Tuesday, May 2, 2017


That's all mainline Protestantism has in the gas tank.  So says Ed Stetzer, Billy Graham Distinguished Chair at Wheaton College and director for The Graham Center there, in this recent Washington Post piece.

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It's basic demographics, folks.  Stetzer:
Mainline Protestants, which has been the tradition of several U.S. presidents, aren’t “multiplying” with children as rapidly as evangelicals or others of differing faiths. And geography matters. Places where Protestants live are now in socio-economic decline, and parts of the country like the Sun Belt are become more evangelical with every passing winter.

Here's Stetzer's data:

The top line shows mainline Protestant identification, and fewer say they go to churches affiliated with mainline denominations. The bottom line shows attendance, and now less than one of 33 people you meet on the street regularly attends a mainline Protestant church.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Surprising Inclusivity of Catholic Devotionalism

Ah, yes:  Catholic devotionalism.  Where would we be without it?

This is the tradition spurned as "superstitious" by generations of Protestants as well as the past fifty-odd years of Catholic liturgical scholars.  The "Spiritual But Not Religious" crowd sees a vast wasteland of rules, regulations, social conformism, and external authority.  Classrooms of undergraduate students dismiss Catholic devotional practices as repetitive, going-through-the-motions, and inauthentic. (But, curiously, have no problem ascribing reality and authenticity to phenomena like the Duggar family's particular [and particularly narrow] evangelicalism, the Peoples Temple suicides, and the Creation Museum. But I digress...)  My faculty colleagues, some of whom are ex-Catholics, harbor nothing but contempt for the old ways, that of their oppressive parents and grandparents.  Even St. Josemaria Escriva castigates mindless recitation of the Rosary (Furrow #477).

At one level, it must be admitted, they have a point.

On the other hand, Catholic devotionalism is an irreducible part of American Catholic history and varieties of Catholic social and spiritual identity.  A sine qua non--without it you really don't have anything "Catholic."  Consider:

Caesar Chavez's invocation of Our Lady of Guadalupe in his organization of migrant farm workers:
(3246) Processions, Cesar Chavez, Mack Lyons, 1971
Source:  Wayne State Library

Pope John Paul II, then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, leading peaceful and popular resistance to Polish Communism:
John Paul II comes to Warsaw

Source:  nd.edu on Pinterest -- St. John Paul II's 1980 visit.

Personal aside:  I love this photo's contrast between the vast crowd's vivid colors and the drab backdrop of Soviet-style housing.  How many divisions does the Pope have?