A Nation of Heretics Pt. 3: Church in Decline

In my previous post I spoke about the glorious hey day of Christianity in the 1950's.  In this post I will list Ross Douthat's 5 principal causes why Christianity began to fall apart in the 1960's and 70's:

1) Political Polarization.  During most of our country's history religion played a healthy counterbalance to both political extremes, right and left.  A great example of this was the civil rights movement which was begun by ministers and priests not politicians.  However, in the 1960's this balance was disrupted mainly by the Vietnam war, but also because of other contributing factors.  With this divide Christians were forced to choose between progressivism (democrat) vs. conservatism (republican.) This divide continues to this very day.

2) The Sexual Revolution. In the 1960's the birth control pill was developed and manufactured for general use.  Now people who considered themselves loyal to Christian teaching all of a sudden found themselves at odds with their personal morals. Compounding this matter even further was Pope Paul VI's provocative encyclical, Humanae Vitae which reaffirmed Catholicism's traditional teaching on procreation.   Thrown into this mix was the new counter culture which challenged mainstream American views on adultery and homosexuality.

3) America began developing a more global perspective.  Innocuous on the surface, this compassionate shift was seen as the healthy outgrowth of a more tolerant society.  But the problem with this new perspective was that it began to also change the way people viewed Christianity.  Suddenly it was cooler to become a Buddhist then a Methodist, to learn new forms of prayer such as transcendental meditation instead of the "Our Father" or to follow "gurus" instead of ministers or priests.

4) The Spread of the term "Judeo-Christianity."  Originally this term was viewed favorably as an indication of the unity shared by both faiths in the founding of this country.  Conversely in the 1960's and 70's this led to wide scale propagandizing against Christians in their treatment of Jews throughout history.  All of this propagandizing led to such wild claims as calling Pope Pius XII "Hitler's Pope."  The goal of all of this was to make society believe that Christianity was bad and that society needed a new belief system or "an new age of Aquarius." to replace antiquated views.

5) America's Wealth.  John Wesley once famously declared, "wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion."  American saw unprecedented economic growth after World War II.  The result of this being that more and more people began living in suburbs instead of urban areas.  For years the bedrock of the Catholic faith was the dependable upswing of immigrants building and attending churches in urban areas.  Another consequence of this was that fewer and fewer men and women were entering seminaries and going into careers which were more lucrative.

I realize that this list isn't exhaustive, but I believe it does begin to shed some light on the contributing factors of Christianity's decline in the 1960's and 70's. 


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