I was given a chance to make two presentations to the group. I am going to break up my points into a couple of posts.
My first point is that the decline of the 'mainline' churches is, to some extent, political. When the country lurched to right in the 70's and 80's, conservative evangelical churches grew and the more liberal denominations shrank. (Recent years have shown their relative decline, but conservatism as whole is now shrinking as well.)
I have pounded on this point repeatedly here at the Lively Tradition. Contemporary Unitarian Universalism, in any of its dimensions, can only be understood in the context of the 40 year cultural hegemony of conservative ideology. For decades, conservative churches have done quite well; the more liberal mainline churches have done poorly. I believe that the only reason why the UU's have not had the same decline as the mainline was that we were welcoming LGBTQIA people while they were not. What a boost in energy, creativity, and clarity came about as a result !
So, when we look at the economic sustainability of our ministry, we need to remember that our problem is not just the sign of a generational shift in church-going habits, but also the result of the political trends in the country. Rosemary Bray McNatt commented that the African American church has not seen the same pattern of decline. Carey MacDonald pointed out that the decline has mostly been in mainline white Protestant denominations and English speaking Catholics.
And we must remember that the political dominance of the Right has fostered economic policies that affect our situation: the concentration of wealth at the top and the reliance on individual debt to finance what used to more commonly supported endeavors, like higher education.
So my point is this: when we look at the precarious economic circumstances of liberal religion, which includes the economic sustainability of the ministry, we have to see it, in part, as the damage done to it by political forces which explicitly oppose our values. And therefore, we have to look beyond ourselves to the present historical situation for solutions, in part.
|Keeping the Faith|