most of whom are ardently conservative and many of whom are virulently anti-Catholic. There are still thousands of such churches, most of which are fundamentalists of some description, who offer regular sermons denouncing the Pope as the Whore of Babylon, and none of these people could be considered "leftists" by any definition of the word. It seems quite strange to me that Bottum equates political opposition to Catholic talking points with anti-Catholicism while ignoring the good, old-fashioned, 16th-century style venom that still exists in vast swaths of the most conservative Protestant churches.

Furthermore, most of the confessional traditions formerly had quite explicit condemnations of Catholicism in their founding documents, all of which have been removed. This strikes me as inexcusable sloppiness on the author's part.

I found something else rather puzzling about Bottum's article: she almost entirely ignores the growth in confessional, conservative mainline splinters. Yes, the PCUSA, ECUSA, ELCA, and Methodist denominations have all been losing people for decades. But the PCA, African Anglican missions, Missouri Synod, various Reformed Baptists, etc. are not only uniquely responsible for this decline in mainline numbers--most represent a significant group of congregations that walked out wholesale--but they themselves continue to grow. Granted, most are still small compared to the historic size of the mainlines, but their influence extends beyond their numbers, e.g. Tim Keller and John Piper.

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