Enchanted Protestantism

29 06 2009

On the “Incarnational Nature” of American Folk Belief

In our commercialized society, people can often be given to very distorted generalizations of ideological opponents. As I have said recently, the general course of American religion can be seen as having gone full circle. For many, such as the late John Richard Neuhaus, we are living in the “Catholic” moment in which the doctrine and general rhetorical trajectory of the Catholic Church is converging with the ideological aspirations of American conservativism. The mainstream Protestant denominations, including the former pillar of white conservative religion, the Episcopal Church, are defecting from both their conservative pretensions and orthodox Christianity itself. Not so long ago, we had an intellectually rigorous American Protestantism, committed to a “conservative” morality. This has been replaced since the 1960’s with the aforementioned liberalizing mainstream churches on the one hand, and the “Gospel frisbee”, hyper-personalistic Evangelicalism of the white suburbs on the other. Where else is an intelligent, cultured Christian to go but Rome? The irony of all of this is that a hundred years ago, Catholics were barely considered white, and they were certainly not considered Anglo. The white man’s burden used to extend to breaking the back of “Papist superstition”. Not anymore, apparently. Somewhere, someone is having a hearty laugh over all of this.
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