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An Easter message for (some) liberals


The thing behind Ross Douthat’s face merkin has a very important message for some liberals: Go to church. Or else.

OUR intervention in Syria required me to be fully serious last Sunday, but now it’s time to return to this column’s ongoing series of implausible proposals, Easter Sunday edition. Which means I’ll be proposing — yes, I’m that predictable — that many of this newspaper’s secular liberal readers should head en masse to church.

Now that he’s recovered from the Seriousness required by the fact President Drippydiaper dropped a bomb on something, he’s not suggesting that non-Christians should go to church. He’s not acknowledging their existence. Instead he is focused on a subset of Christian Liberals.

A large share of well-educated liberal America is post-Protestant — former Methodists, ex-Lutherans, lapsed Presbyterians, the secularized kids of Congregationalists.

Citation missing, even after we checked under the sofa cushions, as is often the case with such assertions. However, Smart liberals have said adieu to Mainline Protestantism doesn’t seem like a promising start to an argument about why they should go to a Mainline Protestant church.

Their ancestral churches, the theologically-liberal mainline denominations, are aging and emptying, with the oldest churchgoing population and one of the lowest retention rates of any Christian tradition in the United States.

This at least is true, according to the 2015 Pew poll he cites. But so what? If people are no longer interested in a particular brand of anything including religion, including an ancestral religion, that would indicate a problem with the product, not the consumer.

Douthat doesn’t address that either. He’s too busy warning liberal ex-Protestants that if they don’t go to back to their ancestral churches they’ll be doomed with four Os and an accent over the e.

For the sake of their country, their culture and their very selves, liberal post-Protestants should find a mainline congregation and starting attending every week.

Because you see, Trigger the Golden Retriever of Liberalism needs the leash of Mainline Protestantism to keep it from chasing the Rabbit of The Discourse or (and/or?) hiding in the Kennel of Safe Spaces with its paws over its eyes.

One reason they don’t is that some of what those congregations offer is already embodied in liberal politics and culture. As the sociologist N. J. Demerath argued in the 1990s, liberal churches have suffered institutional decline, but also enjoy a sort of cultural triumph, losing members even as their most distinctive commitments — ecumenical spirituality and a progressive social Gospel — permeate academia, the media, pop culture, the Democratic Party.

But this equilibrium may not last, and it may not deserve to. The campus experience of late suggests that liberal Protestantism without the Protestantism tends to gradually shed the liberalism as well, transforming into an illiberal cult of victimologies that burns heretics with vigor.

It gets Douthatier from here as he tears up the tissue-thin pretense that he’s writing for anyone other than the people who regularly lose wrestling matches with same sort of straw liberals he does. There’s the

  • Hackneyed list of benefits of church going of the sort every wannabe proselytizer uses once he figures out that screaming about hell just makes people run away faster.
  • Claim that the straw liberals “pursue religious experiences,” minus the explanation of what that means or why the lapsed Mainline Protestant straw liberal can’t continue to pursue religious experiences in places that aren’t the MP church.
  • Obligatory reference to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because Christ what an asshole.
  • Pish-poshing of the LMPSL’s objections to “hierarchies and dogmas and strict rules about sex,” because “the Protestant mainline has gone well out of its way to accommodate you on all these points.”
  • Stunning proof that LMPSLs are mean and the churches are the real victims.

…aren’t you being a little ungrateful, a little slothful, a little selfish by leaving these churches empty when they’re trying to be exactly the change you say you wish Christianity would make?

Can a question beg be an actual question?

Also, yousa people gonna die.

I know you don’t worry about hellfire. But you do worry, presumably, about death: Would some once-weekly preparation really hurt?

Either Mainline Protestant churches have a lock on death preparation or Douthat is a tool and Mainline Protestant churches should consider paying him not to write about them, ever again.

And that’s Douthat struggling with lapsed-Mainline-Protestant-but-not-true-atheist straw liberals. At the end he turns his attention to lapsed-Mainline-Protestant-turned-hardened-atheist straw liberals, which he assembled from all of the bits of straw left over from constructing the LMPSLs, plastic Easter basket grass, and bile.

Finally, a brief word to the really hardened atheists: Oh, come on. Sure, all that beauty and ecstasy and astonishing mathematical order is because we’re part of a multiverse or a simulation or something; that’s the ticket. Sure, consciousness and free will are illusions, but human rights and gender identities are totally real. Sure, your flying spaghetti monster joke makes you a lot smarter than Aquinas, Karl Barth, Martin Luther King. Sure.

Just go to church, guys. The mainline churches’ doors are open. They need you; America still needs them.

Go to church morans! The power of Douthat compels you!


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