HIP RELIGION STRIKES OUT | 1999-03-13
Being divorced, my brother decided to go back to the Methodist church in the small town he was doctoring in. The first thing he ran into was the church campaign to get the Confederate flag down from the state capitol building.
I got a quick look on television at those ministers marching down Main Street to demand that the Confederate flag be taken off of the state capitol building.
I noticed that lots of them had the backward collar. This indicated they were largely mainline ministers, that is, preachers from big churches like the Methodists, Episcopalians, and so forth. They had that serious, constipated look on their faces that big church preachers get when they are really feeling righteous.
You could see that these preachers were feeling really good.
Instead of being embarrassed speaking for a religion they don't really believe in, they are getting to march for a cause they could brag about at a New York City cocktail party.
Ah! The Good Old Days, the '60's! Back then the guys in the backward collars got to be Young Radicals, and they marched in parades with Communist flags and hippies and New Yorkers and even Harvard professors. Those preachers and priests on Main Street had that Sixties Look on their faces as they marched for a Fashionable Cause. That look is a combination of suppressed ecstasy and incipient seasickness.
I used to see it a lot in the 1960s. They marched for any leftist cause back then. But now all they have left is the Confederate flag.
They no longer march for other leftist causes because it cost them too much back then.
In the old days before infomercials, television stations used to do something you young people have probably never heard of.
It was called "signing off."
All the television stations would sign off with "The Star Spangled Banner."
Except the one Jesse Helms worked for. It signed off with "Dixie."
Before signing off, a station would usually have a minister or a rabbi give a five-minute talk. In the 1960s, a fairly normal one went like this
The cleric got on and announced he was going to talk about prayer. He held up a leftist picket sign and said, "This is a prayer." It was the 1960s, and he was being "with it," "hip," "the times they is a-changing," and so forth.
There is something pathetic about priests and preachers who try to be cool.
Back in the 1960s, all the main line churches decided they would be "with it." They went for all the trendy political progressivism, they had guitars in the churches, man, they were Supercool!
The mainline church leadership was hard leftist. These churches were part of the far-left national Council of Churches, which supported the even farther left World Council of Churches. This latter group did nice things like supporting Communist guerilla movements.
While the mainline Protestant churches pushed to the activist left, their membership started dropping like a rock.
Each of the mainline Protestant churches that went on the Social Progress bandwagon in the 1960s dropped from a quarter to a third of their membership, while the population of the United States increased by a quarter.
Quite a drop.
But even this actually understated the stream of people out of the Social Progress Churches of the 1960s. I noticed this in my own family. My grandfather was a Methodist circuit rider, my sister was a director of religious education in the Methodist Church.
Then the Methodist Church went "politically progressive." It was exactly like the Democratic Party my family had supported for generations. We did not leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left us.
In exactly the same way, the Methodist Church left us. But not all of us OFFICIALLY LEFT the Methodist Church. Those who do the counting only count the ones who go to the trouble of quitting. There were five of us, and two of us left their "church letters" in the Methodist Church. They weren't counted in the outflow, though they were very much a part of it.
Those two remained officially Methodists, and remained part of the millions who -- at least officially -- stayed with that church.
It was the other three of us who OFFICIALLY left Methodism.
For every person who officially left the new Social Progress churches of the 1960s, there was at least one other person who remained a member simply because he never went to church. Since he didn't bother to quit, he stayed on the official rolls.
The heavy drop in membership caused by churches trying to be trendy was TWICE as great as the drop they had thought it was! Slowly, the lesson got through the skull of some of the most pathetic people alive -- liberal clerics.
It only took the libs twenty years or so to catch on.
The problem was that hip and With It Guys who were in holy orders were getting what amounted to middle-age crazies. They were too hip to believe in God, and it embarrassed them that people thought they were serious about something as old-fashioned as God. So they made a big show of trendy liberal politics, as the anti-Confederate flag marches in Columbia do today.
But now they've at least changed the image. After just a couple of decades, these bright and "with it" hipsters began to actually realize that their membership had been falling fast for twenty years. Education pays!
Now the godless minister is unhip. Nowadays we see mainline churches inviting people to come and hear about GOD! Even the advertisements on television for mainline churches talk about the Bible.
If you didn't live through the sixties, you probably can't imagine what a change that is.